bamboo cutlery set

Sustainable Summertime Staples

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First and foremost – I hope everyone is doing okay during this tough, unfathomable time for our country. We are hurting, listening, thinking and reflecting on the future we can all work to build together in unity.

Although it hasn’t necessarily felt like it during quarantine, it’s summertime! While there used to be more exciting activities to look forward to, I’ve never appreciated the mundane more. The joy of putting my phone away, grabbing my beach chair and soaking up the Vitamin D surely beats rushing back to the center city office.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve reflected upon a few knowledge points and products that are now integrated into my summertime lifestyle. Some of these products enable zero waste while others limit damage to marine life.

Below you’ll find my sustainable summertime staples that I’ve been using down the shore and the reasoning as to why I’ve made a switch from status-quo alternatives.

I had originally done an Instagram Live where I spoke to all of these products and the research behind why I personally had made the switch. Eh, it was a lot of fun however I was nervous the entire time. It’s really weird speaking to people through a screen and not being able to see them!?! I prefer Zoom any day. Thank you to everyone who joined (amongst Tess, Katie, and others!)

I didn’t have enough storage on my phone so it didn’t record and I couldn’t upload it to IGTV. While super frustrating, I’ve included the content here below and links to purchase.

Drinking Cups

Ingrained into our American culture, disposable red solo cups have become part of our summer lifestyle.

Aren’t they recyclable?

Not really. If you look on the bottom of any red solo cup, you’ll see a #6 which means it is made of polystyrene. This is the same chemical make up as Styrofoam. A process to recycle polystyrene exists however it is “economically inefficient” for these recycling centers, meaning they won’t derive a profit from doing so. I’m often reminded that recycling is a business, too.

However, there is some good news.

Red solo cups are dishwasher safe. Whenever you are finished, you can load them up and treat them like a regular cup for use time after time.

If we don’t choose to reuse leveraging a dishwasher or a manual rinse, these red solo cups will end up inside of a landfill where they take about 500 years to decompose. In the meantime, they leach chemicals into the soil that can damage the liver and reproductive systems of community members nearby.

What’s a better option? 

A reusable drinking cup. One of my favorite things about the Corkcicle is that it has a lid, keeping sand and bugs out of it. It’s also triple insulated so it’ll keep your beer, wine or mixed drink cold even in the hot summer sun.

Corkcicle $24.95


What about beer pong?

You can keep one reusable stash of red solo cups at your house. Ask party guests to leave their used cups in the sink or to place in the dishwasher as they would a normal reusable cup. Post wash, stack them into storage and whip them out for your next beer pong game!

Alternatively, if you’d like to buy a reusable set, there are a plethora of options to buy online. You can also look into metal ones that might withstand the wind and weather for tailgating purposes. 


There’s nothing better than that coco-nutty, balmy smell to lather up seconds after sinking into your beach chair. 

There are two ways that you can block your skin from the sun: by either using chemicals or by using minerals. In the last couple of years, consumers have been keen to identify Oxybenzone in their own sunscreen for validated reasons.

Oxybenzone hurts marine life and bleaches the coral reef. The harsh chemical is toxic to fish, mammals, sea urchins and likely humans. According to The Ocean Foundation, a single drop of these chemically compounded sunscreen ingredient in more than 4 million gallons of water is enough to endanger organisms.

How does Oxybenzone affect humans?

It’s hard to say. The FDA has requested testing of the toxicity of these ingredients on humans but it has yet to be conducted. However, they did conduct testing on how easily absorbed these ingredients are into our skin. The results were shocking.

The FDA uses a threshold of 0.5 nanograms per mL in blood levels as a benchmark to say “if it exceeds this amount, we need to request long-term toxicity testing to see if it could cause harm.” In layman’s terms, anything above 0.5 is considered sketchy and they need to make sure it’s not harmful if it’s easily absorbed into the human blood stream upon application.

The results for Oxybenzone skin absorption arrived at an alarming 200 nanograms per mL in blood levels – drastically exceeding the 0.5 nanogram per mL threshold.

“What is most alarming about these findings is that chemicals are being absorbed in significant amounts and have not been adequately tested for safety” says the Environmental Working Group.
graph from FDA showing oxybenzone levels
FDA results from the EWG

OK I don’t think I want that. What should I look for instead?

Mineral ingredients which are easy to identify. There are two major ones: Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide. These are much less likely to seep into our blood stream and are not toxic to marine life.

Presenting themselves as an easy heuristic for mineral ingredients, I purchase the Sun Bum brand. It’s vegan, coral reef friendly, and paraben free. Parabens are nasty little things that mess with our hormones and mimic human and animal estrogen.

Most towns also accept their spray cans as recyclables as long as you separate the lid from the bottle.

sunbum sunscreen


Target has always been a promising spot to get an on-trend summer bathing suit for a reasonable price. While most of their bathing suits are derived from synthetics, they now have an entire section dedicated to “Sustainably Made Swimwear.” These offerings are sourced from recycled polyester which keeps plastics out of landfills and uses less energy to produce.

sustainable swim wear in target

According to the EPA, using recycled plastic results in significant energy savings, using 88% less energy than leveraging virgin plastic.

Raw or recycled, there is still a glaring problem with regard to microplastics shedding from synthetic materials in our washing machines. To minimalize this impact, be sure to wash your swim suit in this guppy bag and use cold, low water levels. Follow by air-drying.

Whether you start looking for “Recycled Polyester” in your swimsuit tags or purchase Sun Bum for your next beach trip, I hope these sustainable products bring joy and happy memories to your beloved summertime.

Any recommended brands?

By the Sea Swimwear for girls. Use CHRISSYL20 for 20% off!

Riz Board Shorts for guys. Unfortunately no code for them!

Being Outdoors

Undeniably the BEST part of summer. Picnics, hanging by the pool, beach, outdoor showers, lounging in the sun. VITAMIN D in all forms. 

I’ve been using this bamboo cutlery set that my sister gave me for my birthday for these sunshine filled excursions. Each set comes in cloth that you can throw into your beach bag or picnic basket. They are so easy to rinse and travel with. Not that we’re doing that much traveling during quarantine.

bamboo cutlery set

In shifting my diet to mostly plant-based, I’ve been noticing that by eating produce, there’s no packaging! Here are some snacks that are zero waste. And the waste that they do have is the produce themselves (compostable, biodegradable, etc.)

  • Watermelon
  • Red pepper slices
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Cucumbers
  • Broccoli cuts
  • Nuts if you buy them in bulk with reusable bag
  • Sweet potato fries (home-made!)

The last thing? Outdoor showers which only happen of course, in the summertime, at the beach or while camping. Since we are so close (a couple feet away) from the bay I’ve been researching brands that are biodegradable that will not elicit any harsh, toxic chemicals into the surrounding water. My cousin introduced me to Bathing Culture.

bathing culture body wash

Ingredients include coconut oil, olive oil, essential oils, sunflower oil and more.

Here are some other summertime staples from my sustennial friends that they had mentioned after the IGTV!

Dr. Bronner’s: Biodegradable and earth friendly soaps

Eco Baggeez: Recyclable and compostable sandwich bags

with love for the planet,

the sustennial

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