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18 Ways to Help You Have a Zero Waste Summer

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Enjoy these zero waste summer activities and general tips to follow when trying to live more sustainably or have a zero waste summer. 

What Is a Zero Waste Summer?

If the term ‘zero waste summer’ immediately conjures images of off-the-grid crunchy cabin life sans electricity, that’s one version we’d love to hear about, but you’re way ahead of us! We had something a little more low-key in mind. 

You don’t have to ditch all your plans and do nothing to have a low waste summer, in fact we’re thinking quite the opposite! By zero waste summer we simply mean trying to reduce your waste this summer season. It’s like a hot girl summer but planet edition. 

Winter was long and we’re all ready to be outside, but let’s do so in a way that’s respectful to mother nature. Take a couple of extra seconds to think about the impact of your actions and plan trips and activities that center on creating little to no waste.

Why Is Having a Zero Waste Summer Important? 

A seagull is standing in shallow water holding a mini Cheetos bag in its beak

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

We’re always preaching the statistics — how much plastic ends up in the oceans, how actions are endangering wildlife, etc. etc. You’ve seen the articles, the opinion pieces, the news, and the IPCC report.

It’s not up to one person to fix the climate crises but as we always say — if a million people strive for imperfectly living zero waste, we can make a difference. 

Your sustainable actions might inspire others to be more sustainable, which can work its way up to community legislature and government officials making policies. Choosing to purchase from companies that give back to the planet and invest in environmentally-friendly products shows the world where your priorities lie. 

"Our behavior is contagious." It has been proven that if you install solar panels, your neighbor is more likely to. 

-From the First Law of Social Change from Rutger Bregman quoted in Treehugger.

It’s not only up to you or me or them but all of us, together, to undo the damage we’ve done and create a better planet for future generations. 

How Can I Have a Zero Waste Summer? 

Made by Minga Nana Bucket Bag

Made by Minga Nana Bucket Bag

It’s easier to make sustainable choices when you’re prepared! We’ve all been in a situation where we ran out the door barely remembering the essentials — phone, keys, wallet. And then you end up in a situation where you need to buy a plastic water bottle or use plastic silverware or have to use a plastic grocery bag. It happens to the best of us! 

But it’s easier to avoid putting yourself in that situation if you’re prepared. That could mean anything from making a ‘leaving-the-house-checklist’ to pre-packing a sustainable bag that lives by your door or in your car. 

In this piece we’ll be outlining some of our favorite summer activities, how to make them zero waste, and some general tips when trying to live more sustainably or have a zero waste summer. 

Jump down to 10 tips to have a zero waste summer.

8 Zero Waste Summer Activities

Bread being sold at a farmers market. Person purchasing a loaf of bread carrying a reusable bag.

Photo by Filios Sazeides on Unsplash

1. Farmer's Market

Find and head over to a local farmer’s market this summer! Check your city’s event lineup or website to see when and where they are. Bonus points for biking, walking, and taking public transportation when possible. Be sure to take your reusable bags and learn what produce is in-season and where your food is coming from. 

2. Beach Day
A painted beach sign with a manatee in a heart that reads: Water Bottle Refill Center. Reduce & Re-Use Plastic is bad for the ocean!

Head over to the beach zero waste style! Pack a reusable bag ahead of time like this Nana Bucket Bag or anything you have on hand. Bring an old plastic grocery bag to collect trash or wet items from the day. Essentials to include in your zero waste beach bag include: 

3. Picnic

Plan a picnic in a nearby park or area you’ve been meaning to explore! Pack a reusable bag with snacks and water in refillable bottles. Grab a book (or Netflix on your phone) and enjoy the great outdoors. Make sure to pick up any trash you create or see!

4. Barbeque

Head over to the beach zero waste style! Pack a reusable bag ahead of time like this Nana Bucket Bag or anything you have on Invite friends and family over for a cookout with items you purchased from the farmers market or use only in-season produce. If your friends like a challenge, have everyone bring a dish made from local or in-season food, otherwise let everyone know it’s a plastic-free party and see how creative people get. hand. Bring an old plastic grocery bag to collect trash or wet items from the day. Essentials to include in your zero waste beach bag include: 

5. Clothing Exchange

In the U.S., 14 million tons of clothes get thrown away every year. Host a clothing exchange with your friends and trade clothes instead of spending money on new clothes or at a thrift store.

6. Start a Garden
man holding up a small vine of tomatoes in a garden

If you’ve been looking for a sign to start a garden — this is it! Try your hand at starting a pollinator garden or even trying to grow some veggies. You might find yourself growing all your own produce in no time at all. If you’re a city-dweller, brighten up your space with some local plants and maybe try a windowsill herb garden. 

7. Start Composting!

We love composting around here and summertime is the perfect time to give it a try! We’ve already written about the benefits of composting and how to start doing it. From city programs to backyard composts there’s something for everyone that can help turn food waste into something good. To get started composting, check out: 

8. Stay Local — Or Closer
a group of people camping outdoors surrounded by trees

If you’re determined to travel this summer don’t let us stop you! Consider staying a little closer to home and exploring what’s around you before heading out across the world. What are areas you haven’t been to in your neighborhood? Check out a local museum or a relatively close National Park. If you do go farther away, try to stay off the beaten path and avoid heavily-touristy areas during peak season. Check out our other blog for more sustainable travel tips! 

Some traveling rules of thumb:

  • If you’re solo traveling, flying is more efficient than driving but if you’re traveling with multiple people driving might be better. 
  • Check out sites like Regenerative Travel or Wayaj that connect you with hotels with positive environmental and social benefits. 
  • Consider booking with airlines that use biofuels or a site like FlyGreen that helps you offset the emissions from your flight.

10 Tips for a Zero Waste Summer

Bread being sold at a farmers market. Person purchasing a loaf of bread carrying a reusable bag.

Pictured Left to Right: PAPR The Everything Stick, Reusable Paper Towels, Go Pure Water Filter, Stainless Steel Straw, Bamboo Straw, Cotton String Bag, Frank Green Ceramic Mug, Raw Elements Sunscreen Stick

1. Be prepared and always have the essentials ready to go. 

Find and head over to a local farmer’s market this summer! Check your city’s event lineup or website to see when and where they are. Bonus points for biking, walking, and taking public transportation when possible. Be sure to take your reusable bags and learn what produce is in-season and where your food is coming from. 

2. Create dishes with seasonal food and incorporate more local food.
Wicker basket full of seasonal produce
3. If you must shop, thrift or go for eco-friendly brands that give back.
4. Pick up after yourself.

This should go without saying but always pick up after yourself and never leave trash unattended. Check out the Leave No Trace website to help minimize our impact on the environment. 

5. Reduce your water and energy consumption.

Use cold/room temperature water where you can and use less of it. When leaving the room or your house, turn off lights, appliances, TV, electronics, and keep your A/C set a little higher to reduce energy. 

6. BYOM (bring your own mug) or say no to to-go cups.
aloe plant

Try making some fancy coffee at home with a pour over, french press, or bialetti. If a cafe is your second home bring your own reusable mug instead of getting a paper/plastic to-go cup.

7. Use your blinds/window shades.

a. During the hottest part of the day, keep your blinds drawn to avoid using extra energy to cool the room down.

8. Grow your own sun treatment.
a group of people camping outdoors surrounded by trees

Pick up an aloe plant from the store and use it after a day out in the sun! Aloe makes an excellent natural way to treat inflammation and sunburns.

9. Capture rainwater and use it to water plants/your garden.
10. Walk, bike, and take public transportation to your destinations whenever possible.