5 Zero Waste Summer Activities to Do This Season

Zero Waste Summer Activities

Summer is finally here, which means longer and warmer days are abound. I love living in tune with the seasons, and summer is definitely my favorite season. Summer is just so full of life – everything is green, the roses are in full bloom, and there are so many delicious fruits and vegetables in season at the farmers market. Truly, it is a time of the utmost abundance. Summer brings to mind roses and wildflowers, fragrant honeysuckle blooms creeping along fences, juicy peaches straight from the tree, and languid beach days spent soaking up the sun. There’s something about summer that makes you feel so full and wholesome. It conjures up feelings of vitality, reminding us to tap into our youthfulness and enjoy life. It’s also a time when produce is at its peak: I absolutely love seeing SO many different fruits appear at my farmers market, particularly peaches and raspberries, which I will definitely be talking about later on in this post. So, if you want to celebrate summer, reduce your waste and live seasonally, you’re in the right place. Here are 5 zero waste summer activities to do before the season ends!

P.S.: This is a mini series (with each new season, I list zero waste activities you can do – I already did fall, winter, and spring, so this is the last one!). Also, this post contains affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.


5 Zero Waste Summer Activities

First off, it’s important to note when summer begins and ends. Lots of people believe that as soon as memorial day arrives, summer starts, but that’s not true at all. A good majority of June is actually still spring: Summer doesn’t start until June 21st, depending on the year (Northern Hemisphere). For 2019, summer started June 21st and ends on September 23rd. Just something to keep in mind as the season progresses.

1. Stock up on seasonal produce

Zero Waste Summer Activities
This was a late July produce haul from 2018. We got a lot of delicious, summer staples!
Summer is the best time to hit up the farmers market. There’s such a huge selection of produce to choose from, it’s not even funny!

I have two farmers markets I go to during the year: One further from my home that’s available year round, and one closer that just became a year round market. I’m super pumped to have access to two year round markets now! I bring my compost pail with me every week and stock up on all these delicious foods.

It’s important to note that summer foods don’t tend to make an appearance at the farmers market right away. They take a while to grow, after all. Usually by mid-July, they’re in full swing and taste incredible. It’s 100 percent worth the wait.

However, around early July we usually get some new additions to our farmers market like peaches, and blueberries. Have you ever tried a farmers market peach? They’re to die for – so juicy and delicious.

We also continue to buy strawberries, which are also so fragrant and tasty. They have a delightful sweet tart to them that make them my favorite fruit of all time.

Summer is definitely the month of fruit. As someone who loves fresh fruit, it’s like holding my breath waiting for everything to come into season. I try to eat as seasonally as possible, so unless I can find it at my farmers market, I ain’t eating it.

Essentially, that means I only get to indulge in peaches, plums, cherries and berries once per year: Summer. And boy, let me tell you, I go ham! I over indulge alright. It’s way too good not to. Eating this way also really makes me appreciate these produce items all the more, because come winter, they’re gone.

I highly recommend you check out your own local farmers market and see what’s in season near you.

Take your reusable produce bags and tote bags with you to avoid waste! Here are my zero waste farmers market essentials.

Summer foods to stock up on:

  • Corn
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Plums
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Tomatoes
  • Apricots
  • Apples
  • Peppers
  • Celery
  • Radishes
  • Shallots
  • Melons
  • Nectarines
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Tomatillos
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Garlic
  • Okra
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Herbs
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Summer squash
  • Swiss chard
  • Currants

These are just some of the seasonal summer foods you’ll encounter at the farmers market. As you might be able to tell, some spring produce also rolls into the summer months too.

Of course, this list varies depending on your location, and what your farmers decide to grow. Something can be in season but not sold at your market simply because the farmer doesn’t grow it, so keep that in mind.

For example, while melons are in season during summer, they never typically pop up at my market because no one there grows them.

Also, sometimes the region you’re in really plays a big factor in what grows there. For example, avocados are never available at my farmers market because no one grows them in New York. But in California, avocados are going strong at the farmers market well into late July.

Do research into what’s seasonal to your area. You might be surprised at what you find!

2. Head to the beach – without creating waste

Zero Waste Summer Activities
This beautiful beach was from a trip I took in 2016 with my boyfriend – Ocean City, Maryland.
Going to the beach is a summer must. That said, you don’t have to create waste while you’re there!

I recommend taking a big tote bag or two with you – fill it with all your beach essentials, like a beach blanket, towel, and sunscreen. Unfortunately, most conventional sunscreen comes in plastic and are loaded with questionable ingredients that can hurt our health, and our planet. I mean, did you hear Hawaii recently banned the sale of sunscreens containing chemicals harmful to coral reefs?

