Today I swam for the first time this summer. Ah, a crisp cool Vermont river swept away the dirt and grime and I finally felt alive again after feeling wilted most of the day. We don’t get heat like this often in good ole’ Vermont, and I’m not used to it.
All that fresh water, the frogs calling and the warm night air got me thinking about how to have a less of an impact on the planet with my family this summer, and how to keep the kids safe and healthy, while enjoying this fleeting and beautiful season.
1. Use chemical free sunscreen for the whole family. There are many toxic chemicals in conventional sunscreens. Look for sunscreens that have Titanium Oxide (which stays on the surface of skin) and not much else. There are some safe brands and more information here.
2. Garden, and compost your food waste. Or, if you don’t have a green thumb or access to garden space, you can support local growers by visiting farm stands, farmer’s markets, or participating in CSAs.
3. Eat simple, local, summer foods. By doing this you will avoid your family’s exposure to many chemicals in processed foods. You can get some great recipes at this localvore site (it is local to Vermont– search for localvores in your area to find recipes and information).
4. When traveling use these tips to increase your fuel efficiency, and pack your own food so you don’t have to eat fast food on the road. You’ll spare the earth the packaging, and your children the unhealthy food and corporate marketing becoming engrained in their little minds. (I’ll never forget when my daughter at 2 yelled out, Mommy! An M! When we drove past a McDonald’s).
5. Unplug. Play outside, visit parks, go swimming. By doing this you will instill a respect and love of all things wild in your children. They will get great exercise and sleep better at night.
6. Grow your child’s natural intelligence. Identify trees, bugs, wildflowers and salamanders together. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Pick up a guidebook or visit a website to learn a few names to teach your child.
7. Live with natural light as much as possible. Who need electric lights most days in the summer? Turn them off and save electricity.
8. Speaking of sunlight, turn off your dryer and let the sun dry your clothes outside.
9. Have a safe, chemical free lawn. Chemicals like those used in Chemlawn and other lawn treatments are toxic to humans and pets. Instead, if you must have greener grass, find an organic safe brand to use.
Enjoy this season of juicy fruit, bare feet, and fireflies.