Summertime Guides: Some Links to Keep You Green

by Bill Chameides | June 20th, 2011
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

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Some summertime ideas.

“Summer’s here — I’m for that,” James Taylor sings. “Got my rubber sandals, got my straw hat.” But what about the right sunscreen? The most sustainable shrimp for the barbie? Eco-friendly vacation spots?

With summer just around the corner, you no doubt have vacation plans in place as well as a favorite outfit or two lined up, but as you gear up for warm-weather activities, the question to ask is: Do you have the tools to navigate the fun in the sun in a healthy, eco-friendly way? Today’s post will help you do just that.

Sunscreen: Understanding the Numbers Game and Beyond

New rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on what sunscreen makers can and cannot say about their sunscreens won’t go into effect for another year or two. Still, you can stay ahead of the game by knowing what exactly the different numbers mean, what kind of protection each brand’s particular tube offers, and which chemicals in a given sunscreen’s list of ingredients pose health risks. How? Try the Environmental Working Group’s exhaustive 2011 Sunscreen Guide(Or consult’s short list from 2009 of sunscreens to embrace or avoid,)

Sustainable Fish: Sorting Through a Sea of Troubled Fish Stocks 

Many of you have already been firing up the grill and enjoying the fine art of the BBQ as spring inches toward summer. Many are also keeping an eye on health as well as on the flames and looking to fish to balance out the typical red meat selections. (When choosing beef, remember that grass-fed is generally recognized to be the eco-friendly option, as is local sourcing of your meat, be it red or white — but not blue, please. More on locally sourced grass-fed meats below.)

For seafood selections that are sustainable, check out any number of guides offered by environmental nonprofits, some of which are now available for your mobile device (such as Seafood Watch and FishPhone).

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide “helps you choose ocean-friendly seafood and sushi at your favorite restaurants and stores, … delivers up-to-date recommendations along with complete information about how each item is fished or farmed.” It’s also got a wiki feature that allows users to “contribute to the app, adding the names or restaurants and stores where you’ve found sustainable seafood.”
  • EDF’s Seafood Selector (which is produced in collaboration with Monterey Bay Aquarium) tells you which seafood choices are best and worst for the environment (or just okay) and offers up some details about how healthy or unhealthy the seafood is (e.g., blue shrimp).
  • See also Blue Ocean Institute, NRDC’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, and WWF’s Seafood Guides (which let you search for sustainable options by country).
  • Oyster lovers may want to download Oysterpedia, an app for your Android phone  or iPhone, to carry a lot more than a hip-full of information about these bivalves on your hip (or wherever else you carry your cell). In the words of New York magazine: “two-hundred oysters, explained.”

Green Markets and Locally Sourced Food: Be a Locavore Wherever You Are 

You probably know, if you care about these things, where the farmers’ markets are near you. But maybe you’re visiting friends or family this summer or taking a trip cross-country and want to know where those nearby farmers’ markets are. If so, try the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market search tool. It allows you to plug in a zip code to help you locate the closest farmers markets it has in its database.

Journalist and author Jo Robinson has also come up with a great source for foodies serious about locally sourced foods. Her site offers information (complete with sources) on food choices and an online directory that allows you to find all sorts of local grass-fed meats, eggs and dairy.

Beach Guides: Locating the Most Beautiful and Eco-Friendly Coastal Retreats

Planning a trip to the shore? Don’t just coast. Do a little research to make sure the beach(es) you visit are good environmental choices. Here are a few links to get you started.

Travel Guide: Some Tips to Consider As You Jet About the Planet offers some basic considerations for “How to Be a Socially Conscious Traveler.”

National Parks: Room With a View and Then Some

Since Yellowstone became the country’s first national park in 1872, the country has taken the need to preserve large swaths of important wilderness areas seriously. Today, the United States is home to almost 400 national parks that draw hundreds of millions of visitors each year. If you are one of those headed for a national park this year, don’t forget to do your homework.

The National Park Service, established as an arm of the Interior Department in 1916, has exhaustive information on all of the country’s national parks, including a handy-dandy tool that lets you find parks by name, location, activity, or topic.

For another take on selected national parks
, see Mother Nature Network’s “Tour of America’s National Parks.”

And for the armchair traveler, there’s always Ken Burns’s six-episode series produced for PBS, The National Parks.

Cheap Gas

Chances are, no matter how green you are or strive to be, you will find yourself traveling in a car this summer. Now, we hope you keep your mileage to a minimum, but when you have to drive, maybe you want to avoid the most expensive gas stations to keep costs low? Try

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