With summer in full swing, people are hitting the water and cooling off with iced beverages. Unfortunately, many of our favorite summer activities have negative consequences on the environment — but they don’t have to.
Take Action: Take the Pledge: #SayNoToPlastic
Here are five simple ways you can make this summer — and every summer hereafter — more fun and guilt-free by going green.
1. Swap Your Sunscreen
If you’re spending significant time in the sun, then sunscreen is key to protecting your health. But many sunscreens contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, chemicals that contribute to the “rapid and complete bleaching of hard corals, even at low concentrations,” according to a 2008 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Coral bleaching occurs when reefs are distressed, expelling algae and disrupting the ecosystem as a result. Often coral bleaching ultimates results in coral death and is a top indicator of the extinction of a reef.
Hawaii banned the sale of sunscreen containing these chemicals in May to protect its reefs, which tourists frequently visit. In Hanauma Bay alone, an estimated 412 pounds of sunscreen was found on reefs in 2015.
Petrolatum, also known as mineral oil, and Titanium Dioxide are also common ingredients in sunscreen that are known to be harmful to marine life.
When reaching for sunscreen this summer, opt for something that protects both you and the environment. You can find a full list of reef-safe sunscreens here.
2. Go Meatless
Summer is the perfect time to host a barbeque — and vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, and mushroom are great on the grill.
The mass quantity of livestock the world raises to satiate its taste for meat accounts for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Beef in particular takes a major toll on the environment. A whopping 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce just 1 pound of beef. Eating one fewer burger a week for a year has the same effect as taking a car off the road for 320 miles, according to the Earth Day Network. In fact, if every person in the US passed on meat or cheese for just one day, the reduction in negative environmental impacts would be about the same as taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
Instead of throwing a burger on the grill, check out some meatless substitutes or swap that patty out for a portobello mushroom.
Read More: 7 Tips For a Cleaner, Greener Holiday
3. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
It’s important to stay hydrated in the summer heat, but avoid using single-use plastic water bottles. The world uses about 1 million plastic water bottles a minute, and more than 90% of those don’t get recycled. Instead, much of it finds its way into the ocean where it harms marine life. Oceans are predicted to have more plastic by weight than fish by 2050.
The production of plastic also relies on the use of fossil fuels and results in large greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead of buying plastic water bottles, bring your own bottle that can be filled from clean water sources. Many reusable bottles are even made with insulation technology that keeps the liquid inside cool. This list of reusable water bottles has several great options, including bottles from companies that support water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives.
4. Try on a Pair of Sustainable Sunglasses
Plastic is commonly used in a plethora of items because it’s lightweight, pretty durable, and relatively cheap. But it’s not necessarily the most sustainable option — or even the most fashionable.
When it comes to things like sunglasses, plastic is frequently used, but there are some great (not to mention stylish) environmentally friendly alternatives out there. Made from materials like wood and recycled plastic, these alternatives are more eco-friendly and include several brands that also give back to their communities.
5. Skip the Straw — or Bring Your Own
It’s hot and you’re dying for a sip of something refreshing, but — unless you need one — be sure to order your drink without a straw.
Though straws seem little, they add up. The US uses more than 500 million straws every single day. Just like plastic bottles and plastic bags, these typically end up as plastic waste and contribute to plastic pollution in the ocean.
Major companies, including American Airlines and Hyatt Hotels, have announced plans to stop providing single-use plastics, but it’s not just companies that have the power to make a change. Individuals do, too. So this summer, get in the habit of asking for your drinks sans straw — or bring your own reusable straw.