SimpleStepsForget the tie. How many does a man need, anyway? Give your dad something he’ll really appreciate — a good nap and then a trip to the park. “How can I do this?” you say, “I’m just a kid.” Do a couple of the weekend chores on his list, and to bring him real peace of mind, do them in a green way. Follow them with a treat for everyone — a day or weekend at a national park (100 parks are offering three fee-free weekends this summer) or a favorite nature spot near you. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there are a couple of green chores to be done.

Give the car a waterless carwash

Whether you live in a drought-prone area or not, dumping buckets of water to clean the car seems a little extravagant. How extravagant you wonder? With most garden hoses spraying about 10 gallons of water a minute, the average driveway wash uses between 80 and 140 gallons of water. That’s a lot actually and in places now forced to ration to be sure there is water still to drink at summer’s end, that’s too much, and probably wouldn’t be allowed.

Fortunately, you can give the car a good scrub down using less water than it takes to brush your teeth. Spray on a waterless car wash that breaks down grime and can be wiped off without the rinse. Eco Touch's waterless car wash uses just 4-6 ounces of water per wash and polishes as it cleans. Green Earth's Waterless Car Wash will get between seven and 10 washes per bottle.

Muscle-mow the lawn

Believe it or not, the power mower in the garage is more polluting than the car you just washed to a spanking clean shine. According to the California Air Resources Board, gallon for gallon, the 2006 lawn mower engines contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than 2006 cars. Mowing for an hour with a gasoline-powered lawn mower can produce as much air pollution as a 350-mile drive. And consider this: Whether you are sitting on it or pushing it, either way, your nose is within a yard of the tailpipe.

What to do? Dust off the reel mower in the corner of the garage and work those upper arm muscles pushing it around the lawn. If your family doesn’t have one, suggest to your mom to get one. No matter who mows the lawn next time, they’ll appreciate the workout. Reel mowers are available at most lawn and garden stores as well as online.

A day in the park

With the chores done, sit down with your Dad and plan a day or weekend trip to a park near you. 100 national parks are offering three fee-free weekends this summer, the first on Father’s Day weekend, so plan ahead for that one! The other two weekends are July 18-19 and Aug. 15-16. It’s not just the big parks that are participating — lots of smaller parks and historic sites that may even be reachable without a car are offering the fee-free weekends as well. This National Park locator can help you find which are nearest you. For other great nature spots that may be within walking, biking or a short drive from your home, check out NRDC's wonderful Google-powered Nature Map.

This article was reprinted with permission from