Skip to content

Low Waste Ways to Spend The Dog Days of Summer

The Magical Dog Days of Summer

Ever heard of the Dog Days of Summer? These are those sun-kissed, sizzling-hot days that stretch from early July to mid-August. Here’s a fun tidbit: in ancient Roman times, folks believed this period was enchanted because Sirius, the Dog Star, would rise with the sun, sprinkling a little extra heat and magic on the land. Can you picture it: a celestial pup adding some mystical warmth to our days? 🔮✨ While we find ourselves reveling in the enchanting summer vibes, you might have noticed an uptick in the amount of single-use plastics around you. Never fear; we’ve got a few ideas about low-waste ways to spend these last long days. 

Engaging in eco-friendly and low-waste activities during summer is crucial for preserving our environment and conserving natural resources, especially when water usage spikes. These practices reduce pollution, protect biodiversity, and offer economic benefits, such as cost savings and support for green businesses. More than that, such activities foster community ties, promote healthier lifestyle choices, and mitigate the effects of climate change. By adopting sustainable summer practices, we ensure a healthier planet and set a positive example for others.

Wasted in Summer

During summer, coastal regions experience a 20-30% surge in waste, much from single-use plastics. The U.S. uses roughly 500 million plastic straws daily, with a summer spike. Beach litter can double after a warm weekend. Charcoal BBQs emit about 2.2 lbs of CO₂ per hour, and disposable BBQs contribute to waste, with around 225,000 ending up in landfills each summer in some areas. Summer also sees a rise in food waste, especially fresh produce. Tourism-related trash increases by 40% in hotspots, and major festivals can produce up to 1,650 tons of waste over a weekend.

Waste, especially non-biodegradable and toxic varieties, poses serious environmental threats. It accumulates in landfills and can release harmful greenhouse gases like methane, contributing to climate change. In aquatic environments, waste, particularly plastics, endangers marine life, as they often mistake it for food, leading to ingestion, entanglement, and habitat disruption. Additionally, waste can contaminate soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals, affecting plant growth and entering our water supply. Overall, excessive waste degrades natural ecosystems, harms biodiversity, and threatens the balance of our planet.

So, how can we tread more lightly in Summer? Let’s get into it:

Low Waste Outdoor Activities

    Make Yourself a DIY Solar Oven: A solar oven focuses sunlight onto a cooking area, trapping heat. Reflective materials (like aluminum foil) help intensify the sunlight, while an enclosed space, like a box, retains the heat. We love the DIY by Instructables for this! We love this project because: it uses renewable energy, reduces our carbon footprint, it’s cost-effective (no ongoing costs after the initial setup), and it’s portable and handy for camping or outdoor activities.
      Go on a Sustainable Picnic: Heading outdoors for a picnic is one of life’s simple pleasures, and making it sustainable can enhance the experience while being kind to Mother Earth. Start by packing your feast in reusable containers, avoiding single-use plastics like cutlery, plates, or straws. Opt for a cloth napkin instead of paper, and bring drinks in reusable bottles or thermoses. Choose organic and locally-sourced food items, which reduce carbon footprint and often taste fresher and more flavorful. For transport, consider walking, biking, or carpooling to reduce emissions. Lastly, always practice the “leave no trace” principle by cleaning up after yourself, ensuring you leave nature as beautiful as you found it. 
        Nature Trails, Hiking, and Camping, Oh My!: Embarking on nature trails and hiking adventures is not just a journey through the great outdoors but can also be a journey within, offering a myriad of physical and mental benefits. Hiking improves cardiovascular health, boosts mental well-being by reducing stress, and connects individuals to the beauty and serenity of nature. A bonus during the warmer months is that these trails, especially those winding through woodlands or beside water sources, are often canopied by trees providing shade. This natural cover makes them significantly cooler than urban or open areas, presenting a delightful solution for those looking to beat the scorching summer heat.

          We are so lucky to live in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, and especially here in Vancouver. We have such easy access to so many beautiful, outdoor, free or near free spaces. Among our favorites are Frenchman’s Bar, Esther Short Park, Klineline Pond, Lucia Falls, and of course, our very own Vancouver Waterfront.

          So, the next time the temperature rises, consider lacing up your hiking boots and seeking refuge on a shaded nature trail for rejuvenation and respite or head down to a local splash pad for some relief from the sweltering heat. And please, no matter where you are, always be sure you practice Leave no-trace principles, packing out all you bring in.

            Beach Days: The allure of the beach during summer is unparalleled, offering a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and pure joy. Summer beach trips allow families and friends to bond over sandcastle building, beach volleyball, or share a sunset. Moreover, the therapeutic benefits of salty air and mineral-rich waters rejuvenate the body and spirit. Summer’s glow is best experienced with sandy toes and sun-kissed skin, making beach escapades a quintessential seasonal delight. Keep it zero waste by carrying reusable water bottles, using mineral-based sunscreens, and avoiding plastic beach toys.
              Gardening: Of course, you know we’re advocates for growing your food, composting, and using natural pest solutions. Summer’s bounty invites gardeners to cultivate life in their backyards, and adopting a low-waste approach ensures that this cultivation is both productive and planet-friendly. Low-waste gardening revolves around sustainable practices like composting kitchen scraps and yard waste, transforming them into nutrient-rich soil amendments. By opting for organic, heirloom seeds, gardeners support biodiversity and reduce reliance on plastic-packaged plant starters. Mulching with organic matter, like straw or leaves, not only conserves precious summer water but also recycles garden waste. Additionally, reusing old containers or upcycling household items as planters can add a touch of creativity while minimizing waste.
                In the radiant embrace of summer, low-waste gardening stands as a testament to harmonious coexistence with nature, fostering growth that nourishes both the earth and its inhabitants.

