Have a Red, White and GREEN Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is the time to kick back, relax and enjoy the summer fun. As you celebrate the Fourth of July this year and kick back some brews in honor of our nation’s birthday, keep in mind that celebrations don’t have to take a toll on Mother Earth. Here are a few easy ways to begin getting some green in with your red, white and blue.

Tip #1: Greener Grilling

With all the barbecues that will be lighting up on Thursday, choosing the right grill and accessories can make a big impact. There are a variety of sustainably-produced charcoal briquettes out there as well as propane grills, which produce close to half the emissions of generic charcoals.  When it comes to the cuisine, resist the temptation to buy conventional hot dogs and hamburgers. Opt for organic products from your supermarket, or seek out local, grass-fed meats from a farmer’s market. Buying locally is a great way to better educate yourself on what you’re putting into your mouth and it supports your local economy.

Tip #2: Skip the Plastic and Disposables

Both plastic and styrofoam are the staples of picnics, parades and barbecues, unfortunately consuming virgin resources and creating heaps of heartache for our exponentially expanding landfills. One of the easiest things you can do to go green is to reach for biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery when you’re shopping for your soiree this week. Other alternatives include reusable bamboo dinnerware and flatware and cloth napkins, rather than their paper counterpart.

Tip #3: Organic Beer, Anyone?

Though it may not be a popular choice at first, choosing beer made with organic hops, malt and barley reduces the need for toxic pesticides that harm the soil and contaminate our waters. Organic beer is available at organic and natural food retailers.

Tip #4: Add Some Mood Lighting

Rather than keeping on the regular lights, opt for solar lamps and lanterns. This is a great way to add some ambience without impacting your electricity bill. Set them out in the sun for the day and when the sun goes down, you’ll have the perfect setting for a moonlit dance party!

Tip #5: Pick Up and Recycle

After the festivities commence, there is bound to be plenty of cans, bottles, plates, and forks filling your trash cans. Instead of digging through bags after party-goers exit (ew!), have some trash cans designated for trash and recyclables. Recycle all that you can – the environment will thank you!

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5 Tips for Saving Money on Family Summer Travel

Summer is arguably the best season of the year. The weather is warm and the kids are out of school. Now is the perfect time for a family vacation. Vacations are expensive, especially with kids thrown into the mix, but you can keep the cost down by planning ahead, doing research, and getting creative. You can start by saving money in advance with a savings account or certificate of deposit, but that’s only the beginning. Here are five kid-friendly budgeting tips to help you plan your next vacation.

1. Buy your own food, snacks and drinks

It’s fun to eat out when you’re on vacation, but if you have to do it for every meal, it’s time consuming, expensive and exhausting. You can save money and time by buying your own meal ingredients at a local grocery store. If your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchen or a mini-fridge (or won’t let you rent one), you can still stock up on kid-friendly snacks like cereal, granola bars, peanut butter, and even fresh goodies like apples, bananas and oranges. You can even bring a small cooler with you to store vegetables and cold items.

2. Pack light

We know this is difficult to do with kids, but consider yourself warned: any extra bags may cost you. If you’re traveling by car, extra bags translate to lost visibility and legroom, but if you’re flying, you may literally have to pay more for your extra bags. Many airlines have started charging fees for checked bags, and since they aren’t displayed in the ticket prices, they can easily catch you off guard. Be sure to research airline fees in advance, or pick an airline that lets you check bags for free. Southwest offers two free checked bags per person, and JetBlue offers one. Stay away from Sprint and Allegiant, sine they charge for checked bags and carry-on bags.

3. Consider your sanity

Sometimes the cheapest travel options aren’t the most kid friendly. For example, you might save money on plane tickets by booking an early flight, or opting for a layover, especially if you’re traveling abroad. But, before you book, ask yourself: is it worth the extra stress? Imagine trying to rush your sleep-deprived kids and spouse (and yourself) out of the house to catch a bargain red-eye flight. If you can afford something more convenient, you should probably just pay for it.

4. Take public transit 

Depending on your destination, public transportation may not be an option. However, if you’re traveling in a big city, public transportation can be a fun and cost-effective way to explore with your kids. Imagine exploring New York by subway or San Francisco by cable car. These types of excursions can be especially exciting for small children. If you’re traveling cross-country, you may also want to consider taking a train. Trains are slow (especially in America), but you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery along the way. Plus, you and your restless kids can get up and walk around anytime without disturbing the other passengers.

5. Get outside

Kids are full of energy. Use that as an excuse to explore the local parks on your next vacation.  If you’ve rented a car, consider making a trip to a nearby national park or beach, or keep it simple and explore the city parks in your area. Everyone knows that the West Coast is perfect for nature lovers, but did you know that New Mexico, Maryland and Virginia are great destinations for park lovers too? Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon exploring your neighborhood, wherever you are.