07/26/2013 05:31 EDT | Updated 09/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Keep Your Beach Trip Non-Toxic

For many Canadians, summertime is synonymous with going to the beach. Whether it's one of Canada's 18 Blue Flag beaches or your favourite local spot, beaches are places to beat the heat and to create summer memories that can last a lifetime.

While beaches are wonderful places to enjoy the sun and sand, they're also fragile eco-systems that need to be protected. One way to do this is by keeping away toxic chemicals that can affect the health of humans and the environment. Here are some tips:

Keep BPA out of your picnic basket

Planning on bringing a picnic to the beach? You might also bring an uninvited guest: Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA has been removed from baby bottles, but it still can be found in other plastic items. Keep this harmful chemical out of your picnic basket by packing food in stainless steel containers and by using stainless steel water bottles. If you plan to purchase reusable cutlery for your beach picnic, read the label to make sure it's BPA-free or choose non-plastic materials such as stainless steel or bamboo.

Purchase toxic-free beach toys

Whether you are building a sand castle with your kids, or they are just burying you in the sand, the good news is that there are companies now making BPA-, phthalate- and lead-free beach toys. Some are even making biodegradable ones. When searching for beach toys, check the labels before buying. As well, look for toys that are durable to help keep them out of the landfill.

Or take a look around your home and see what can be used as a sand toy. A set of stainless steel bowls can make perfect sand castle moulds.

Make your own sunscreen

The beach is a place to soak up the sun! We know it's important to wear sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. But some sunscreens contain harmful chemicals, like retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A whose effects are linked to the early stages of cancer, and oxybenzone, a hormone-disruptor and skin allergen.

You can help limit your exposure to these chemicals by making your own sunscreen at home. Here's a simple recipe:

Homemade Sunscreen

6 tbsp (84 grams) of coconut oil

2 tbsp (28 grams) almond or grapeseed oil

2 tbsp finely powdered zinc oxide (or less if you want a less white sunscreen)

3 tsp shea butter

2 tsp beeswax pellets

Combine the ingredients, in order listed, in a thick glass jar or measuring cup. Create a bain marie, with a pot of shallow water, and place the vessel in the water, being careful that the water doesn't get into your ingredients. Let it simmer until the ingredients have all melted together.

Mix thoroughly with a hand blender to ensure the zinc oxide is distributed evenly throughout. Let cool before applying.

Keeping beaches green and clean

Let's keep our beaches beautiful so future generations can enjoy them for many years to come. Want more toxic-free tips? Sign up for our toxic nation newsletter to receive tips and information all year long.