summer youth activities

Sustainable Summer Fun

And All Year ‘Round, Too

By Marc Cournoyer – 4-H Youth and Development Program Coordinator

STEM Mini Photo2Summer is here and with that comes time outdoors, a few months out of school, and family vacations. As you plan your summer activities, think about how you can have fun and still practice sustainable living. How can you have memorable family experiences and act as a steward of the world around you at the same time? Keep in mind a few key points of sustainable living and you will be able to do both this summer.

Look For Sustainable Fun In Your Neighborhood

The definition of sustainable living tells us that we should live simply and use resources responsibly. This can include conserving our finances, natural resources and creating as little waste as possible. It can be as simple as taking along reusable water bottles and snacks that require minimal or reusable packaging for family outings. Think about things you can do this summer closer to home to lower gas consumption and carbon emissions. What are some available resources in your neighborhood?

  • Looking for “Staycation” activities? Check out your community’s websites.
    The term “Staycation” (stay around) has become very popular over the last few years as the cost of travel continues to grow. Many cities and towns now have outdoor movie nights and summer concert series to provide their residents with events they can participate in locally. You can find out about these events from community calendars on your city/town or local library websites. Many local libraries also run special summer programs to provide free or low cost daytime activities for children while they are out of school. Try a web search for “connecticut community calendars” and see what pops up!
  • Are you into hiking or biking?
    Maybe you are looking for a place to have a quiet family picnic or explore some of our state’s rich history. Connecticut has a wonderful state park system linking all corners of the state. These are fantastic, low-cost, family fun day trips. When enjoying the state parks be sure to use sustainable living and conservation practices by cleaning up all your garbage and leaving the natural environment the way you found it. Another way you can make an impact is to take a plastic grocery bag with you next time you go for a hike and pick up trash you find along the way to dispose of properly later. Make sure you have baggies to pick up after your dog on a hike so you don’t leave it behind for others to find on their walks. Stay on marked trails so you don’t impact natural areas that provide habitat for wildlife and plants.
  • Geocaching, another wonderful, inexpensive family activity
    Geochaching has grown in popularity over the last several years. Geocaching is the activity of finding objects hidden in various places with the aid of GPS technology. With most smartphones having built in GPS units, this activity has turned into something that young and old can enjoy together around the world. There are “geocaches” hidden within most communities today. Participation in this activity is usually free, a great source of family fun and exercise and readily available to anyone. This is a modern upgrade to the popular activity of letter boxing. There are several geocaching websites that will give you the GPS coordinates to locate hidden caches wherever you are. Some of these include Geocaching.com, GPSGames.org and Cacheopedia.com. You can even find geocaching sites in Spanish at Terracaching.es. Most of these websites can be accessed for free. Simply log in your location and the site will give you the coordinates of caches located within the search distance you choose. Like hiking, this activity is sustainable in that it requires few material resources and is minimally invasive to the surrounding environment.
  • Last but not least…do some simple sustainable things this summer.
    Some simple ways to live sustainably this summer include finding ways to minimize waste at your next family cookout or raising the temperature setting on your air conditioner a few degrees so it doesn’t have to work so hard over the warm summer months, thus reducing the consumption of electricity. On really warm days drawing the curtains to keep the warmest of the sun’s rays out of your house can go a long way. For more simples energy action ideas, click here.

The options are limited only by your imagination. So as you plan your summer family adventures, always ask yourself, “How can I fully enjoy summer activities while still respecting and caring for the world around me?” Every individual action, combined with those of others, adds up to a real difference in making sure our environment and communities are healthy for many more generations.