How to Have an Eco-Friendly Beach Vacation

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It’s the perfect time of year to escape sweltering temperatures by heading to the water. Basking in the sun, cooling off amidst frothy blue waves, paddling around in a kayak…it all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it

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Just make sure you’re leaving the area, and its many native inhabitants, as clean as (or cleaner than) you found it. Read below to discover how you can protect the environment during your vacation, whether you’re headed to the beautiful Georgia coast or beyond!

1.  Bring Reusable Bags

It’s easier to leave no trace when you don’t bring anything disposable in the first place! Haul those flip flops, magazines, snacks, and the like in canvas totes. We’re not the only ones with piles of them in our pantry, right? Put them to good use!

2. Hydrate with Fruit

There are so many mouth-watering options to choose from in the summer months. Do yourself a favor and include some melons, berries, or citrus in your stash of snacks. They will keep you feeling cool and refreshed, and best of all, they don’t require any additional packaging.

3. Choose Your Containers with Care

Which would you rather carry to your little patch of sand: a heavy case of plastic water bottles, or a lightweight, reusable one that you can refill again and again? If you invest in an insulated option, you can add a few ice cubes and stay cool all through the afternoon.

4. Opt for Sustainable Sunscreen

We all know not to step on or brush against coral when we’re snorkeling, but did you know you should also be purchasing biodegradable sunscreen for your underwater adventure? Chemicals like oxybenzone, found in many popular brands, are highly toxic to coral—instead, look for sprays or lotions made with titanium oxide or zinc oxide.

5. Respect the Local Environment

When you visit the beach, you’re a visitor in many animal’s homes, so act like it! Stay off the dunes and away from any other protected areas, and follow posted guidelines about how to protect local wildlife populations. Did you know that loggerhead sea turtles are expected to lay a record amount of nests on the Georgia coast this summer? Let’s keep that momentum going and continue to exercise vigilance.

6. Fish Responsibly

Whether you’re going out on your own or with a group, make sure to do your research. Familiarize yourself with what can be sustainably caught and kept, and consider giving the catch and release method a try. Another tip we love? Using a barbless circle hook, which minimizes the impact on marine life.

7. Think Before You Eat

This one’s related to our last point: if you’re planning on enjoying any local seafood dishes, please order conscientiously. You can go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site at any time to get the latest ocean-friendly recommendations.

8. Support Local Parks and Ecotourism

Paying that park fee helps support trails and wildlife, and if you opt for an ecotour like this one based in Savannah, you ensure the beautiful wilderness you traveled so far to see will stay pristine and unspoiled for years to come.

All photos in this post by  Cheryl Tarr  (Georgia Nature Photographers Association)

All photos in this post by Cheryl Tarr (Georgia Nature Photographers Association)

9. Don’t Touch, Feed, or Chase the Wildlife

Bring along binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens rather than getting up close and personal—you don’t want to startle an animal or disturb its normal behavior patterns. Feeding them can also cause them to become ill!

10. Recycle It!

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we still end up accumulating items like cans and bottles on our vacations. While reducing your waste in the first place is the easiest way to help our planet, recycling is not a bad option at all! Don’t see any receptacles where you’re staying? Pack it out and recycle your items at home.

11. Leave It Better Than You Found It

Don’t leave your trash on the beach, and don’t allow others to do it either. If you see somebody littering, say something, and if you notice garbage in the sand or along the water, pick it up! One of our favorite articles this year involved a local college student who did just that during spring break. Improving your environment will inspire others to do the same.

12. Donate Your Toys

Traveling with family? Or maybe just indulging your inner child by building a devastatingly beautiful sand castle? If you don’t see yourself using them once you get home, consider donating them to a local thrift store or passing them onto a neighbor or friend. This way, they won’t end up in a landfill. Oh, and we hear that biodegradable beach toys are increasing in popularity—it’s so easy being green!

Would you add anything else to this list? Leave your ideas in the comments below!