Use effective and safe sun protection.
The best sun protection is to cover up with hats and long sleeves and to seek or create shade, particularly when the sun is most intense. When you do use sunscreen, choose one that does more good than harm. Use lotions or creams that use a mineral sunscreen like zinc oxide (without controversial nanoparticles) to provide long-lasting protection against both UVA (causes skin cancer) and UVB rays (causes sunburn). Avoid retinyl palmitate/ retinol/ vitamin A (found in about one-fourth of all sunscreens), which speeds the development of skin tumors and lesions when exposed to light. Also seek "chemical-free" UPF-rated swim wear that offers UV protection due to the weave of the fabric and not as a result of the use of sunscreen chemicals on the fabric.
Of course everyone wants to avoid bug bites, particularly with nasty bugs like West Nile Virus on the rise. Unfortunately, DEET and permithrin, the two most common insecticides, have both been linked to numerous adverse health effects. But many less toxic alternatives are available. As a first line of defense, covering up is always a great idea whenever practical (and has the additional bonus of providing sun protection as well). Wear long sleeves, tuck socks into pants, and skip brightly-colored clothing and scented personal products which can attract bugs. When choosing and using insect sprays, look for safer options, such as those made with picaridin (derived from pepper), soybean oil (protects against mosquitos for up to 8 hours), and oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under 3).
Shop at the farmers market.
Are you trying to get your family to eat more whole foods and fewer processed ones? Have you been wanting to switch to more organic, local, and seasonal produce? This is the best time of year to start. In the summer, farmers markets are bursting with delicious and often organic fruits and vegetables at affordable prices. There is no need for packaged snacks in the summer. Just keep your kitchen counter and refrigerator stocked with no-cook minimal-prep fruits and veggies. I especially love to purchase fruits like strawberries in bulk at peak season when the prices are lowest. We gorge ourselves on the fresh ones, blend others up to make into ice pops, and freeze the rest to use in smoothies and baked goods later in the year. Click here to find a farmers market near you.
Additional Resources for Non-toxic Summer Fun
- Safe Sun Tips
- UV-Protective Swim Suits and Swim Shirts: Are They Safe?
- Getting the Most Out of Your Farmer’s Market
- Is Your Garden Hose Leaching BPA, Lead, and Phthalates into Your Water?
- Avoiding Toxins in Your Backyard: part 1 and part 2
- Kids and Nature: resources and ideas for outdoor fun