Even if the weather hasn't quite come around yet, summer is almost here. For many people, that means it's almost time to head - very, very slowly, if you leave on a Friday - to the beach.
For the environmentally conscious, however, a beach vacation is sometimes fraught with guilt. Few places exhibit man's encroachment on nature more clearly than a beach. Turn your back to the ocean, and you see rows of hotels and high-rise condos. Gas-powered jet skis skid across the ocean, and planes drag advertisements through the skies. Seeing trash in the water is depressingly commonplace.
So what can you do to minimize your impact on beaches, without denying your children their fundamental right to boogie board? It turns out that much of what you can do to protect beaches happens before you leave home.
"You live closer to the beach than you think," says Steve Fleischli, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program. "Your drain may lead to the ocean or to a river that leads to the ocean."
Have you ever noticed a large pipe draining into the ocean at your favorite beach and wondered what comes out of it? For the most part, it's storm water runoff - rain or snow that falls on concrete or paved surfaces, then finds its way into a drain and out to the beach. Whatever the water encounters on its way into that drain can make its way to the ocean.
"Pick up after your pet," Fleischli recommends. "Don't over-water and fertilize your lawns. Try to retain water on-site at your home with permeable surfaces rather than letting it drain down the driveway. And water your grass, not the sidewalks or street."