Since our winter was so warm this year, many people are predicting a hotter than usual summer. Here in Philly, heat usually equals humidity which means air conditioning. The end result is an enormous electric bill. To balance what is often a necessary expense for folks in the summer, here are 10 ways to "green" your summer and save some green at the same time.
1. Switch from plastic grocery bags to cloth bags. Grocery stores often offer them for $.99, or you may already have a few on hand. Another place to look is the craft store which sells cloth tote bags for personalizing. Wash the bags weekly depending on how often you use them to prevent the spread of germs like salmonella. Make sure all meats are doubled wrapped before putting in a cloth bag.
2. For water play for the kids, use a kiddie pool rather than a sprinkler. At the end of the play time, get the kids to help you scoop the water out for the plants. I try to put our kiddie pool near a bed that needs watering, and my husband sets up a siphon to dump the water into buckets.
3. If your kids need summer reading books for school, try the public library first. Librarians often display reading lists for local schools. If your book is checked out, you can usually reserve it or put in a request for a book from another library. Don't forget to pick out videos for beastly hot summer days while you're at the library. Rentals generally run about $1 for 3 to 5 days. Make sure you know the rental policy, and can get the video back in time to avoid fines.
4. When having a picnic, use metal or plastic sandwich boxes, small thermoses, cloth napkins, reusable water bottles, and metal utensils. Use these same items for your brown bag lunch because of course, you're going to brown bag your lunch for work and the kids' summer camp. Bonus points if you brown bag leftovers!
5. Keep a basket of rags and rag towels handy by the back door for kid spills and mud, or, dripping kids from the pool.
6. Take all the leftover school supplies sent home at the end of the year and put them into an artbox. Set aside a time for art weekly. Ask at work if you can use discarded paper. As long as the paper is blank, most managers are usually okay with the idea. My sister recycles copy paper that can't go through the machine again.
7. Start a compost pile with kitchen scraps. Remember, no meat, oil, bread, or dairy. If you google compost pile, you'll be amazed at how many items can be composted. Use the compost on flower or vegetable plants, or maybe start that vegetable bed you've always wanted to have.
8. Instead of making long car trips, get together with a few moms or dads to hold day camp for one week. Decide ahead of time if the camp will take place only at one home or rotate among several houses. Every one shares the cost of supplies unless you're using recycled school supplies. If a week doesn't work, maybe host one day each week.
9. To keep the house cool without air conditioning, keep the curtains closed from about 8 a.m. onward on the sunny side of the house. Use ceiling fans and box fans in the windows to create a breeze and keep the air cooler. Box fans generally run about $20.
10. Find out about free or cheap programs for kids and families in your area. Several movie theaters offer cheap movies Wednesday mornings. Counties use local parks for free concerts and movie nights. The public library always has something going on for all ages whether it's a reading club or fun craft afternoons.
Summertime is a great time for street festivals. Philly has lots of ethnic and food festivals, not to mention a big July 4th Celebration. Maybe you have a national or state park near you. Near my home, we have the Heinz Wildlife Refuge, the Pine Barrens, and Ridley Creek State Park, all great places for nature walks for the family.
Remember beating the heat while having fun can be green and frugal.
Barb is a mom of 5 kids who spends her day keeping track of socks, stuffed animals, library books, and a 4 year old when she isn't writing about all the frugality, gardening, cooking, and reading she manages to fit in between the chaotic moments. She can be found at A Life in Balance, Frugal Local Kitchen, or on Twitter with daily doses of life in 140 characters or less.