If you live on a coast or are planning a summer vacation, chances are that the word “beach” has entered your discussion. The person or family who doesn’t love a trip to the ocean is few and far between. But just because the ocean or beach is a natural environment, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be conscious about being environmentally friendly or preserving the planet when you make your trip to the beach. Want to ensure that you treat the beach responsibly and leave it behind so that generations for years to come can enjoy it (if climate change doesn’t drown most of their beaches)? Here are our how-to tips.

Take Everything for a Good Time, But Leave Only Footprints!

Yes, we used the cliché! The beach is more fun when you bring beverages, food, toys and even lounge chairs and barbecues with you. But whatever you bring, you need to be equally sure that it leaves with you when you go. That includes trash, and it certainly includes recyclable items. If the beach that you’re visiting has trash receptacles, then it’s fine to leave your trash in them. But most beaches don’t offer public recycling options. Be sure to sort your recyclable materials out from your trash and take them home with you so that they don’t end up in a landfill.

Choose Sunscreen Wisely

You know that you need to wear sunscreen when you’re at the beach – it’s the only responsible and healthy choice. But choose what sunscreen products you use wisely. Every chemically-based product that you buy can harm the environment (and, by the way, potentially your body). Do your research to find organic sunscreens or low-chemical or paraben-free sunscreens that are better for you, your skin and the planet. Also, be sure that the sunscreen you use biodegrades in water so that it doesn’t cause damage to the world’s remaining coral reefs.

Take Wholesome Food to the Beach with You

When you’re packing a lunch or picnic for the beach, it’s easy to select pre-packaged food or beverages in individual serving-size bottles. Avoid the temptation! You can significantly reduce your carbon footprint by preparing fresh food that you store in your own reusable plasticware and beverages that you make yourself (like lemonade) and put in reusable bottles. You’ll also be doing the beach, the planet and landfills everywhere a favor if you bring your own reusable silverware (or bambooware!). As with most travel events or get together events, the more that you can avoid plastic and paperware for single use or pre-packaged foods, the more you’re helping the beach’s future overall.

Beach Miles: Take Them Into Account

Unless you are a particularly lucky individual, chances are that you need to get into a car or other vehicle to get to the beach. We’re certainly not implying that you shouldn’t go to the beach just because you need to drive there, but make responsible choices that keep your “beach miles” in mind. Instead of taking separate cars, carpool together. You may also consider public transportation (depending on where you live). Remember, the more fossil fuels you pump into the air on the way to the beach, the more acidic the oceans will become overall.

Camping at the Beach: Go Natural

Planning on camping at the beach? We don’t blame you. It’s a lovely, lovely way to spend a night. However, if you do, opt for the classic and natural tent version of camping rather than parking out in a big RV. RV’s use an incredible amount of fuel and resources. We certainly love the RV lifestyle – it can be simple and relaxing. But if you’re just packing up for a night or two of beach camping, we recommend that you opt for the eco-friendly alternative.

Most Importantly – Go to the Beach!

One of the most important things that you can do to help preserve the world’s beaches, though, is simply to go to them rather than choosing a theme park or tourist mecca for your vacation. Yes, Disneyland is always a temptation. But the carbon footprint of a trip to the mouse’s castle is magnitudes more than that of taking yourself or your family to appreciate the natural wonder of a beach. This theory, of course, it also true when opting for national parks or wildlife preserves for vacation destinations. Your vacation choices should reflect your view on the world. And, you may be surprised how much your family enjoys natural options compared to commercial ones!

We all love the beach. Misty sunrises, romantic night swims and days of sand and surf. But our oceans are in danger and every small choice that you make can help to save them. Enjoy the beach this summer. Appreciate it. But also be sure to treat it with respect!

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Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr