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  • Quinn Swanson

Rethink, Refuse, and Reduce - Summer Edition

Summer in Minnesota is what I live for! I love it - from the warm temps, abundant wildlife, fresh vegetables and living flowers to the outdoor activities and family/friend get-togethers. It’s also a time when I find it can be easy to consume more mindlessly. So a few reminders for me and maybe for you, too, as we head into the unequivocal best season in MN. 

Depending on the particulars of your life some of the following ideas may not fit for you. Do what you can, leave what’s not reasonable.

Seasonal Clothing Switch-out

Yay, the time to put away winter and colder weather clothing has arrived! As you do, this is an ideal time to assess whether the items are ready for a new owner (donate!), have been worn past their prime (repair or fabric recycling?), or simply need to be stored till temps drop again.

Do you have what you NEED for summer clothing? If you said no, pause and evaluate if your need is simply a WANT. In our consumer-driven society we are perpetually awash with messaging highlighting new, different, and allegedly better. These messages (whether consciously or subconsciously) are driving us to feel like we need items we don’t. That being said, if you have determined there are items you need, make the best attempts to buy with sustainability in mind. Which may mean buying secondhand/thrift and choosing natural fibers. It may mean buying local and depending on the item, investing in a long-term quality item over fast fashion. 

Community Festivals & Events

Dang near every small town has at least one super summer something! Partaking in these events is fun & often, quintessential summer. A couple of simple ways to do so in a more environmentally-friendly way: 

  • Bring your own utensils to enjoy the delicious food truck nosh or church fundraiser walking tacos.

  • Stay strong, don’t take the proffered free stuff even when it’s thrown at you from parade floats. You may not be able to say no to the candy, I get it. But can you avoid the free pens, widgety plastic nonsense, bead necklaces, and/or can koozies? Try to!

  • Love the vendors and supporting shops in the hosting town and certainly try to be a patron. Like all shopping opportunities, bring your own reusable bags.

Parties, Picnics, Events

Are you hosting or attending?

Hosting- How can you cut down on plastics & disposables? The circumstances may make it so that eliminating entirely is not reasonable, but don’t assume that’s the case without some evaluation. Do you often host? Could you scale your silverware/utensil supply up? Thrift stores have box loads of silverware! Acquire some cheaply for use at decades worth of parties. Pass that load of silver between family and friends as they host. We all know actual utensils work better than the plastics. Who hasn’t snapped a plastic fork tine eating with disposables?! Can you take the same premise with plates- buy a stash from the thrift store (or borrow) for party use? If not, consider basic paper - not super (read plastic coated) paper plates. 

Cups can be difficult. Though those ubiquitous (often red) brand name cups include the chasing arrows symbol on the bottom - they are not necessarily recyclable! Aluminum is recyclable though - are canned beverages an option? Do you have enough glasses to use and wash? If you must use plastic disposable cups - is there a labeling system you can use for the day/party/weekend? Sharpie, masking tape, or ? - be creative! 

Attending - Plan ahead and bring your own. Leave a full set of supplies in your car - maybe a few sets depending on family size. My kit includes a camp plate/bowl, mug (great for any beverage), water bottle, utensils, and a bandana (cloth napkin & more). Do people look at me funny when I’ve brought my own? Maybe. I honestly don’t notice. Most of the comments I receive are in the complimentary vein. Many sound envious of the forethought and sturdier equipment. I will also be adding a tupperware or two to my traveling kit. Maybe even subbing a glass “tupperware” for the camp plate. Then with a few quick snaps you can finish your meal later- no styrofoam needed!

Mug, silverware, containers and reusable bags.
Resuables always in Quinn's car--available for quick grab and use.

As a woman who has always carried a purse that includes ALL. THE. THINGS. adding this kit isn’t a hassle for me. If however it would be out of the ordinary for you--put it in a bag in one of the reusable bags you are going to bring for the awesome handmade goodies or other festival funs you find.

Are all of these do-able for you and your lifestyle? Maybe not, but could you try one or two? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for lowering your summer environmental impact.


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