Green Your Fourth of July in 4 Easy Steps

Image by Tracy Hunter via Flickr Creative Commons license

Image by Tracy Hunter via Flickr Creative Commons license

While red, white and blue are the traditional colors for Independence Day celebrations, we thought now would be a good time to help you green your 4th of July in four easy steps. Of course we don’t mean green in color necessarily, but in how you plan and execute your holiday plans. Greening your activities doesn’t have to take a lot of work. In fact, you can make your 4th of July greener and more environmentally-friendly by following just a few, simple steps. Best of all these actions are ones you can take any day of the year, not just on Independence Day or other holidays, and no major prep time is required. Even our friends celebrating Canada Day can green their celebrations using these four steps.

1. Opt for Reusable Instead of One-Use or Plastic

Although most of us probably have memories of 4th of July picnics where paper plates, plastic utensils and one-use cups were the only options available, these items are not the best choice for the environment. Think back, those parties were also probably filled with trash bins overflowing with food and other waste products. Where do you think all this waste went? Unfortunately, it goes to already packed landfills.

Why generate excess waste as part of your celebration? Why not get a little creative and do something different this year? Our suggestion is to opt for reusable products instead of one-use or plastic. This means ditch the plastic water bottles and leave the party plates at the store. Ask your guests to bring reusable bottles, biodegradable cups or glasses, which they can fill up from a cooler or other container. You could even provide guests with reusable containers as a gift or a glass they can label and decorate themselves. You should also provide guests with regular plates and utensils yourself or have them bring their own. You could even make it fun by awarding a prize to the guest with the most patriotic place setting.

Providing a washing station (like the Girl Scouts have when they go camping) where guests can wash and dry their dishes before they go home is another option you may want to consider. Doing so helps make sure you’ve got less mess to clean up afterwards, it generates less waste and your guests go home with clean dishes.  A win-win, wouldn’t you say? Last, but not least, provide guests with compost bins, trash bins and recycling bins so they can properly dispose of any waste.

2. Reduce Food Waste

Another way to minimize your overall waste is to reduce your food waste. Picnics, parties and holiday celebrations are known for being packed with food and drinks. This often means a lot of food is left behind afterwards. In many cases, this food either goes bad from sitting out too long and gets tossed, or simply goes to waste.

One of the simplest ways to reduce food waste (which also greens your 4th of July celebrations) is to throw a potluck. Potlucks are great ideas for Independence Day parties, picnics and BBQs. Have guests bring their own dish of choice in a covered, reusable container. Then, when the party is over, guests can either take home their own leftovers or trade with other guests for a dish they liked better. Encourage guests to avoid pre-packaged items and make their own recipes.

3. Buy Local and Organic

What could be more green than buying local and organic food? If you don’t have your own vegetable garden, which is about as local as it can get, make a choice to use organic ingredients in all of your 4th of July dishes. Most stores carry organic fruits, vegetables and other foods. You just have to look. Opting for organic is a freedom you have and one you should cherish. Why feed your family and guests food loaded with harmful pesticides when you have an organic option available to you?

Besides, organic fruit and vegetables makes a really tasty snack and is great for noshing on at picnics and parties. You can also easily blend organic fruits and veggies together into healthy drink or smoothie. Add a little ice and it’s the perfect way to stay cool and refreshed on a hot, summer day.

Those looking for some great Fourth of July recipes should check out these 25 Spectacular Recipes for Your 4th of July Cookout or any of the recipes on our friend Jerry’s site, Each of the recipes found on these sites can be made using organic foods. You can find numerous vegetarian and vegan dishes as well.

4. Get Outdoors

No Independence Day celebration is complete without at least a little time spent outdoors. This is why we recommend having a picnic, backyard party or BBQ this 4th of July instead of staying cooped up inside. Spend the afternoon and/or evening out in nature. Attend a parade. Hold a neighborhood block party. Go to the beach. Walk in the woods. Sit back on a picnic blanket and soak up the natural beauty this planet has to offer. Smell the green grass and flowers, look at the leaves blowing in the breeze, and watch in amazement as the night sky lights up with stars. If you want, you can even make your holiday celebration better by spending a few days outdoors. Camping is one of America’s favorite 4th of July weekend activities…although finding a camp site at this late date may be difficult.

If you plan to watch fireworks displays, do so from afar, as it’s safer for you and your family’s health. Our families love to watch fireworks, but we generally do so from a distance so we don’t have to smell or inhale the smoke from the fireworks going off. Professional fireworks shows are also less of a fire risk than individuals setting off their own. With Southern California still being in a state of drought, this is an important factor to consider this holiday weekend.

These four easy steps will help green your 4th of July celebrations without much effort on your part at all. Whatever you choose to do this holiday weekend, please remember to celebrate responsibly, keep your pets safe and have a wonderful time! Happy Independence Day (and Happy Canada Day to our friends to the north).

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