All that red, white, and blue shouldn’t mean we forget about the green this Independence Day. From what we eat and how we decorate to what kinds of activities we enjoy, a few eco-conscious choices can ensure a holiday that’s exciting, memorable — and responsible. Better yet, these solutions can apply to all your summer festivities, no matter what country you’re in or what day it is on the calendar. So, with fireworks, barbecues, and good times in mind, let’s spark some inspiration for a sustainable Fourth of July celebration.
Grill out greener
Around 60 million Americans will attend a grill out on July 4, so go ahead and fire it up. But just because it’s a party doesn’t mean you can’t be planet-friendly. Among sustainable practices to consider? Choose a gas, electric, or solar grill over charcoal to minimize air pollution and carbon emissions — plus coal-cooked meals also have their own set of health issues. Gas grills, particularly those powered by natural gas — which is the cleanest fossil fuel — produce fewer emissions and are more energy efficient, thus creating a smaller carbon footprint. Propane carries the benefit of burning hotter and faster — and doesn’t require a natural-gas line. And while you may balk about relying on solar to cook your food, the best-designed grills work regardless of how many clouds there are in the sky.
Just as important as your cooking method? What you’re throwing on the grill. Prioritize organic, grass-fed, or plant-based options when selecting your barbecue menu. Support local farmers and choose seasonal produce for your side dishes. By grilling green, you’ll be able to serve up some delicious flavors while reducing your environmental impact.
Use eco-friendly cutlery and plates for your picnics and parties
Whether you’re hosting or joining a celebration, ditch the plastic plates and utensils for reusable or compostable alternatives. Use reusable tablecloths, napkins, dishware, and cutlery. It’ll be worth the washing up. Plus, if you use plates and utensils that you already have, you’ll be saving money you can put toward other activities. Don’t forget to encourage recycling after everyone has finished. Bonus points if you can compost or use up any leftovers.
Choose sustainable decor
Holiday decorations almost always get thrown out the next day. Why spend your money on something with such a short lifespan? Instead, opt for reusable decorations like fabric banners, bunting flags, and other goodies that can be reused year after year. Embrace DIY crafts and make it a fun family activity leading up to the date. Also, consider using energy-efficient LED lights or solar-powered string lights to conjure a magical ambiance when the sun sets. You’ll have a picturesque backyard setting that can be used time and time again — unlike most July 4 decorations.
Enjoy fireworks in a greener way
No Fourth of July is complete without fireworks ablaze in the night. But since fireworks are primarily made from carbon-based black powder — and those components release CO2 in the environment after combustion — they’re not very eco-friendly either. We’d never say do without them — after all, it is Independence Day — but there are ways to mitigate their use. One option? Attend community fireworks displays instead of setting off your own. The fewer fireworks exploding in the sky, the better it is for the planet. However, if you simply can’t resist the allure of backyard fireworks, consider low-emission fireworks like sparklers or eco-friendly alternatives like biodegradable confetti poppers. Keep it safe, clean up after the show, and respect local regulations. Let the night sky sparkle while minimizing your ecological footprint in the best way!
Incorporate eco-friendly lawn games
If you’re hosting, engage your guests with eco-friendly activities and games that are kinder to the planet but still allow you to let loose on Independence Day. Whip up a craft station using natural materials for the kids. Other ideas? The lawn game cornhole (which is generally sustainably made), badminton using non-plastic birdies, giant Jenga — the list goes on. It’s a day for fun and celebration after all!
Remember to clean up sustainably
As the festivities wind down, ensure your celebration leaves the environment the way you found it. Set up clearly labeled recycling and composting bins throughout the event area. Encourage guests to clean up after themselves and properly dispose of waste. If you have leftovers, consider donating them or encouraging everyone to take some home. Make sure to also pick up firework scraps and other tidbits that might have wound up in the yard or around your house. And when it comes time to clean those dirty tablecloths and napkins, ditch the ordinary liquid and powder detergent for eco-friendly laundry sheets.
Use low-impact, reef-safe sunscreen
If you’re going to be at the beach or out in the sun, protect your skin in a healthier way. Typical sunscreens are full of toxic ingredients that can be harmful to your health and damaging to coral reefs and marine life. Instead, opt for more natural options that are oxybenzone, avobenzone (also a benzophenone), and octocrylene free. You can use non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen that is free of harsh chemicals. Throw on a sun hat for added protection!
And there you have it! This July let’s celebrate with a bang while keeping the environment in mind. There are countless ways to make your celebration both patriotic and planet friendly. By incorporating these tips, you’ll prove a joyful celebration can coexist with sustainable practices. So, gather your people and enjoy an eco-friendly Fourth of July celebration. Happy Independence Day!