According to the Met Office, summer’s duration is most commonly determined by the Earth’s orbit around the sun. We call this the astronomical summer, and on average this lasts around ninety-six days – the perfect amount of time to transition to waste-free living.
What better season than summer to use less energy — as summertime gives homeowners ample opportunity to collect solar power and cut down on their heating bills. If you’re challenging yourself to have a sustainable summer, we’ve devised the perfect week-by-week “sustainable summer” plan to help you do it.
Starting from June 21st, you’ll be challenged to assess different aspects of your life and make them greener. Each fortnight we’ll focus on different topics — from your eating and buying habits, to where you might choose to take your next vacation. In just thirteen weeks, you’ll have bid farewell to most single-use plastics and learned how to use and respect the Earth’s natural resources — to bask in the sun and live a waste-free lifestyle while you’re at it.
Week 1-2 — Ditch the Meat-Eating Diet
June 21 — July 4
That’s right, June 21st marks the official start to Summer — it also signifies the beginning of your journey towards a waste-free lifestyle.
We’re going to kick things off by tackling your diet. You might be planning to do this anyway as most people change their diet at this time of the year. With many people trying to slim down in time for their summer holidays, it’s an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and go vegan.
We hear you — what does meat have to do with the environment? According to experts, a hell of a lot. University of Oxford researcher, Joseph Poore says a vegan diet is the single biggest way to tackle your impact on the environment. He advises ditching buying animal products altogether, rather than trying to purchase sustainable alternatives.
The great news is that on the whole, vegan diets tend to be healthier — as long as you commit to eating fresh produce and avoid heavily processed food. What’s more, they cut out the astronomical amounts of greenhouse gases emitted from farming meat.
Even if you’re finding the transition tough and the prep time involved in vegan cooking all too consuming, there are plenty of takeaway providers who now offer vegan food. You’ll get bonus points from us if you end up ordering from a brand that uses biodegradable food packaging too.
Week 3-4 — No More PET Plastics
July 5 — July 18
It’s safe to say that we took a dip in the deep end during the first phase as reformulating your diet is never easy. If you’re still going through an adjustment period — that’s normal. The thought of a summer without barbequed meats and ice cream is pretty terrifying, we admit.
That’s why we’ve made the second phase easier. We haven’t turned up the heat in our fortnightly challenge, but the climate might have gotten a little warmer as we head into July. That said, we urge you to purchase a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
The goal here is to avoid single-use plastics completely — the most common being Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) — the plastic used for commercial water bottles. Unlike going vegan, this step doesn’t require you to make a serious lifestyle change — you just need to plan. Take your bottle along for the journey, rather than stopping at the shops to stock up on non-biodegradable plastic water bottles that will inevitably end up in a landfill.
Still not convinced? If you need a personal incentive, most coffee houses now offer a discount on takeout drinks (if bought with a reusable mug or flask).
Week 5-6 — Be Honest about Bills
July 19 — August 1
Deep into July, you shouldn’t be using central heating (unless you live in a particularly cold state like Alaska). This makes July a great month to tackle your household bills — allowing you to reduce your energy consumption and household bills at the same time.
This week is all about being more vigilant in your home. We all have some unhealthy habits that we’d feel too embarrassed about or guilty to fess up. But be honest with yourself…
- Do you leave your TV on standby when it could be turned off at the source?
- Do you leave a room unattended and still leave the lights on?
- Do you use your dryer, rather than line drying (even when the sun’s out) just because it’s a habit?
All these tiny sins add up to extra dollars on your monthly invoices and extra guilt on your conscience.
What’s the easiest way to tackle this? Invest in a mobile-controlled app that allows you to manage your household’s activity from afar. Starting to sound expensive? Don’t worry — something like Amazon’s Alexa even has plugins for managing your home’s energy. If you do forget to switch off your lights during a frantic morning rush, you can switch them off at break-time using your mobile device.
Week 7-8 — Seek Sustainable Travel
August 2nd — August 15th
With all the money saved in household bills, you’ll be able to treat yourself to a two-week vacation, which is a summer staple for most Americans.
The crux is, long haul travel and conscious environmentalists don’t go hand in hand. The excessive amount of fuel used in road trips, plane rides, and even bus journeys is enough to make waste-free advocates afraid of vacationing.
