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The green side

An earth-friendly vacation

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June 25, 2008

Whether you're a student or not, the end of June tends to trigger a no-more-pencils, no-more-books mentality. The only cure is a summer vacation. Here are a few ideas for making it a green one.

Get your own motor running: Get your thrills from activities you power yourself (hiking to a staggering summit, mountain biking, kayaking the rapids, surfing), and skip the motor-boating, jet-skiing, and skydiving.

Use green sunscreen: Protect your skin from the sun and from toxic chemicals. Avoid sunscreens that contain parabens (chemical preservatives that are potential hormone disrupters and carcinogens) or chemical sunscreen agents. Opt for products that shield your dermis with physical mineral blocks such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Whole Foods (wholefoods.com) carries a good selection.

Don't shop till you drop: A shopping-centric vacation is about as ungreen as it gets (do you really need more stuff?). It's not particularly relaxing, either: The outlets in Maine are jam-packed, it's impossible to find a parking space on Nantucket's Main Street, and unnecessary spending spikes stress.

Borrow beach reads: The mind-candy we all love to read on vacation doesn't need to be part of your permanent collection. Instead of buying a new book and then tossing it (because you don't want anyone to know you indulged in "Chasing Harry Winston"), get the fluff on loan from your neighborhood library or your BFF.

To AC, or not to AC?: Using air conditioning reduces a car's fuel efficiency by about 10 percent. As you drive to the beach (or the mountains, or the lake), keep the windows open and the AC off at speeds below 40 miles per hour. Any faster than that and the drag becomes even more of a fuel-hog than the AC, so shut the windows and let the cool air flow.

Christie Matheson is the author of "Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style." Send questions to globegreenside@yahoo.com.

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