It’s safe to say conventional sunscreen isn’t the kind I recommend applying. If it can damage a coral reef, why would you want it on your skin?

Thankfully, there are tons of zero waste sunscreen options to choose from. I have a whole blog post about it. Personally, I really love Raw Elements Sunscreen – it comes in a tin and it’s free of any questionable ingredients.

Raw Elements Sunscreen is also SPF 30, which is more than enough to protect your skin from damage! I don’t purchase SPF higher than that because high SPF sunscreens not only over-promise protection, but they also overexpose consumers to UVA rays and even raise their risk of cancer. Count me out.

Here’s a list of 6 zero waste sunscreens I recommend slathering on before you hit up the beach this summer. All toxin (and plastic) free, and reef safe!

You can also pack some food in reusable containers, like glassware or even Tupperware. Anything beats single use plastic.

Sandwiches and pre-cut fruit are great beach options because you won’t need to pack any silverware or plates to eat them. Make sure to bring cloth napkins – or at least compost any paper napkins you use. Whatever you don’t eat, store in a mason jar to take home and compost (or feed it to the seagulls, if you must).

As far as water goes, make sure you take a reusable water bottle with you. A stainless steel one will keep cold the entire time you’re at the beach. If you’re worried you’ll run out of water, a good idea is to fill a cooler with iced and a bunch of stainless steel water bottles filled with water. That’ll keep them cool and anyone can grab one when they’re thirsty. If you’re worried stainless steel water bottles will cost too much, you can find some really cheap ones at thrift stores, or $5 ones at 5 Below.

Try to avoid bringing any plastic beach toys with you. These break and get lost so easily, only adding to our plastic pollution problem. Instead, if you have children, why not take them exploring and showing them how fun and beautiful nature is? Maybe have them look for seashells or get their feet wet (depending on how old they are).

As far as bathing suits and flip flops go – just use what you already have. It’s time we ditch the idea of getting a new bathing suit every summer. Unless you’ve truly outgrown yours, or it’s completely worn out, there’s absolutely no need. If you do need a new bathing suit, consider buying a secondhand one, or purchasing from a sustainable brand.

Personally, I really love Summersalt, Outwear, Reformation and Vitamin A – they all make swimwear using recycled textiles. Plus, their designs are really unique, versatile and cute! You’ll find something no matter what your body type and style is on any of those sites.

Reformation is probably my personal favorite – they utilize ECONYL, which is basically just recycled nylon made from waste (like fishing nets, carpet flooring or fabric scraps). Reformation transforms the recycled nylon into such beautiful swimwear pieces that leave me completely speechless. I’m especially in love with the Mandalay Bikini Bottom paired with the Hermosa Bikini Top.

3. Go berry picking and/or peach picking

Zero Waste Summer Activities
This whole (cardboard) carton is full of hand picked raspberries! They were delicious.
Last July I went raspberry picking and it was so much fun. My boyfriend and I went and we honestly had a blast. We got three paper cartons full of delicious, local, in season berries. Man were they tasty.

I can’t encourage you to pick your own produce enough. If you have your own garden, that’s one thing, but for those who don’t, get your butts to a farm.

Personally, for someone who only has a windowsill garden going, it’s extremely exhilarating to be around all those plants. You get to see how they grow for yourself, touch the plant they grow on, and smell their intoxicating scent. Even going to the farmers market cannot provide all that.

So many people are disconnected to how things grow nowadays. You walk into the grocery store and see the finished product (probably packaged in plastic), so you become conditioned to think all produce grows year round, even in the dead of winter. It’s just not so.

There’s a season to everything, and going to a farm really helps you connect with that. Plus, you get some delicious produce out of the deal. Who could argue with that?
In the summer months, it’s most rewarding to go berry or peach picking. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are a lot of fun to pick – you just have to double check which farms near you grow them, and when’s the best time to go.

Peaches usually come into picking season early July, at least by me. Definitely double check their availability near you.

Before you go to a farm to pick berries, see via the farm’s social media accounts how they package their berries. Most farms will give you plastic containers you can put the berries you pick into. To avoid this, be sure to call up the farm and ask them if it’s okay if you bring your own containers. I did this when I went raspberry picking and they said it was totally fine. I just brought empty paper cartons I held onto from my farmers market! However, you can also bring glassware, or Tupperware.

Just keep in mind they’ll usually charge by the carton size. They might weigh it too. It depends on the farm.

As far as peach picking goes, make sure to bring your own reusable produce bags, otherwise they’ll give you single use plastic bags. As always, I recommend calling up the farm before hand to make sure it’s okay to bring your own reusable produce bags, but it shouldn’t be a problem. Weighing the peaches in a reusable produce bag vs. a single use one won’t really be much different, so it’s no biggy.

