American flag waving in front of fireworks and a sunset

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Fourth of July

As the days grow longer and the weather warms, American's in every corner of the country are beginning to plan their summers.  On the top of this list is July 4th, a day that nearly 85% of all American's are expected to celebrate in some fashion. Of course there will be the traditional BBQ picnic's, people dressed in their most patriotic attire, and the most obvious of all, fireworks!  But with so many celebrations happening at the same time, it is important to reflect on the impact this holiday can have on your local environment.  The intent of this blog is to highlight some key areas to focus on when considering the effect of your personal celebration and aims to inspire you to implement some key measures of sustainability so American's can continue to celebrate this day for many future generations. 

With the abundance of festivities taking place on July 4th, many American's take to the road and travel to and from their celebration.  In fact, over 50 million American's are expected to travel over 50 miles to attend this years 4th of July.  Yikes, that's a lot of traffic and a lot of pollution!  This year, I encourage everyone that must travel by car to rideshare, carpool, or use public transportation where available.  For those in metro areas, ride a bike, scooter, or any alternative means of transportation.  By limiting the amount of environmental impact of our travel, we can get a head start to making this an environmentally friendly 4th before it even begins!

Highway traffic at night

OK, so now that we've carpooled to our location, what are some important steps we can take to ensure we minimize our impact throughout the day/night.  First and most obvious, don't use single use plastics!  Cutlery, cups, and everything else than utilizes plastic can also be done without it.  Bring re-usable cutlery or biodegradable options, utilize 5 gallon water jugs to share with everyone instead of buying cases of individual bottles, and so on.  Decorations can all be homemade, which happens to be a really fun project aside from being better for the environment.  Additionally, planning for others is always smart as well.  Providing a clearly marked recycling bin is always a great idea regardless of how confident you are in your fellow attendees.  This list could go on forever, but I think you get the point and I urge to you to think about this blog when you are planning, prepping, and buying things for this years 4th of July celebration. 

Plastic trash piled up in a river in the mountains
As the celebration continues into night and dusk slowly disappears, everyone begins to feel the excitement of the upcoming fireworks.  Admittedly, prior to writing this article I was unaware of the magnitude in which fireworks can be harmful to the environment, but low and behold they can do some serious damage.  Everybody can see the acrid smoke and immense ash left behind from each flash and boom as they light up the night sky.  However, what people can't see is the heaps of packaging, cardboard, paper, and other bi-products that slowly float down to earth camouflaged amongst the flashes of color and smoke as they descend.  Furthermore, celebrations happening along the coast will undoubtedly see this debris end up in the oceans and marine life will pay the ultimate toll for our negligence.  Now before you jump to conclusions, I AGREE, fireworks are a staple of the 4th and must remain.  But there are ways in which we can still enjoy these fascinating displays of light and sound while minimizing the damage they cause.  First, attend your local fireworks show.  Eliminating the at home fireworks will not only be a safer option, but will also lead to much less packaging waste and also provide a much better show in my opinion.  If you still decide to do your own fireworks, look for ones that are rich in nitrogen.  These fireworks produce much less acrid smoke and are much healthier for atmosphere.  Remember, this is all about power in numbers.  Sure once person won't make a huge difference, but when that mentality transfers to the masses, we can start to see the change we want to see. 
Red and white fireworks on a dark night sky
Lastly and definitely most importantly, when the celebration is all over and people start to go their separate ways, ask yourself how the area looks compared to when you got there.  ALWAYS be sure to clean up after yourself and leave the area better than how you found it.  But what happens when this principle doesn't apply to everyone?  PLAN A CLEANUP!  That's right, July 5th is one of the most popular days for organized cleanups throughout the whole year, and for good reason.  If you don't want to organize one yourself, try to attend one in your local community, they will definitely be happening!  
So now that you've seen this list, ask yourself what you plan to do this year to help make your 4th of July celebrations as fun and environmentally friendly as possible?

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