The dog days of summer linger from early morning until late into the evening, providing plenty of opportunities to play, travel and work in the yard. If you’re focused on making sure those summer activities are earth-friendly, we’ve brainstormed some ideas to get you into the great outdoors without leaving a heavy footprint in your wake.

dog on a hiking trail


Getting into nature is easy with nothing more than your refillable water bottle and a good pair of shoes. Depending on where you live, you can head straight out your front door, bike to a nearby trail, jump on city transport or take the hybrid car to a trailhead. Hiking doesn’t have to be done on trails, but why not take advantage of the forest canopy, rippling water and scenery that nature provides while getting in your steps.

Touring city parks

Nearly every city has parks, and often you’re not even aware of them all. Especially if you have kids, vowing to track down each park in your city is a fun way to immerse yourself in your community without leaving a trace. Enjoy the trails, playground equipment and informational kiosks in your area one city park at a time with a goal of seeing them all before summer ends.

people swimming in the ocean


Water activities are popular during warm weather for more than a few reasons, and swimming is a great activity for your body and the planet. If you choose a river or lake, make sure you understand the dangers of currents and always have a life jacket. The community pool is a great way to get in your laps while enjoying the cooling effects of the water in a maintained facility.


Jump on your bike next time you’re scouring the Saturday market or heading to the store for small items. Use it as your mode of transport when you go to a friend’s or to the pool. If you want to make an adventure out of it, look up nearby mountain biking trails or road biking routes that fit into your schedule and physical abilities. Enjoy the exercise without polluting the environment.

tent in park at night


Getting into nature is a valid goal for any season, but summer offers opportunities for fair-weather camping and backpacking that the other seasons don’t. To keep it sustainable, watch the packaging on the items you buy, skip the plastic water bottles and use refillable propane tanks instead of disposable ones. Remember to pack out all garbage, including toilet paper. Bury human waste 6 to 8 inches underground and always do your business at least 200 steps from any water source.

Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials

Kayaking/rafting/river floating

River activities are the highlight of summer in many places. There are several ways to enjoy these activities without damaging the environment, especially when you avoid polluting the water with gasoline engines. Instead, rely on your arm strength and the current to kayak, float or white water raft.

person scuba diving and swimming with a sea turtle

Scuba diving and surfing

If you’re near the ocean or hope to head in that direction for vacation, hit the surf with a board for a good workout and adrenaline rush all in one. Take in the diversity of the marine wildlife you aim to protect through your sustainable lifestyle by grabbing a tank and heading below the surface. Check certification requirements and diving regulations in your area for the safety of yourself and the ecosystem. Be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen while in the water.

Visiting national parks

There are 61 national parks in the United States alone, plus other protected areas around the world. Wherever you are, take in these natural wonders via bike, hike, boat, air or water. Unless you attend during one of the free national park day events, expect to pay an admission fee, which helps fund the maintenance and care these parks require. Remember to keep your wasteful packing to a minimum, pick up garbage when you see it and use the waste receptacles or haul your trash home.

Related: How national parks benefit the environment

several people grilling food skewers on a grill


The very essence of summer is defined by the concept of grilling with friends. Fresh fruit, grilled meat and veggies and frozen ice cones make for a memorable afternoon. Make sure your event is earth-friendly with reusable plates, cups and utensils. Recycle items whenever possible, watch for plastic packaging, skip the single-use straws and make ice ahead of time instead of buying it at the store in plastic bags.

Going on a road trip

Road trips are a great family bonding experience and an opportunity to really see the land you live in. Throw in the camping gear or plan your lodgings ahead of time. Hit up those national parks or head to the beach. Make your trek as environmentally friendly as possible by bringing snacks packed at home, refillable beverage containers and washable plates and utensils. Toss in some biodegradable soap for washing yourself and those dishes.

close-up of croquet sport supplies on grassy lawn

Playing lawn games

Whether you’re at home, the beach or the campground, lawn games are a fabulous activity. Entertaining and memorable, dragging out the cornhole or horseshoes is an earth-conscious choice, too. Watch for games made with plastic; instead invest in quality metal or wood parts instead. Then, get out there and start the bocce ball, croquet or golf short-chip challenge.

Participating in sports

There is no end to the number of sports you can play, and almost all of them are low-impact from an environmental stance. Shoot hoops, head to the park for disc golf, put together a neighborhood baseball game or take up wake surfing.

dinosaur skeleton in a museum

Going to museums

Although summer is a very outdoorsy time of year, some days are just too hot, cold or wet. When the weather isn’t cooperating, head indoors and learn something new at a museum. Find something related to your interests or those of your kids and focus on art, history, native culture, ships, planes, technology, architecture or toys.

Images via Jan Walter Luigi, Dan Fador, Leon He, Pixabay, Jacqueline Macou, RawPixel, Christoph Lindner and Just Pics