• The Sustainable Student | Guest Author

how to have a sustainable summer.

As the light stretches longer into shortened nights and the sun bathes our bodies in warmth, small lifestyle changes can make our summer living more sustainable.

people having an eco picnic charcuterie / fully grown

In the summer months we find ourselves a little closer to the energetic source of all life on Earth: the sun. This phenomenon creates warm conditions perfect for enjoying a locally sourced vegan strawberry sorbet whilst admiring the natural beauty of British wildlife. If we are smart, this abundance of summertime energy can also significantly reduce our electricity consumption and therefore our demand for fossil fuels.

natural light.

With bright mornings and long evenings, one can go the whole day without laying a finger on a light switch. Try opening your blinds wide and moving around the house, depending on the time of day, to make the most of the long sunlight hours. As well as reducing your energy usage, living by natural, rather than artificial light, helps the body regulate sleep cycles and arcadian rhythms, improving health.

open it up.

Conversely, warmer weather poses new problems for temperature regulation inside your home. As we spend most of the year blasting our heating to keep our fingertips from turning blue, the British population is mostly ignorant in methods to keep cool. Somewhat counterintuitively, it is best to open doors and windows at night to fill your home with cooler air before shutting them back up during the hottest parts of the day. It can take multiple days before experiencing significant effects and a single open window will sabotage your efforts, but if done right this easy trick will keep you cool indoors, hidden away from the sweltering sun. This Mediterranean practice will make the sweaty days more manageable and reduce your need for air conditioning or fans, both of which are extremely energy intensive. If, however, you do opt for air conditioning, make sure to close windows and stop the conditioned air slipping away.

plan, plan, plan.

With the prospect of a day ahead lazing in the sun with friends, taking a refreshing dip in rivers and seas and enjoying any number of summer activities, we can often forget to prepare before rushing out the door. In the heat we frequently find ourselves dehydrated and in need of a drink or famished, searching for any morsel of food after working up an appetite playing games in the park. Inevitably we prioritise convenience over responsible sourcing and find ourselves in a supermarket scouring the shelves for the best meal deals. After quenching our thirst and satisfying our hunger we are faced with the environmental cost of our meal in the form of a pile of single-use packaging amassed next to each of us.

Whilst most of this waste may carry a recyclable symbol, only a small fraction will be repurposed, and the majority will plague the planet for centuries to come.

This is by no means the individual’s fault as we need to consume food and water to survive, and only deep policy reform will bring the necessary move away from single-use plastics. However, by planning ahead and preparing food and drink you can make your spontaneous trip more sustainable.

water bottles.

First and foremost, get yourself a good water bottle. If you keep it topped up, this investment will pay for itself many times over as you avoid paying extortionate prices for bottled water. A good drinking vessel is also a fun accessory and will become a close friend, keeping you hydrated throughout the day and eliminating the use for countless plastic bottles. In the same vein, an effective food container will allow you to take along tasty food without the fear of it leaking onto your book of poetry you intended to whip out as the sun sets to impress your crush.

picnic food.

In terms of nutritious and filling picnic foods, I challenge you to break free from the simple carbohydrate walls of white bread that entrap our outings’ mealtimes. Slow-release complex carbs such as brown and black rice, mixed quinoa and mung, butter or black-eyed beans all act as a great base for creative cold salads. Mix in some thinly sliced seasonal veg, fresh herbs and a simple home-made dressing and you’ve got some munch that is sure to satisfy your grumbling stomach and keep you energized throughout the day.

snack time!

Lastly, snacks! We all love some little somethings to keep us going but the snack industry has been usurped by sugar based, hyper-processed junk. What you really need to help you scale that hill or regain your honour in a competitive game of one-bounce is a few nutrient dense, heat durable tricks up your sleeve. Chopped carrots, celery and radishes with homemade humus, soy-marinaded hard-boiled eggs and mixed nuts are all great savoury alternatives that are easy to snack on whilst on the go. Additionally, fresh or dried fruit is mother nature’s answer to satisfying your sweet tooth. Making the time and effort to stock up on nutritious food for the day will keep you healthy and make your day out waste free.

With summer in the air, flora and fauna flourish and food is a plenty on British shores. As the cold months of winter give way and growing conditions improve, vegetable patches and farmer’s markets are full of delicious local produce. Summer is the prime time to cut down your food miles and localise your shopping to make the most of British agricultural outputs.

Beetroot, radishes, rocket and watercress make colourful summer salads whilst strawberries, cherries and rhubarb provide the basis for delicious desserts. I encourage you to start with quality local produce when shopping, find what is in season, and fresh, and build your meal plan from there. In the British summer the crop is fresh and diverse so get your food from local farmers to support your regional economy, reduce your food miles and improve the nutrition and taste of what’s on your plate.

Get out and enjoy the warm weather, beautiful produce and sunny evenings that summer brings, but never forget that we are part of this world, and it is our actions that dictate its future. The beauty of sustainability is that it will take collective love, understanding and innovation to reach this common goal and if we succeed, countless generations will thank us for the decisions we made so that they too can live the human experience on this oh so beautiful earth.

Have a sustainable summer, with love,

The sustainable student

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