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Make 'green' your summer theme

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Most of us are making plans this summer that involve the great outdoors.  Whether they include an exotic island, a mountain or beach trip or time with friends and backyard cookouts, we rely on the earthly blessings of good weather, warm sun and fresh air.  While we enjoy these pleasures, we should be sensitive to the needs of the very earth serving them up.

When you start detailing your plans, Make ‘Green’ Your Summer Theme.  The simplest of actions can add up to make a real difference and contribute to better health for your family and your planet!  Here are a few ideas that are easy to follow, cost effective…and of course, earth-friendly.

Try to be the “Green Grill Master”.  Choose the least polluting grill method.  While you may love the smell and taste of charcoal grilled food, charcoal releases carbon monoxide, contributing to respiratory problems and air pollution.  If you insist on charcoal, try a natural product like Cowboy Charcoal.   Electric grills are the best option, producing 99% less carbon monoxide than charcoal. Propane grills are the next best option; propane burns much cleaner than charcoal.  In addition to your grilling method, try not to burn meat, because the charred portions cause toxic chemicals to be released into your food.  Toxic chemical “seasoning” is not my idea of gourmet dining from home!

There are benefits for choosing fresh, seasonal and organic produce to compliment summer meals. Try growing your own organic salad and herbs in a family garden or window box, or shop at the local farmers’ markets and many roadside stands. By consuming local food that doesn’t have to be shipped across country to arrive on your table, you support your local economy and improve your carbon footprint.

Solar is obviously “in season” this time of year.  Take advantage of the free, abundant solar power that works like no other. Hang laundry out to dry to conserve energy and enjoy fresh smelling sheets and clothes.  If you are accustomed to coloring your hair, consider sunbathing with lemon juice, to lighten hair the natural way, avoiding harmful ingredients found in expensive commercial hair dyes.  For refreshing drinks, try making sun-tea or green tea on your porch in a glass jar – both are healthy alternatives to sodas and sugary drinks (see Ehow.com for good recipes).

In your travels this summer, remember to tread lightly. While on hikes or bikes, stay on designated paths to minimize disturbance of natural areas.  No matter where you visit, take all your trash (and a few extras) when you leave and save recyclables, too.   Enjoy water sports, but be mindful of the importance of clean water streams.  When you fill up the gas tank on your boat or Jet Ski, use a funnel to make sure no gas is spilled into the water.

For unique summer options, filled with old-fashioned fun, look into green summer camps (like Gwynn Valley in Brevard, NC or Green River Preserve in Cedar Mountain, NC).  They offer your typical outdoor camp activities, coupled with sustainable farming and simple living routines like geology digs, gathering eggs, feeding pigs and growing popcorn.  It may not beat a trip to Disney, but it is likely to stand out as the most unique essay topic on “What I did this summer”.

A challenge to each of our households: make this summer your greenest season yet!   Involve your whole family.  Map out ideas for your green-themed summer and include a section called “make a difference”…take the challenge and do it In Honor of Planet Earth.

In H.O.P.E.,

Verde Mom (Tracy Himes)

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