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5 Tips for a Green 4th of July

Posted by Sandra Markowitz - Intern on Jul 02, 2013
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When I think of the 4th of July, I think of my family’s traditions: attend our local parade, go for a family canoe and pick strawberries. In recent years, my family has started to host 4th of July parties, and we strive to keep things as green as possible. Here are a few tips we follow:

1.  Grill Green

A 4th of July barbecue is as traditional is it gets. Of the grilling options, charcoal produces the most pollution, so this 4th make the green choice and choose propane. Propane burns much cleaner than charcoal and produces about half the greenhouse emissions1. As far as waste disposal goes, empty propane tanks can be returned and refilled, whereas used charcoal is usually thrown away (although some gardeners claim it makes great mulch, similar to BioChar). If you must use charcoal, use a charcoal chimney starter instead of lighter fluid and look for wood briquettes or charcoal certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council or the Rainforest Alliance (such as the Maine Woods Pellet Company, Curran Pellets and Noram de Mexico’s Sierra Madre.)

2.  Think Local

Every 4th of July, Americans consume 150 million hotdogs, 700 million pounds of chicken and 150 million pounds of pork and beef. Your average meal travels around 1,500 miles before it reaches your plate, producing a whole lot of CO2 emissions that could be reduced by buying local2. Farmers markets and CSAs are a great local alternative to purchasing meat from the grocery store. Meat shares at CSAs are often just as economical as going to the supermarket. If the grocery store is your only option, serve poultry, pork or vegetarian options, because beef has a much larger carbon footprint.

3.  Dine differently

This year, instead of using paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid a sink full of dishes, try using your own dishes/silverware/glasses to cut down on waste. A few extra minutes at the sink means a lot less trash headed to the landfill. If you do opt for disposable dishware, choose products made from compostable materials. Plates made from all paper can easily be composted at home or in a commercial facility.

4.  Fireworks?

There’s no way to candy-coat it, fireworks wreak havoc on air quality. Last year in Beijing, the firework celebration for the Chinese New Year resulted in an 8000% increase in air pollution. Eco-friendly fireworks aren’t too far in the future, but  for the present look for a firework alternative, like these beautiful, biodegradable floating lanterns, or head to the local firework display instead of having your own (municipalities buy ten times less fireworks then individuals do on the 4th).

5.  Offset your guests’ travel while supporting new clean energy projects

4th of July is a great time to see family and friends. Chances are that some of your guests traveled a fair distance to see you. Use our travel calculator to determine the carbon emissions from guests and help fund one of our current HelpBuild™ projects as you offset those emissions.

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