Green Tips for an Eco-Friendly July 4th
Here in the USA, people are busy making plans for their 4th of July events. This is undoubtedly the biggest and most extravagant summer holiday, and we Americans like to celebrate it in a big way. In fact, we’re so into it that we’ll spend more than $7 billion on cookouts and fireworks on the 4th of July alone.
Independence Day traditions have remained fairly consistent over the years. Red, white and blue flags wave, we gather with family and friends, attend patriotic parades, grill great food, drink beer and enjoy fireworks. A lot of fireworks. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, our appetite for fireworks is insatiable and growing. Last year, Americans spent more than $1 billion on backyard and professional fireworks displays.
On the most American holiday of the year, it’s China that provides 99% of the fireworks purchased in the US. Historians believe fireworks originated in Liuyang, China and that bamboo stalks exploding when thrown into a fire were the first natural firecracker. We love China! It’s where we live much of the year to oversee the production of our organic, sustainable products. Unfortunately, unlike our green bambu® products like cork, hemp denim, cedar wood and bamboo, Chinese fireworks are far from eco-friendly.
Propelled by gunpowder, the smoke and dust from fireworks is filled with heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and other noxious chemicals. Bright green colors are from Barium, despite being poisonous and radioactive. Copper compounds produce blue colors, even though they contain dioxin which has been linked to cancer. Fireworks leave behind plenty of litter on the ground and in our water ways too.
With a growing awareness of the environmental pollution caused by fireworks, The Walt Disney Company, which puts on huge fireworks displays at their resorts, has pioneered new technology using environmentally benign compressed air instead of gunpowder to launch fireworks. Disney’s made the details of the technology available to the pyrotechnics industry at large with the hope that other companies will also go green. That’s great news!
We really don’t mean to rain on your holiday parade by bringing up the negative impact some of our traditions have on the environment. We love outdoor entertaining, fireworks and fun gatherings as much as anyone. The fact is, the 4th of July is a pretty toxic day. Big firework displays will continue in your town and in cities across the country, but there are things you can do to in your own backyard to contribute to a greener 4th of July.
How to Green Your 4th of July
Stay Close to Home – AAA estimates that 44.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home between Friday and Tuesday. Staying closer to home will lower your carbon footprint. The Environmental Protection Agency has a great carbon footprint calculator as a resource to motivate you.
Fun in Numbers – Americans love a good 4th of July parade so this year, consider car-pooling with friends and family. Better yet, help green the day even more by taking mass transit or riding your bike to the local parade. It will work up an appetite for the grilled food later in the day!
Shop for Local, Organic Produce – Corn on the Cob has long been an Independence Day favorite. Remember, about 90% of the American corn crop is genetically engineered with Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate) as the most common pesticide used. Find organically grown Corn on the Cob and other veggies for the 4th at your local farmers’ market. You’ll love how it tastes and it’s so much better for you too!
Choose Eco-Friendly, Compostable Plates and Cutlery – bambu® developed the original organic bamboo compostable plates and to this day, Veneerware® is the one and only single-use product made from 100% certified organic bamboo. Available in various shapes, sizes and quantities, the plates are sturdy enough to hold a hefty portion of BBQ and all of the trimmings. They look great and make a terrific conversation piece too! And, these compostable products make clean up quick, easy and guilt free.
BBQ with Natural Gas – The US Department of Energy estimates that 60 million Americans will have a BBQ on the Fourth of July. That means we’ll create 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest. You can help by grilling with propane instead of charcoal. Meats cooked over charcoal not only contain more carcinogens than when natural gas is used, charcoal grilling release twice the carbon emissions into the environment.
Grill Sustainable Meats – Hot dogs are an American tradition and an estimated 150,000,000 are consumed on the 4th of July alone. Yet, they are mass produced from mechanically separated meat trimmings and fat, artificial flavorings, MSG, sugar, maltodextrin and a host of unhealthy food additives and preservatives like phosphates and sodium nitrite.
On the other hand, sustainably raised meat tastes great, is produced without destroying the environment or threatening public health, and its sale supports responsible farmers who choose to use sound agricultural practices. Shop for sustainable meats at your local farmers' market, food coop or health food store.
Enjoy Local Craft Beers – July 4th is the biggest beer-drinking day of the year. Support your local craft breweries! You’ll have a much cleaner, greener brew that will taste fantastic, support your local economy and you probably won’t feel the need to drink as much.
Nix Plastic Bottles - Fill pitchers with water, lemonade, iced tea and your favorite drinks to avoid an excess of personal-sized plastic containers.
Don’t Forget to Recycle – Have well marked and appointed containers throughout the yard for compostable products and foods and for any plastic, paper or glass that needs to be recycled at the end of the day.
Every eco-friendly choice you make matters and is appreciated. This Independence Day, and every day, make sustainability a value worth celebrating and Keep America Beautiful!
Happy Independence Day!