What would summer be without a little bit of time on a gorgeous sandy beach, with the waves lapping and the seagulls wheeling above? In reality, like so many things in life, the simple pleasure of a summer outing has been turned from time out with nature and the outdoors into a commercialized exercise, with a variety of effects that aren’t exactly eco-friendly.

You don’t have to buy into that, literally or figuratively, and how you get to your beach destination is the place to start. Eco travel is something to consider, whether you live fifteen minutes from the beach or whether you are taking the family for a beach holiday somewhere more distant and exotic.

If you live on the coast, why not walk down to the sea? Or if you’re a bit further away, you could consider going by bike or taking public transportation if you live further. But if driving is the only option, you can hook up with other families or friends and carpool! Carpooling to avoid half-full vehicles makes sound ecological sense. Also, your summer outing is supposed to be about chilling out, so save gas by driving slowly and taking it easy all the way.

Some of us are lucky enough to live near unspoilt stretches of coast, with vast dunefields stretching down to the sea. But whether the beach is your home or a place to visit during summer weekends, make sure that whatever you bring in goes back with you and no trash is left behind. Trash is horribly destructive to unique coastal ecosystems. Not to mention the poor animals that will eat it thinking it is food. Many animals have died after ingesting trash on the beach and at sea.

Lying motionless on a beach towel catching a tan is heaven for some, but others like to be a bit more active. Explore your stretch of coast on foot. Pottering among the rock pools and discovering the creatures and plants that live in them is a wonderful way for kids to learn about nature and ecological niches. Just make sure that anything you find stays where it is since removing animals and plants from their natural habitat is bad for both them and the environment.

Another eco-friendly way to explore your coastal area is by sea. Cut your carbon footprint and embrace green travel by parking at the first opportunity and canoeing or rowing your way to more secluded beaches that are a bit more off the beaten track.

Life may be a beach, but human activity can easily destroy it. Building green into how you get to and from your destination in the sun is one way to make sure you’re doing what the saying tells us: to keep your impact low and leave little more than footprints in the sand.

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