This Fourth of July weekend invite your family and friends to celebrate with these Earth friendly ideas for your outdoor activities.
Traditionally, Independence Day is full of fireworks, barbecue and outdoor activities that Americans look forward to every year. However, lighting the skies of your neighborhood with fireworks and overloading landfills with disposable party ware has environmental consequences.
According to the Mid-America Regional Council, local air quality is compromised whenever chemicals are ignited, and this in turn contributes to pollution. Smoke, accelerants and heavy metals emitted by fireworks are especially risky for people with asthma, and traces of these chemicals can linger in the air and water weeks after the fireworks are extinguished. Plus, like most holidays the increased waste from plastic and disposables is added to landfills nationwide.
But with a few simple tips, everyone could lessen these negative environmental effects, while keeping the fun and excitement in the celebration. Try these easy ideas:
- Buy local
Start by shopping for your picnic fare at the farmer’s market and find local veggies, fruit, bread and meat that are healthier and have a very small transportation and packaging footprint.
- If you can’t reuse it, refuse it
This is a great day to start going plastic free. If you’re getting together with friends, ask everyone to bring their own non-disposable plates, silverware and glassware – or provide them. Canning jars with lids are great for transporting and serving drinks and side dishes. Be sure to have a recycling bin handy for easy use. Send leftovers home with guests and compost any food waste. Instead of using a Styrofoam or disposable cooler use a reusable one. Styrofoam can’t be recycled and would take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to break down in the landfill, according to EarthDay.com.
- Reduce your impact at the grill
Nationwide, an estimated 60 million people will barbeque on July 4th, consuming enough energy in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas and electricity to power 20,000 households for a year, according to the Sierra Club. Of all those options, the charcoal grill produces the most CO2 and contributes more to ground-level ozone. However, if using a charcoal grill, there are options for a lighter footprint. Start with lump charcoal made from invasive tree species or harvested from sustainably managed forests certified by Rainforest Alliance. Avoid self-lighting charcoal and petroleum-based lighter fluid by using a charcoal chimney starter. According to Earth911, grills powered by propane, gas or electricity have smaller energy footprints, producing up to one-third less CO2 than a charcoal grill. Or you can avoid emissions completely with a slow-cooking solar stove. For all options, consider joining friends for the meal prep, and light only one grill, instead of several.
- Rethink fireworks
If your holiday isn’t complete without fireworks, save money and reduce your contribution to air pollution by attending a professional fireworks display, instead of buying your own. (Fireworks are illegal in most cities, including Kansas City, MO). To find a public fireworks displays in your state, check out the Parade list for 2022. In Kansas City, find more locations in the Visit KC list for public fireworks and other holiday events.