Don’t worry — we’re not here to shame you out of booking an all-inclusive resort or city break. We’re just here to send a friendly reminder that not all hotel and transport chains are born equal. It’s imperative that you do your research before booking with any travel providers and pick the least offending companies to holiday with.
Try using green alternatives like Flixbus that has thousands of pick-up spots across Europe for a backpacking trip of a lifetime. What makes Flixbus green? Despite it being a regular coach journey, Flixbus gives you the option to donate cash to offset the carbon emissions of your trip. The company is totally transparent about where this money will go to — a certified climate protection project.
Week 9-10 — Say No to Straws
August 16th — August 29th
August is coming to a close, and with a bit of luck you might be jetting off on your well-deserved holiday. If you are soaking up the sun, we know you’ll be tempted by those poolside pina coladas, and we don’t blame you. However, make sure that you say no to plastic straws while lounging near the swim up bar. Why? These pesky drink accessories are just as bad as the plastic bottles we ditched in the second phase of this challenge.
They’re so bad that along with plastic earbuds and drink stirrers, the UK is banning them in April 2020. If you’re from the UK (or the US, a nation that is likely to follow suit shortly), your country might have forbidden these ocean polluters, but your holiday destination might not.
How can you remain compliant while on holiday? Well, tonnes of waste-free advocates have now been making use of metal straws. These reusable straws can be bought online for a few dollars and are made to be carried around in your handbag. If you’re worried about hygiene, quality metal straws also come with special cleaning brushes.
If bringing your own straw seems like too much of a hassle, paper straws are always a winner (and most responsible bars offer them so that you don’t have to preplan a boozy night out).
Finally, if the worse comes to the worst and you’ve ended up in a bar that’s guilty of passion for plastic, you could always ditch the straw altogether. In this case, drastic times call for zero measures — after all, is drinking from a straw necessary?
Week 11-12 — Cut out the Middleman
August 30th — September 12th
This week, you might have returned home from holiday, but the fun isn’t quite over. Latch on a little longer to that Meditteranean lifestyle by growing your own veggies and learning to “live off the land.”
As we leave summer behind, it’s the perfect time to plant some seasonal veggies.
Having an allotment is an activity that will help you to keep on the straight and narrow in regards to your recent vegan diet, but it’s also a way to reduce your carbon footprint dramatically. By growing veggies at home, you’re dismissing the middleman, otherwise known as the supermarket. What does this mean? You’ll swerve the enormous amounts of fuel it takes to deliver goods to food stores, avoid harmful chemicals, reduce the amount of packaging needed for keeping food fresh and remove yourself from the chain of excessive farming that’s hurting wildlife, animals, and farmland.
This isn’t an expensive route either as in the UK, you can rent an allotment for as little as £20 per year, which is less than $30. A small price to pay for an unlimited amount of fresh produce.
Week 13 & beyond (Round-up) — Set Long-Term Goals
September 13th — September 23rd
With just less than two weeks left on the sustainable summer calendar, you’ll need to take some time to review your project progress. Have you fallen off track with any of the goals we set?
Perhaps you’ve bought a reusable water bottle but forgot to take it out with you a few times. Maybe you planned (and enjoyed) an eco-friendly holiday, but continued to drive to work when you returned home — not so eco-friendly. Whatever you’re struggling with, make a plan to improve it.
While most goals will be (and should be) realistic. For example: “I’ll only take the car to work twice a week, rather than five.” That said, you should also set some ambitious goals for yourself too. In the introduction of this article, we mentioned activities like collecting solar power. Installing solar panels in your home can be a costly measure, but one that has serious long-term benefit. You could aim to save the cash needed for solar panel installation by the next Summer season or vow to work on long-term projects like spreading the waste-free word on your own environmental blog.
Setting a mixture of short and long-term goals is the key to sustaining your sustainable lifestyle. Nobody expects you to be completely waste-free in ninety-six days (or after one season) — instead, be proud of yourself if you’re on the road to getting there.
Adam Middleton became the Business Development Manager for Takeaway Packaging after a varied career in PR, shipping and marketing within the packing industry. With a Bachelor’s degree in Human Geography and a Masters in International Marketing, Adam has a keen interest in the environmental impact of consumerism.