Love Your Country, Love Your Earth: Tips for an Eco-Friendly 4th

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Sunny BBQ's, family picnics, watermelon, cupcakes, fireworks and Old Glory. Looking around my neighborhood, it's easy to know that today is the 4th of July. Every house is sporting the red white and blue and soon we'll be gathering at the end of our street to see the parade pass by. Dogs will be dressed as Uncle Sam and kids will be wearing giant blue star sunglasses and waving miniature flags. As I count the number of flags rolling in the breeze I smile. Our street is the picture of proud American suburbia. Yet I cringe at what tomorrow will look like.

Fireworks debris scattered along the street and yards. Tiny plastic flags forgotten on the sidewalk. Plastic beaded necklaces and melted candy littering the street. They won't be there for long. Around noon a landscaping crew will come along and it will all be blown into the gutters along with the grass clippings. The thought makes me cringe.

Odds are, you're street will go through a similar cycle, but by doing your part you can effectively reduce the environmental impact of your celebrations and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Here are some tips to help you greenify Independence Day:


Eco-Friendly Fireworks


Did you know that those "snakes" we all loved to burn on our sidewalks contained arsenic until the 1990's? Or that the components that add color to fireworks are highly toxic and water soluble? Luckily scientists are hard at work engineering cleaner, environmentally friendly fireworks, they are not expected to be available to us for many years. In the meantime, make sure you purchase your fireworks only from reputable vendors. Check the packaging before making your purchase. Those in unmarked packages are likely illegal and can contain dangerous chemicals that have been banned in the US. Be responsible when setting off fireworks. Don't launch them into wooded areas and never set off fireworks when there has been a drought. Clean up afterwards, making sure to check yards, bushes, trees and the street for fireworks debris.



Parades


I love our neighborhood parade. We look forward to it every year. The kids love the candy and toys that are thrown from the cars and floats, and I love getting to meet local business owners and hear about what's going on in my area. Afterwards, however, there's quite a mess left behind. This year take a moment before heading home to pick up some of the unwanted candy, toys, flags and flyers that might be strewn over the street and grass. If everyone filled a shopping bag with trash it would make a huge difference. Not only does it look trashy, but that litter will eventually make its way into our waterways via the gutters. Also, birds and other small animals may try to eat the candy, which could seriously harm or kill them.


green tips
Picnics & BBQs


Nothing says 4th of July like a BBQ or picnic. Celebrating outdoors is an American tradition. Unfortunately many have come to rely on disposable dinnerware for convenience during these celebrations. Think about the amount of paper plates, plastic cutlery, cups and beverage cans that will fill your trash can by the end of the day. Then imagine that multiplied by 111,162,259 (the estimated amount of households in the US). That's a lot of trash going into landfills for just one day of celebrations! You can minimize that by simply choosing to use your real dishes and silverware, buying large bottles of beverages instead of individual cans and bottles, and setting out a clearly marked recycling bin that guests can easily recognize and use. If you choose to take your celebration to a park or campground, try to leave it like you found it and do not feed the animals. Human food is bad for wildlife. Feeding wild animals puts the animals and you in danger and could also result in a hefty fine if you get caught.



Decorations


Disposable decorations may be cheap and easy, but they are a bad investment in the long run. If they haven't blown away by the end of the holiday, you'll most likely be putting them in the trash when you take them down. Instead of spending that money every year and adding to our landfills, invest in permanent decorations. It may cost you a few dollars more, but you can always get some great deals the day of a holiday and the few days after. There are also some adorable decorations that are made of repurposed and recycled materials. Try to invest in decorations that can be recycled once they have reached the end of their life. Also remember, if your flag gets damaged and has to be disposed of or "retired" there is a strict protocol that should be followed. If you don't want to do it, there are several groups that offer this service to communities all over the country at no cost. Check with your local veteran or scout group to see if they offer this service.


Have a safe, happy, green 4th of July!

2 comments:

Miss Bella said...

When I was younger and living in Oklahoma, I was so mad when they stopped selling the snakes or "glo-worms" as they called them because some kid ate them and got really sick.

Beth @ Spots On My Apples said...

That's terrible! So why am I laughing?!?
Kids really will eat anything! What about a snake could possibly appeal to the senses?! Although- I admit I did eat gum off the parking lot when I was a tot. :}

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