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With the heat of summer in full swing, you've got some free time and some hot days before you. That means time to visit the beach with the kids, go away on vacation, etc...

During backyard cookouts and ball games to trips to the local zoo and your Outer Banks vacation, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.

Here are a few tips on how you can make sure your summer vacation is looking and feeling its greenest.

Steppin' light.

Find local activities with low environmental impacts like a trip to the local park, woods, zoo, ballgame, or even a trip to the Outer Banks with friends to relax. Time spent with friends and family can be a great way to catch up and have fun. Picking up that new book you've been meaning to read while lounging on the deck is another great way to pass the time and leave a smaller footprint behind.

Cool and easy.

Air conditioning can offer much-needed respite from the heat and can make sweaty nights bearable, but be sensitive to overuse. Turning up the thermostat a few degrees on your AC is a great way to save tons of cash while making the planet a cooler place at the same time.

Up in your grill.

Love to BBQ? Propane burns much cleaner than either wood or charcoal briquettes. If you can't resist charcoal, try a natural product like those produced by Cowboy Charcoal--much cleaner than your traditional briquettes. Of course, when you're done grilling, use natural cleaning products such as SoyClean organic grill cleaner to keep your summer as chemical-free as possible. Tests show it's just as tough on grime as traditional cleaners but won't leave that chemical residue behind to leach into your next burger or grilled veggie. 

The green plate special.

Use reusable dishes rather than plastics or Styrofoam. If you absolutely must use disposables, make sure to pick up compostable varieties beforehand to put in the compost bin when you're through.  


Pick up a solar backpack or device like the Freeloader or the Solio to take with you on day trips. That way, whether you're at the beach or on the go you'll be able to run and recharge a wide range of portable devices on solar energy. Save a buck by cutting out the electric company and giving your rechargeables the solar power they deserve.

Greenie bikini.

You don't have to go so far as wearing a biodegradable or solar bikini to make your summer accouterments more sustainable. Instead, just look for eco-friendly products when shopping for clothing, swimsuits, sandals, towels, and skincare items. Each of these is a step in the right direction, and you might just fall in love with a product or style you never knew existed.

No poison, please.

Remember those carefree days of running alongside the DDT truck as it sprayed the happy townspeople and iced all the bugs? Well, we're a little smarter now, so use products like garlic barrier to ward off mosquitoes. Traditional products certainly do the job, but they can end up turning your backyard into a deathtrap for every other kind of living thing that drops by for a visit.

That means birds, butterflies, ladybugs, and even the family dog gets an unhealthy dose. Not to mention yourself, the kids, the neighbors' kids, and anyone else on your street. Make sure to apply it when you think it won't rain for several days, and the garlic alternative should treat you right. Planting rosemary is also a natural and low-tech way to block mosquitos. Then there are always the big guns like the Mosquito Magnet.

The local roundup.

Buy food locally. Farmers markets are great places to shop and ensure that the veggies you're eating hot off the grill or mixed in a salad haven't traveled thousands of miles just to reach your plate. That cuts down on the use of fossil fuels, which leads to significantly reduced levels of pollution and resource depletion over your typical tomato bought at the local supermarket. Websites like Local Harvest can help you find one in your area.

Wet and wise.

Water usage levels are a big deal throughout most of the U.S. and the summer drought season can really make things tough. Be certain to watch what you use, water plants only when necessary, and take a few minutes to install a low-flow showerhead. They're simple steps that can make a big difference. 

The greener road.

Have to travel long distances to arrive at your dream destination this summer? Consider making it by road or rail rather than by plane, but be sure to offset your carbon emissions no matter what mode of transportation you choose. Companies and non-profit groups like Terrapass, Climate Care, MyClimate, Native Energy, and American Forests all offer ways to offset the damage done when you pick up and travel to places unknown.