All Summer Long

For 12 years I looked forward to the end of May. It symbolized the end of restriction and structure, and the beginning of freedom. I am, of course, talking about summer vacation, and a break from school. Now that I no longer have a regular summer break, I look back on mine with nostalgia. Kids all throughout the nation look forward to it each year. Just because we have a lull in organized education, does not mean that we should take a vacation from trying to save money or becoming more energy efficient. And here’s how.

Fur & Feather
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mrs Logic

Picnics are a wonderful thing. Especially at the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park. In the summer, after I get off of work, I can wander over to the Miller Theater and sit down and catch some bagpipes, classical music, jazz, musicals, plays and every other variety of show. How much better that would be with a picnic. When you plan your picnic make sure to use reusable containers and utensils, and not ones that you just through away.

The summer is also a great time to take trips with family and friends. This year plan local. Every city has lots of overlooked activities, some of which are free. In Houston we have the Miller Outdoor Theater, the Houston Museum of Natural Science,whose permanent halls are free on Tuesday nights, the Museum of Fine Arts, free on Thursdays, and the Houston Arboretum which is always free. Plan ahead, car pool, and park at a place where you can walk to all the fun places you are going to visit. Or even use the public transportation system. Just remember that the fewer miles you drive the less it costs and the greener it is. Carpooling is also a great way to save energy and money!

There are special summer foods that we all enjoy. I enjoy spitting out watermelon seeds on my Grandma’s back porch, or standing outside and talking to my brother in law while he grills. This summer think locally for you favorite summer foods as well. I think walking down the aisles at my local farmer’s market is a great experience. To see all the freshly grown fruits and vegetables, to go through them and pick out the perfect prize is a gratifying experience in itself. In this day and age of instant gratification, we don’t think about all the energy that goes into moving unseasonable fruits and vegetables to a grocery store. So save the environment and get better produce by buying local.

Go outside this summer. As I’ve already shown, there are lots of places to go this summer that are outside. And it can save money. How do I save money by doing activities outside, you may ask. It’s easy to explain. When you’re not inside running a lot of different electrical devices you use less electricity. Not all of this has to be rocket science. Everny hour you’re outside at the pool, the arboretum or your local park is an hour you’re not running your laptop, HD TV, video gaming system and stereo. On the same note, make sure to turn off everything (including the lights) when you do go outside. There is no reason you should be paying for what you’re not using.

Cherry Tomato
Creative Commons License photo credit: tboard

For some fun, outside, green projects this summer I suggest gardening. You don’t need a hydroponics setup to grow some of your own food and spices. I recommend picking something easy at first. So far I have tried grape tomatoes and basil. They both produced good size crops (handfuls of grape tomatoes and far, far more basil then I thought). You can include the whole family, giving younger members their own plots and having the older ones work a single large plot.

Another great green summer pastime is reading outdoors. You may ask how this is green? Well that’s easy. We have already shown that you use less electricity when you shut everything down and go outside. Currently most people still use actual books written on paper, so that requires no electricity either. A hammock is a wonderful way to dabble in summer reading, but a towel spread on grass works just the same (or maybe even just the grass itself, you wild bohemian you). Who knows, you may drift off if the weather is nice.

If you’re like me and have problems controlling your spending (at Half Price Books specifically) and are starting to have space issues in your domiciles, there is a cheap, fun and easy way to get new books all summer long. Its called a library. Shocking I know. The two different library systems in Houston (Houston City and Harris County libraries) have wonderful selections of old and new books, movies on DVD and VHS (I have heard rumors about this system from a long, long ago) and music. Also a number of the locations are next to parks or restaurants with outside seating. The perfect way to read all those new books.

Just remember there are lots of low watt activities all around you.

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