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End-of-Summer Activities for Sustainable Family Fun

By this point in the summer, we've forgotten what it's like to feel cold. Believe it or not, though, the crisp fall weather is right around the corner. So what should we do with our last few precious weekends of summer?

It's an important question for the ecologically-minded parent. Nothing sparks a lifelong commitment to sustainability like spending time in nature. Here are a few ways to do just that while filling your kids' days with active fun for the last time before school starts:

  1. Visit the nearest national conservation area, national park, or national wildlife refuge.

    Conservation isn't an abstract concept in the United States. In fact, the Department of the Interior manages more than 250 million acres of public lands, along with upwards of 400 national parks and 560 wildlife refuges.

    With numbers like that, it's likely that you're close to one of these publicly managed outdoor spaces. These are great places for camping, hiking, sporting, and simply spending an afternoon communing with nature. Find your nearest national park here, or browse public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management here.   

  2. Have a neighborhood picnic.

    Looking for some outdoor time closer to home? Try packing up a picnic lunch and heading to your local park, green space, or your very own backyard for some hyper-local nature time. Here's an epic list of picnic recipes you and the kids can prepare together.

    To really boost the summer-fun factor, break out the grill and make it a classic summer barbecue!

  3. Make fresh decorative arrangements with local wildflowers.

    Whether you live in a suburb, the city center, or a rural area, you can always find plenty of wildflowers. Even dandelions look beautiful with a few greens and a cute Mason-jar presentation!

    Here's a handy four-step guide to flower arranging. Have fun!

  4. Volunteer at a community garden.

    It may be too late to plant your own tomatoes, but odds are there are plenty of vegetables ready to go in your local community garden. Gardeners are always on the lookout for volunteers to weed, prune, water, and generally care for their green babies.Community Garden

    Late summer is a great time to get involved — with everything coming ripe, there are usually veggies to spare! This website matches volunteers with opportunities. Search for gardens in your area to get started soon.

  5. Go jump in a lake...

    Literally! Lakes, rivers, and other natural bodies of water are ideal for cooling down during the dog days of summer. Plus, they help teach kids about the diverse water ecosystems while they're having fun and staying cool. You can find a list online for safe natural swimming spots for most areas. Don't forget the sunscreen and plenty of drinking water.

These are all carbon-free or low-emission activities, and they'll nurture your family's natural love of nature. Kids who play outdoors are more likely to grow up to be adults who care about recycling, composting, and other sustainable waste-handling techniques. You can learn about sustainability in the classroom, but to really make those lessons stick, you have to expose the kids to the natural world.

The end of the summer is the ideal time to let them do just that!