Green Summer Staples
Eco-friendly alternatives to chemical-packed summer essentials like sunscreen and bug sprays
Summer! At long last, a little ease. The kids are out of school, homework is a thing of the past, bedtimes shift, fireflies emerge, and everything is just a little more relaxed. To keep the easy vibe going, it’s good to be prepared. Stress creeps back quickly when you find yourself on a sunny picnic with no sunscreen or a walk in the woods with no bug spray. As you stock up on summer essentials, keep in mind there are effective natural and organic versions of all staples that are better for your kids, you, and the earth. So why not choose them?
The best sunscreens are hats, shade, and staying out of the sun at peak hours. When it comes to creams and sprays, it’s beyond ironic that the chemicals found in most conventional options have been linked to everything from cell damage to endometriosis. Luckily there are safer, natural versions that contain minerals instead of chemicals. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin instead of being absorbed into it, and are widely available. The best among them contain organic ingredients and non-nanoparticlized zinc or titanium dioxide. There are many suggestions listed on the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide, including Eco Logical Skin Care SPF 30+ and Badger Baby Suncreen with chamomile and calendula.
The fact that we had a very mild winter means we’re going to have a very buggy summer. It’s sad, but true. Before you spray the kids with any old bug spray, make sure you know what’s in it. DEET, a pesticide found in many sprays, has been found in various studies to affect the nervous system. Natural bug sprays contain essential oils like lemon eucalyptus oil, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say is as effective as DEET. They also don’t contain a whole host of other questionable ingredients that conventional sprays do. Keep in mind the point is to hurt the bugs, not our kids!
Filtered tap water is a must when on the go. But lugging around a heavy bottle of water is not always simple. Enter water bottles with built-in filters. Several companies including bobble make them. And to keep your own iced coffee cold without having to throw out a plastic cup daily, invest in a reusable insulated thermos. Klean Kanteen’s version with a Café Cap even has room for a straw. Speaking of straws, there are plenty of stainless steel or glass reusable options to choose from, like these from Strawesome.
If you’re looking to cool off in the yard, avoid a wading pool made of vinyl—which environmentalists are fond of calling “the poison plastic.” Opt for a safer version made of plastic #2 or #5—easily found at most big box toy stores—filled to the brim with a lead-free garden hose. And for digging at the beach, what could be better than making sandcastles with a shovel made from recycled plastic milk jugs?
Now that you’re stocked up, you can forget about the staples and focus on fun. Happy summer. —Alexandra Zissou