Greening Your Red, White, and Blue
Fireworks are arguably the best part of July 4th. No matter how old you get, they’re always fascinating to watch. Cookouts and seeing friends and family are also awesome. But how eco-friendly are 4th of July celebrations, really? Here’s how to put some more green in your red, white and blue.
Make Eco-Friendly Crafts
If you’ve got kids coming to your 4th of July celebration, they’re going to need something to do. They don’t want to hang out with the adults the whole time! Pick up some supplies so they can do some eco-friendly crafting while everyone is hanging out. Get some crafting ideas here.
This is also a good option if you want to go all-out on the decorations for your celebration. Instead of buying a bunch of plastic flags and other decorations you’ll end up throwing away, make some out of stuff you might already have laying around.
Learn How To Properly Dispose Of Fireworks
Fireworks are considered explosives so you aren’t able to recycle them. However, learning the proper way to dispose of them is very important. The chemical dust and ashes that remain after you set them off are harmful to the environment. Particulate pollution is 42% greater on July 4th than the days around it according to Earthday.org. This is because most of the fireworks used for public displays contain chemicals called Potassium perchlorate and cerium nitrate which are terrible for the environment and causes health problems to the heart, lungs and the respiratory systems. Check with your local police or fire department to see if they accept fireworks so that they can guarantee they’re properly disposed of.
It’s also recommended that if you can, watch the local display instead of setting off your own. That way, there’s a lot less waste and the town can ensure that they’re disposed of in the right way.
Keep Your Celebration Local
July 4th is one of the deadliest holidays to spend out on the road traveling. The combination of drinking and driving, plus a higher traffic flow can be a recipe for disaster. Keep your celebration at home with your family instead of going out this year. If you live in town, walk to a friend’s celebration or have one with the neighbours. Having less cars on the road also contributes to fewer emissions.
Avoid Certain Fireworks
Fireworks aren’t great for health or the environment–after all, they were invited for military use– you can learn more about why here. One of the largest culprits is PERC, also used in drycleaners, and a pervasive toxin that can last in the environment and humans for a long time. They are supposedly working on greener options, but they are still pricey. If you want to try and find them, look for ones using nitrogen rather than perchlorate, barium, or antimoy. Fireworks can also come with a ton of unnecessary packaging. Look for the ones that are packaged with less paper, cardboard and plastic. At the very least, rip off the excess packaging and recycle it, even if you can’t recycle the fireworks themselves. Be careful though to avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper. This packaging often indicates that they’re for professional use and can be dangerous for people to use at home.
Use Something Other Than Disposable Plates And Utensils
Paper plates and plastic utensils are easy and convenient. But their one-time use adds up to a whole lot of waste. Try pulling out your stainless steel goods (you can often find these affordably at your local Little India or maybe you have your own collection.) I often try and serve foods that can be served on napkins–cloth if you have it, but you could also use paper and compost it.) And I have even found banana-leaf plates in the past which were a fun and easily compostable alternative to traditional disposable gear. Remember that if you are using disposable, paper is usually a better option than plastic. But beware that paper caked in food isn’t likely recyclable, if it isn’t lined with wax you can compost it however.
Instead of plastic cups, you can ask your friends to bring their own glass or if you keep a collection of mason jars on hand you can write everyone’s names on it in Sharpie or wax pencil.
This holiday doesn’t tend to be eco-friendly, but we can change that! Start with these steps and you’re on your way to a much greener 4th of July!
Contributed by Kate Harveston, political journalist and blogger, you can find more of Kate’s writing at her website: onlyslightlybiased.com