Tips: Reducing Waste On Your Summer Vacation

Planning and Packing

Before you leave home, adjust the air conditioning and water heater thermostats to conserve energy.

Rather than buying small, travel-sized toiletries, fill reusable containers with shampoo, soap and other necessities.

Reuse plastic or paper shopping bags to pack items for your trip and recycle them afterwards. Plastic shopping bags are perfect for keeping dirty shoes and wet bathing suits separate from other items in your suitcase, while paper bags are great for packing snacks for the car.

Book flights with airlines that offer electronic tickets to reduce paper waste.

On the Road

When you leave your hotel room, switch off the air conditioning, lights and TV to reduce energy use.

While on your trip, remember to take only the amount of products that you need from restaurants or lodgings. Take only napkins, condiment packets, free brochures, maps or coupons that you will actually use.

Take along plastic bags to collect your used beverage containers for recycling at rest stops.

When traveling by car or RV, make sure the vehicle is well-maintained -- this improves fuel economy which prevents pollution and saves you money.

If you change your own motor oil, recycle it at a "quick lube" shop, gas station, or auto store that accepts used motor oil for recycling.

Fun For Kids

To pass the time on long drives or rainy vacation days, bring scrap paper for drawing and games.

Start an art project with "found" objects -- collages and sculptures made from discarded items are a growing trend.

Shop at stores that specialize in used sports equipment -- you'll save money and promote reuse.

When you're stuck inside on a rainy day, clean out your closet and collect the old clothes and toys for donation to a charity or your next garage sale.

Spend your free time volunteering at a local park or helping out with environmental cleanups.

Build a backyard fort or tree house from recycled materials, such as wood scraps, cardboard and other found items.

Get ready for school next year by making locker decorations out of old CDs. Decorate them with paint, stickers, rhinestones, or photos; stick magnetic tape to the back; and they're ready to spruce up your locker.

Enjoying the Outdoors

Summer is a popular time for barbeques and other outdoor festivities. At your next party, set the picnic table with reusable dinnerware or ask people to bring their own reusable plates and containers. And remember to recycle all bottles and cans after the party.

Hot summer days require gallons of thirst quenchers. Be sure to recycle the used beverage containers. Consider putting a filter on your water tap and refilling bottles with the filtered water. Instead of buying many small drink bottles, buy drinks or drink mixes in bulk and fill reusable bottles.

When making reservations at campgrounds, ask about their recycling facilities.

At the beach, use old buckets and other items in your house to build sand castles instead of buying new products at the store.

When visiting beaches and parks, be sure to take out everything you bring in, so that you leave places unlittered and undisturbed.

Tips from EPA.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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