On summer holidays like the 4th of July, family celebrations go on automatic pilot. We hit the grocery store for steak and hot dogs to grill in the backyard. We buy canned and bottled beverages, paper plates and napkins, plastic dinnerware and cups to keep meals casual and cleanup easy. We buy fireworks for an evening display. If our celebration calls for patriotic decor, we might put inexpensive flags on the table.
Remembering everything you need for a proper celebration doesn’t take much thought. But have you ever thought about ways to make your celebration a bit greener? Here are a few ideas.
1 – Upcycle your tabletop flags
Even though those little flags are inexpensive, you wouldn’t want to do anything unpatriotic with them like toss them into the garbage. Still you’re not likely to use them again. If they are fabric and heat resistant, you can turn them into appliques that keep the patriotic feeling going.
- Iron on a layer of fusible web, like Pellon Wonder Under
- Peel away the paper, then iron the flag onto a tee or a jacket
- Add an border of zig-zag stitching for a finished look
2 – Keep the celebration outside
You might feel the urge to relocate your celebration from the hot, sunny back yard into air conditioned comfort. Don’t do it! Turn off the air conditioning, TVs, computers, pads, and video games; and find some old-fashioned family fun with old school traditions such as badminton, volley ball, or horseshoes. You’ll save on energy and burn off a few calories at the same time.
3 – Go vegetarian for a day
While you’re in the grocery store, buy veggie or bean burgers instead of expensive steaks. Why? Because meat consumption supports cattle production and the greenhouse gas, methane, is its harmful by product.
Methane is released into the air during cow digestion and also from stored cow manure. EPA research shows that methane’s comparative pound-for-pound impact on climate change is over 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.
4 – Pump your brew from a keg
When the party is over, how many beer empties will you collect from your backyard? Will you recycle them? If you buy beer by the keg instead of by the case, you won’t have to think about bottles vs cans or pitching vs recycling.
5 – Leave the paper and plastic at the store
The waterproject.org says that Americans toss out 2 million tons of plastic bottles each year, and they might take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. Do you really want to add to the plastic mess? Try filtered tap water instead, and drink it from reusable cups and glasses.
And while you’re thinking about it, forget about all that paper and plastic stuff you plan to buy from the supermarket, use the plates and silverware you already have at home or purchase BPA free, reusable plastic alternatives.
6 – Make your own “Popsicles” with organic fruit juice
Kids need frozen treats to ease the heat. That means ice cream, Popsicles, and layers of sticky packaging that can’t be recycled. Buy a frozen treat mold–BPA free of course. Make your own sweet, frozen treats with organic juices from fruits that aren’t farmed with chemical insecticides or fertilizers.
7 – Keep green after dark with solar lights
If you’re in the backyard waiting to shoot off your fireworks, don’t turn on the floodlights. Try solar lights instead. They can soak up the sun all day and shine all night.
8 – Go to a public fireworks display
If you leave home early and take lawn chairs, perhaps your whole family can get a prime spot for a local public fireworks display. You can save on the cost of fireworks, avoid injuries, and won’t be adding additional firework related chemicals, which are bad for the environment. Plus, you won’t have to worry about retrieving and disposing of all of those rockets that land in your neighbor’s yard.
9 – Eco-friendly sunscreen alternatives
Many commercial manufacturers offer eco-friendly sunscreens. But if you want to make an informed choice, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 guide to sunscreens at ewg.org. EWG is the consumer watchdog organization that originated the dirty dozen produce guide.
10 – Make your own natural mosquito repellent
When you’re searching online for natural bug repellent information, you’ll find some interesting alternatives that you might not want to rub on your body. The website care2.com lists garlic, catnip and black pepper concoctions. Fortunately they balance the list with aromatic blends that include citronella, lavender and lotus oil.