Fireworks, family get-togethers, barbecues, and parades are some customary ways to celebrate the Fourth of July. But have you ever taken a moment to pause and reflect on the tremendous environmental harm that Fourth of July celebrations cause? Given over the top celebratory nature of the holiday, a negative environmental effect is inevitable.
How can the ways we celebrate the Fourth of July affect the environment? Let's find out.
Viewers experience the exhilaration of fireworks displays, but it is a horror show for the planet. The brief excitement of fireworks results in the transient discharge of dangerous chemical pollutants, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen (among others). These gasses impact the air quality, exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma episodes, and also trigger climate change. Once settled in the atmosphere, the particles cause toxic events like acid rain which harms the ecosystems.
Fireworks are unkind to the animals as well. Wild animals are frequently hurt by fireworks displays and experience trauma. A study demonstrated the effects of fireworks on migratory Arctic geese during New Year's Eve celebrations. The pyrotechnics woke the sleeping geese, causing them to flee from the location for good. Fireworks are a colorful way to mark the occasion, but they are not good for our health, the animals, and the environment.
- Public Parade Footprint
Public parades are a common Fourth of July tradition that significantly increases carbon footprint. Every day, an average human exhales about 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide. The number can increase based on the activity, and spike up to eighth-fold for high-intensity movements. When it comes to the 4th of July, thousands of people attend parades annually— everything goes south if we use the above equation for estimating emissions.
- Smoking Food On A Grill
An iconic Fourth of July tradition is a classic American barbecue. Families gather and grill a large amount of meat, enjoying delicious meals. But the downsides? A 100g medium-sized beef burger generates enough greenhouse emissions to fill more than 60 balloons. A two-hour charcoal grilling session generates roughly the same quantity of Co2 as 26 miles of driving. These are just a few concerning examples of why Fourth of July barbecues are terrible for the environment.
Well then, how do you celebrate the 4th Of July sustainably?
Here are 5 Tips For A Sustainable 4th of July Celebration
- Plan the Menu & Ingredients Ahead
Planning the menu is key, especially for those who are genuinely passionate about BBQ. Choose locally grown, nutritious alternatives as they are much better and healthier for any occasion. Get your meat from local farms or sustainable butcher shops. The meat industry uses large amounts of energy, water, food, and chemicals. Buying local, pasture-raised meat will help lessen carbon impact and support local farmers and producers. Whether you're serving an innovative recipe or a traditional fav, choose from the plentiful supply of fresh, locally-grown produce in season. Plan carefully to make sure your menu and the ingredients are as environmentally friendly as possible.
- Eliminate Plastics
Choose biodegradable or reusable plates, cups, and cutlery for your party. Go for large gallons of water containers over individual bottled water cases. Instead of purchasing new decorations, try to use the items you have at home and make decorations. Use flowers from the garden and colorful fruits to decorate the tables. These are just some home party ideas to keep in mind as you plan, prepare, or purchase items for a holiday.
- Select the Best Fuel & Grill For Barbecue
Go for chemical-free alternatives such as natural briquettes and hardwood logs for firing up the grill. Propane is also a good choice as it generates less emissions than conventional charcoal. You can also be kinder to the environment by going for eco-friendly smokeless grilling equipment. The carbon footprint of charcoal cooking at 998 kg CO2e, is over three times greater than that of electric grill, at 349 kg CO2e. Take whatever steps you can to reduce your emissions.
- Green Fireworks
Fireworks have a weak environmental reputation. It is best to do away with them. But if the celebration feels unfinished without them, there are wonderful substitutes that glitter just as brilliantly. For example, high-nitrogen-based fireworks that are free of perchlorates. You can also enjoy a light show while reducing your electricity usage using solar lighting and lanterns. Simply charge them under the sun during the day, and enjoy them at nightfall. These vibrant lamps get the light show going while being environmentally friendly.
- Collect Your Garbage And Recycle It
The Fourth of July parties litter the streets with cutleries, bottles, cans, etc., the next day. Although it goes without saying, it is important to pick up every piece of evidence of your celebration and properly dispose of trash. Separate the waste and save what can be reused to avoid mindlessly sending more items to landfills. Always recycle as much as possible to help yourself, your neighborhood, and the environment.
Have a safe and sustainable celebration. Happy 4th of July!