Easy Being Green: Sustainability on the Beach

Sustainability doesn’t begin and end at home. Since we’re in the blazing heat of summer, there are ways we can keep being as sustainable as possible as we make the most of the sun and getaway, be it cottaging, camping or lying on a beach.

Since these options are all often at a bit of a distance, it may be unlikely that public transit options exist (though it doesn’t hurt to check), so start by limiting the amount of driving that you will be doing as much as possible — chose local attractions, carpool with others, or plan well so that you don’t need to drive about once you arrive at your destination.

When you are planning meals, do what you can to continue to use fresh local ingredients, using as many plant-based ingredients as possible to limit your environmental footprint. For camping, that may mean preparing some meals before you leave, or being creative.

My family loves cooking in a cast

iron dutch oven over a fire. There are tons of great meals you can make such as lasagna, chili, or just about anything, really. There are great online resources for recipes. You could also make building a sun oven a fun activity and experiment with cooking in it. Bring reusable dishes and plan for how you will deal with them. Asking everyone to use a reusable water bottle, doing food prep at home, etc.

Another tip is to play in energy-neutral ways. Things like motor boats are problematic for the natural environment. For example, older motors can leave up to 30 per cent of unused gas behind. Unfortunately these are typically used in personal watercraft. Even newer motors still leave some gas and oil, as well as adding air, which can affect the percentage of dissolved oxygen levels and therefore all local wildlife.

They also churn up the lakes (especially the newer wake boats) which can stir sediment, and also are likely indirectly increasing algae levels. The additional noise they create can stress migratory birds and limit their resilience.

There are many great alternatives for having fun on the water, including canoeing or kayaking, and my favourite — sailing.

When you are out in the wilderness at night, don’t forget to limit your lighting. Night lighting (a.k.a. light pollution) affects a broad range of species. For example, nocturnal species depend on lighting changes to moderate their sleep patterns which become disrupted with artificial lighting. Prey for nocturnal predators are at greater risk without the cover of darkness. Migratory birds use the moon to navigate and depend on seasonal changes for identifying timing for migration, as well as nesting and mating behaviours.

Insects are also affected by artificial light, leading to decreased insect populations. This may sound like a positive outcome, but we need insects for pollination and many other insects and animals use them as a food source.

My husband, who is Australian, often remarks how seriously, and how hard Canadians play in the summer. Indeed, we are really creative in getting the most out of the sunny days. But it’s still really important that we continue to work to build a sustainable life, which doesn’t need to impede on our fun. In fact, it can improve it and push us to be even more creative.

Stacey Danckert is co-director of Waterloo Region Environment Network (WREN).