                Low Waste Indoor Activities

                  DIY Natural Air Conditioners: Unfortunately, not all spaces in the PNW have the infrastructure for our hot-hot (and getting hotter) Summers. We love this DIY air conditioner to get you through the hotter and more unbearable days.  
                    Recycled or Upcycled Art: Summer is a perfect time to slow down indoors, stay cool, and make great art. Here are a few ideas to get you started: Driftwood Wind Chimes, Bottle Cap Wind Spinner, Tin Can Lanterns, Old Denim Garden Apron, Recycled Paper Seed Cards. What types of recycled or upcycled art would you make?
                      Remember, the magic of upcycled art is in transforming discarded materials into something beautiful and functional. Let your creativity lead the way!
                        Visit the Library! In the sultry sway of summer, our local library emerges as a refreshing retreat. Bathed in quietude and cooled by air conditioning, these hallowed halls offer a soothing respite from the blistering heat. Yet, the charm of a library extends beyond mere physical comfort. Summer programs come alive in libraries, offering diverse, engaging activities for all ages. From storytimes, to book groups our library is truly amazing. 

                          Making Eco-Friendly Choices in Summer

                          • DIY Natural Bug Repellents: There are better ways to keep bugs at bay that are less harmful to the environment and human health than commercial, chemical-based products. Here are a few options:

                          1. Essential Oil Spray: Essential oils like citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and lavender are known to repel various insects. To make a DIY spray, combine 30-50 drops of your chosen essential oil(s) with one cup of water and half a cup of witch hazel or apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use, and spray lightly on clothing or skin.
                          2. Herb Bundles: Certain herbs are natural insect deterrents. You can make a bundle of fresh herbs like lavender, lemongrass, mint, and rosemary and hang them in areas where you want to keep bugs away.
                          3. Garlic-Mint Garden Spray: For your garden, blend two whole bulbs of garlic, a few handfuls of mint leaves, and a bit of cayenne pepper with a bit of water. Strain and use this as a potent, natural spray to deter pests in your garden.
                          4. Citrus Peels: Citrus peels can be a natural deterrent for several bugs - like mosquitos and ticks. Simply rub the peels on your skin or leave them in areas where bugs are a problem.
                          5. Homemade Citronella Candles: Melt beeswax or soy wax, add citronella oil, and pour the mixture into a container with a wick. Once solidified, these candles can provide bug protection for your outdoor spaces.

                          Remember, natural repellents can vary in effectiveness depending on the type of bug and other factors. Always do a patch test before applying any DIY natural bug repellent to your skin to ensure you don’t have an adverse reaction. Also, note that these may need to be reapplied more frequently than commercial bug repellents.

                          • Throw an Eco-friendly BBQ: Throwing an eco-friendly BBQ is all about mindful choices that reduce waste and environmental impact without skimping on summer fun. Start by choosing locally sourced, organic meats or plant-based alternatives to reduce your carbon footprint. Opt for reusable plates, cutlery, and cups over disposable ones to minimize waste. If you must use disposable items, choose those made from biodegradable materials and compost them when you’re all done. Try to minimize single-use plastics, like straws or water bottles, by providing alternatives like tap water in reusable bottles or jars. Use natural, DIY bug repellents rather than chemical sprays, and if you’re using decorations, make them recyclable or reusable. After the party, compost what you can and responsibly dispose of any waste.

                          • Choose Reusable Water Bottles and Bags: Switching to reusable items is a powerful, actionable step towards sustainable living with significant environmental impact. Each reusable item—be it a water bottle, shopping bag, coffee cup, or straw—eliminates countless single-use counterparts from entering the waste stream. This reduces litter in our landscapes and oceans and cuts down on the energy and resources used to manufacture, transport, and dispose of disposable items. Furthermore, it curbs emissions associated with waste decomposition (the landfill).

                          In our personal lives, embracing reusables can cultivate a mindful consumption habit, making us more aware of our choices and their environmental implications. And by proxy, we’ll be setting an example for folks around us and encouraging them, without shame, to do the same. While simple in action, the switch to reusable items holds profound potential in shaping a healthier, waste-free world.

                          As we enjoy the summer, let’s strive to tread lightly, ensuring a healthier planet and setting a positive example for future generations. In a world often marked by complexity and excess, there is a profound joy to be discovered in simplicity and sustainability. Summer offers us an opportunity to declutter our surroundings and our minds, providing space for peace, clarity, and genuine happiness. Opting for sustainable and sometimes slower practices fosters a healthier environment and nurtures a deep connection with nature, instilling a sense of fulfillment and contentment. Indeed, the simple act of reducing, reusing, and recycling can serve as a gentle reminder that the greatest pleasures in life come not from accumulating, but from appreciating what we already have and preserving it for future generations. By aligning our lives with the rhythms of nature, we can uncover the lasting joy that simplicity and sustainability bring.

                          How are you spending the last bit of your Summer? What activities have been your favorite? What are you looking forward to in Autumn?

                          Previous article Low-Waste Back to School: Smart, Sustainable + Green
                          Next article A Practical Guide to Low Waste Living in Vancouver, Washington

                          Leave a comment

                          * Required fields