You can find some nice farms near you by utilizing Pick-Your-Own, a free resource that will show you pick your own farms in your town. I’ve used this website several times to find farms near me in the past so I really love it.

Once you get home, you can continue to store any berries you got in the containers you brought with you, put them in a bowl in the fridge, or seal them in a mason jar. I like to freeze some too (here’s how to freeze food without plastic).

As far as peaches go, eat them as soon as they feel slightly soft to the touch! You don’t want to eat them if they’re too hard – let them ripen on the counter for a few days first. Then, enjoy! I personally love just eating them as is. On their own they make a delightful, healthy summer treat.

4. Make some summer themed dishes

Zero Waste Summer Activities
Looks good, right? Here’s how to make this zero waste salad. For more zero waste recipes, check out my ebook!
Since you’re buying all that yummy, seasonal summer produce, why not make it into something tasty? Summer is all about eating lighter, cooler meals that help protect against sun damage. I love making salads and lettuce wraps in particular. I also love adding berries and peaches to my oatmeal bowls!

Cooking using seasonal produce is one of those zero waste summer activities that’s practically mandatory. You are seriously missing out if you’re not incorporating seasonal foods into your diet this time of year. Plus, it’s fun to cook these dishes with friends or family. Making it into a group effort is a great bonding experience!

Here are a few summer themed dishes to whip up:

5. Make homemade iced tea or infused water

Zero Waste Summer Activities
This is dandelion flower tea I made from foraged dandelions. It came out delicious!
In the summer months, we have to stay diligent about hydrating ourselves. I’ve known people who stood out in the sun for too long, without any water, and wound up passing out. That’s a huge no-no!

Your body needs water every day. It’s not even a question. But if you’re really not into drinking something with no flavor, I’m happy to say there are ways to get around that.
Try infusing your water with fruits, veggies and herbs! It’ll not only make your water taste great, but it’ll also seep some of their nutrients into the water as well.

To make infused water, all you need is a nice glass pitcher, filtered water, and the produce of your choice. I recommend only using locally grown, organic produce for this – so head on over to your farmers market with all your reusable produce bags! 

For the best results, soft fruits (like strawberries and oranges) can be sliced thin, thick or halved. Harder fruits, like apples, should be sliced very thin because they take longer to release their flavors. If you use any citrus, remove the peels beforehand because peels can make the infused water taste bitter over time. Also, gently crush or tear any herbs you use beforehand to release their oils and flavors better. Once everything is prepped, add it to the glass pitcher of your choice and fill it with cold filtered water. You can leave it out in room temperature for up to 2 hours before it’ll need to be refrigerator.

You can keep drinking your infused water all day long – if it runs low, just refill it with cold, filtered water again. The second batch won’t be as strong as the first, but it’ll still be tasty. Also, here’s how to filter water without plastic, if you’re curious.

These are a few of my favorite infused water combos:

  • Cucumber and mint
  • Strawberry and raspberry
  • Peach, plum and mint
  • Orange and lemon
Those are just a few combo ideas! The possibilities are endless, so be sure to get creative. Always use whatever you can find locally before going to the grocery store and buying out of season produce that traveled across the globe to get to you. You’ll reduce your carbon emissions a lot by doing that!

As far as iced tea goes…

I really love heading to my bulk food store and grabbing some loose leaf tea. It’s great for making iced tea with! That said, you can also make iced tea using fresh herbs straight from the farmers market too, especially since summer is when they’re in season. You can even use fresh fruit too.

To make your own iced tea, just boil some water over the stove like you normally would. While this is happening, put some herbs and/or fruit into a pretty glass pitcher of your choice. Pour the boiled water over the herbs and/or fruit of your choice and let it steep for a few minutes. Now’s the time to add any sweeteners you want – while the tea is still hot. It will infused into the tea a lot better than when it’s cold. If you’re using tea bags, make sure it’s not made from plastic (here’s my guide to zero waste tea, including a list of brands that have compostable tea bags). Once your tea has infused, and the sweetener of your choice has been mixed in, remove the tea bag, herbs or fruit and compost them. Then, let your tea cool off by placing it in the fridge. When it’s cool enough, you can put some ice cubes in it and serve it. 

Here are some iced tea combinations I really love:

  • Blackberry and mint
  • Peach and lemon
  • Lemon and basil
  • Lavender and chamomile
  • Rose and oolong

Feel free to get creative with the herbs and fruits you decide to combine – these are just suggestions. Either way, just like with the infused water, I recommend using local and organic produce whenever possible to make your iced tea
Zero Waste Summer Activities

What are your favorite zero waste summer activities? I’d love to hear about them.
This is the last article in this series! For more tips and tricks to get you through every season, be sure to check out my zero waste fall, winter and spring activity suggestions.

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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