How to have a sustainable summer

Colourful bathing boxes at Brighton beach.

Summer is a time for fun – from family picnics to work Christmas parties and gatherings with friends, there is always something on in the summer season. But our summer plans don’t have to cost the planet. On average, Australians use 130 kg of plastic per person each year. Plastic waste is one of the biggest contributors to pollution and climate change. Our summer activities can play a big role in creating plastic waste, not least of all through plastic cups, bottles, straws and utensils at events and gatherings. Plastic is convenient – that’s the main reason it exists. But plastic is not convenient to those who live near plastic producing plants. This flexible and versatile product is made from fossil fuels – yep, you might not have guessed it but that colourful plastic once started out as dirty fossil fuel chemicals. This means producing plastic has negative impacts on the air, soil and water of communities that live near plastic plants and oil extraction rigs. Luckily there are lots of ways we can reduce our plastic waste and consumption, while still enjoying the summer season.

Reusable products are your best friends when it comes to living sustainably. Whether you’re getting an iced coffee to go or attending a family-get-together, carrying a reusable cup means you can easily say no to disposable plastic ones. Reusable cups come in plenty of different styles, so there’s something for every occasion and drink. A stainless-steel insulated tumbler with a straw is a great option for smoothies, iced coffee and iced tea. The stainless steel also keeps your cold drink cooler for longer and is overall healthier for your body as there’s no chance of plastic leaching chemicals. If you’re looking for something that’s better at a party, the Cheeki insulated wine tumbler is a great option. The small size and the round shape make these tumblers perfect for holding comfortably while socialising. Plus, they come with a lid, which makes them great for outdoor events or kids.

Picnics at the park and takeaways on the beach are commonplace during the summer – which can see a huge spike in waste from disposable cutlery. A reusable cutlery set is the simplest solution to this problem. A reusable cutlery set can be made of high-quality stainless steel or bamboo. It’s always good to get one that has a pouch or tin, so you can keep your set hygienic and easy to carry with you. When it comes to buying the food for your picnics and parties, reusable bags are the way to go. A good quality cotton bag is great for grocery shopping and allows you to express your style, while helping reduce plastic waste. If you’re really keen to reduce plastic waste this summer, you might like to try a bulk, low-waste store where you can bring along produce bags and stock up on unpackaged, plastic-free groceries. This can be a great way to support a local business this summer.  

Sunscreen is essential all year round and even more important in the summer. But not all sunscreen is sustainable. The first thing to consider with your sunscreen is its effect on the ocean. Sadly, some of the main chemicals in sunscreens are damaging to coral reefs and marine life. One of the main culprits is Oxybenzone – a chemical found in over 3,500 sun care products. These chemicals can cause what’s called coral bleaching, and damage the DNA of corals. Sunscreen is a stressor that makes corals more susceptible to disease and death. Chemical sunscreens aren’t the only harmful ones, mineral sunscreens also contain nanoparticles that can be absorbed by marine life. You’ve likely heard of reef-safe or coral reef friendly’ sunscreen. You can find reef-safe sunscreen for face and for the body. These sunscreens are formulated to avoid the problems mentioned above. Generally, you should avoid aerosol sunscreen and chemical-full sunscreens and opt for mineral sunscreens that have ‘non-nano’ particles.

Concerned about the plastic packaging on your sunscreen? Luckily there are plastic-free options for those wanting to be sun safe but avoid the plastic waste this summer. SunButter is a solid sunscreen that is reef safe and packaged in a tin that’s made from reusable and recyclable material. Plus, it comes in two shades, so if you want a bronze glow or white sunscreen washes you out, then this sunscreen is for you.

You can still enjoy all the summer fun and stay sustainable – the trick is to build habits slowly and start with easy swaps. Before you know it, you’ll be leading the way on sustainability this summer.

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