Summer is finally here! The long winter in NYC is definitely over and the heat is rising. Each summer I’ve experienced in New York has reminded me of the city’s magical side - the smell of hot asphalt at dusk, fireflies dancing in Prospect Park, and pale blue skies against a hazy skyline. These sensations make me think of carefree years in California, before I ever realized just how special the summertime is. Summer in New York reminds me to hold tight to those sweet moments and whether I’m doing that in the city or off on an adventure, that means not letting sustainability get in the way of having fun.
It’s easy to begin learning about climate change and get frustrated and fatigued, but living sustainably isn’t about depriving ourselves of good times and summer sunshine. Personally, I plan on leaving no trace while enjoying every beach, lake, river, park, and trail as I possibly can this year - and doing it all in style. Over the past few years I’ve slowly built up a collection of essential items that help me live my best summer life free of guilt, and I want to share them with you! Whether you’re headed to the beach, a picnic in the park, or for a day out exploring the city, there’s a fashionable way to do it sustainably with just a few new habits and eco-friendly exchanges.
Here's How I Do Sustainable Summer Adventures
Living in New York, most of my summer adventures happen via the subway or bicycle. Fort Tilden beach and Prospect Park are the most common, and both require packing light. A casual, durable backpack or a sturdy cotton tote are great for packing a quick, zero-waste adventure kit. For anything that doesn’t fit in my bag, I simply take a large square of fabric and tie it around the extra items until it creates a pouch with a handle - it’s an easy fix for too-much-to-carry syndrome and it looks adorable!
In my opinion, summer picnics are among the most joyous occasions in life, so I always bring plentiful food and drink whenever I’m going on an adventure. A big, thick blanket is also key for lounging out on the grass, dirt, or sand and soaking up some sun (preferably one that is large enough to fit a few friends). I have a great blanket from Mexico and an old tapestry from college that are my trusty picnic go-tos. Even if they get a little dusty or sandy throughout the summer, I try to avoid washing them as much as possible to save water and time.
I love to bring fresh fruits, chips, baguettes, homemade hummus, nuts, and some veggies for a yummy, healthy picnic that doesn’t require any plates or forks. Resealable bags, small mesh or cloth bags, beeswax wraps, and steel containers are all ideal vehicles for yummy snacks. Beeswrap even makes a specific baguette sized wrap, and we all know that’s a very important piece of the picnic! If I bring an avocado or something that requires a knife, I’ll bring my set of bamboo utensils and wash them along with everything else when I get home.
Every good picnic comes with a beverage of some sort, and as a 20-something New Yorker that usually means booze. Beer that comes in a can (I love buying Sixpoint when I’m in New York) rather than a glass bottle is a safer bet for the beach or anywhere you may be walking around barefoot, plus it’s lighter to transport. Just be sure to recycle any cans afterwards, packing them back home with you if necessary. For wine, water, or mixed drinks I like to fill up my insulated Klean Kanteen bottle to keep everything nice and chilly (I have literally found ice still going strong in that bottle after hours of being out and about in the heat). I’ll also bring a stack of reusable cups and straws so that all of my friends can enjoy our picnic without polluting the planet. Avoiding single-use plastic items is awesome in everyday life, but it’s even more crucial if you’re adventuring at the beach or near a waterway since it is so easy for a piece of trash to tumble straight into the ocean there.
It’s also extra important when you’re at the beach to opt for reef-safe sunscreen like Badger or Suntegrity. Many conventional sunscreens contain Oxybenzone and other chemicals which are known to cause coral death and disfigurement - which is the last thing I want to feel guilty about when I’m frolicking in the waves. I'd prefer to be thinking about no more than the feel of water on my skin and the way it reflects the sparkling sky. While I'm swimming I'm proud to rock a sustainable swimsuit, many of which easily surpass the conventional kind when it comes to style and functionality. Head over to Azura Bay, Fair Harbor, Mara Hoffman, Vitamin A, or Summersalt for lots of fun and sexy options made from recycled plastic. I have a suit from Mara Hoffman and one from Azura Bay and they both look & feel great!
If you’re taking your adventure to the mountains, you’ll want to watch out for critters that enjoy the warmer months just as much as we do. Mosquitos, ticks, flies and other creepy crawlies can’t ruin your adventure if you’re prepared, but unless you’re up against some seriously aggressive bugs, you may not need to reach for the DEET. I prefer to use a natural bug spray that utilizes essential oils to prevent itchy bites if I can. Look for something with citronella and lavender as both are natural bug repellents. Mountain and camping outings also call for solar chargers and sun-powered lights at night. I love these portable, color-changing Luci lights because they make for an excellent accessory during outdoor parties and nighttime festivals!
In addition to lounging at the beach and going off the grid in the mountains, I’ll also be doing a fair bit of city adventuring this summer. My favorite way to get around New York in warm weather is via Citi Bike, the local bike sharing system. It’s a quick and affordable way to get around New York while seeing the city and getting in a workout all at once - really I can’t say enough about how much I love bike shares. I’m excited to try out Paris’ new and improved Velib Metropole system which now features electric bikes (for going uphill) and an ingenious temporary locking system for making short stops (like buying a baguette en-route to the park). The ability to explore a city by bike - without having to carry said bike up your apartment steps or worry about it being stolen overnight - is so much fun and a great eco-friendly option.
When I’m out exploring the city I still utilize many of the same essential items that help me stay sustainable out in nature; a reusable bag, spork, cup, and straw are usually stowed away in my bag. They fit just as easily into my beat up backpack as they do into the summery straw bag I like to carry around in the city, right next to my eco-friendly wooden sunglasses and my wallet. Getting in the habit of bringing these little tools around at all times has proven useful in any number of situations, and summer adventures are no exception!
I can’t wait to experience the adventures to come this summer now that I have all of my sustainability essentials lined up and ready to go. Where are you off to this summer?