Sizzling temperatures, long days and melting popsicles mean one very important thing -- the Fourth of July is just around the corner. Independence Day is a time to embrace your patriotic side by doing what Americans do best: having fun!
Unfortunately, some of the best summer activities come with a hefty eco price tag. Here are a few ways to green your favorite Fourth of July pastimes, so you can have your fun while still being kind to the land you live on.
Have a great eco-tip we didn't mention? Leave it in the comments below!
Fireworks are the quintessential Independence Day activity. But <a href="http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/are-fireworks-bad-for-the-environment" target="_hplink">according to the Mother Nature Network</a>, that dazzling display can take a toll on both your health and the environment: "fireworks often contain carcinogenic or hormone-disrupting substances that can seep into soil and water, not to mention the lung-clogging smoke they release and plastic debris they scatter," says Russell McLendon. <br> Discovery News reported in 2009 that scientists created <a href="http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/07/02/eco-friendly-fireworks-02.html" target="_hplink">nitrogen-based fireworks to replace carbon-based ones</a>, emitting less perchlorate in every pop. And according to Earth911, <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/10/24/indias-festival-of-lights-uses-smokeless-fireworks/" target="_hplink">smoke-less fireworks made from recycled paper</a> were used at India's Diwali festival last year. However, the nitrogen-based alternatives are expensive, and the recycled paper fireworks aren't commercially sold yet in America, meaning eco-friendly fireworks aren't available... yet. <br> For now, the best way to green your fireworks display may be to go an alternative route. Try checking out a laser show nearby, like the <a href="http://festivals.stonemountainpark.com/mini-section/default.aspx?id=5" target="_hplink">Stone Mountain laser show near Atlanta, GA</a>, or float some <a href="http://www.skylanterns.us/Premium-Sky-Lanterns-s/88.htm" target="_hplink">eco-friendly sky lanterns</a> in your backyard. If you are intent on seeing some real fireworks, keep the carbon footprint down by going to a public display instead of setting off your own.
Warm weather and a day off work is the perfect barbequing recipe. Here are a few ideas for grilling fun with a lower carbon footprint. <a href="http://www.greenbrideguide.com/" target="_hplink">Green Bride Guide</a> suggests using all-natural charcoal for the grill, bringing reusable utensils, and <a href="http://www.bigdipperwaxworks.com/" target="_hplink">keeping away bugs</a> with an eco-friendly citronella candle instead of DEET. <br> Go even greener by throwing some veggies on the grill and cutting back on meat to further <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/18/environment-eat-less-meat-cheese-dairy-health_n_901464.html" target="_hplink">reduce your carbon footprint</a>.
What about the entertainment during your Fourth of July barbeque? While bonfires can be fun, the carbon monoxide and dioxins released may make them <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-11-13-woodburning-pollution_x.htm" target="_hplink">bad for the planet and your body,</a> according to USA Today. Instead, try some outdoor games like <a href="http://www.playcornhole.org/" target="_hplink">corn hole</a> or a horseshoe toss. You can also gather friends and family for an impromptu July 4th baseball, football, or basketball game!
Parades are a great way to have fun and show pride. Unfortunately, their carbon footprint is not anything to brag about, ranging from the waste used to make floats to <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/294529/20120207/giants-parade-2012-cost-ticker-tape.htm" target="_hplink">the ticker tape and confetti</a> which create a fun atmosphere, but a lot of mess. <br> If you are participating in a Fourth of July parade, try to go eco-friendly by <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/eco-artist-catherine-pears-puts-a-green-twist-on-her-mardi-gras-float.html" target="_hplink">following artist Catherine Pears'</a> lead and making your float out of recycled materials. You can also look into alternative power options (such as a bike float or electric car), and talk to parade organizers about recycling helium, like the <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2008/11/27/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-to-recycle-helium/" target="_hplink">Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade did</a>!
With the hot July sun bearing down on you, taking a dip in the pool seems like a perfect way to spend your holiday. But sadly, this high-temp weather respite can be a source of major water loss. Besides the amount of water initially needed to fill a pool, cement cracks and evaporation can lead to almost double the original amount of water being used. According to the National Leak Foundation of Mesa, <a href="http://www.mesaaz.gov/conservation/pdf/pool_info_2010.pdf ," target="_hplink">30% of pools have leaks in them</a>, many of which go unnoticed due to an automatic refilling mechanism. During the hottest summer days in the driest climates, a 400 square foot surface area pool can lose over 2,500 gallons of water in one month! <br> A good alternative is to find a nearby natural body of water, like a beach or a lake.
Planning on having a Fourth of July picnic? Following these tips will help keep your picnic green (and red, white and blue!). <a href="http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/organize-green-picnic-2132.html" target="_hplink">National Geographic suggests</a> selecting "a picnic spot close to public transportation or along a greenway." You can also either bring reusable plates and utensils. If that's not feasible, at least use <a href="http://www.biodegradablestore.com/utensils_and_napkins.html" target="_hplink">biodegradable disposables</a>. To wow your picnic pals with your culinary expertise, TLC suggests making some of these <a href="http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/30-tips-and-recipes-for-a-green-summer-picnic2.htm" target="_hplink">delicious, easily transportable recipes</a> with local, organic ingredients.
Some of the year's best concerts take place on the Fourth of July. If you are looking for an eco-friendly way to listen to your favorite tunes, try finding an acoustic concert near you. If you are going to a plugged-in show, look for one near public transportation and see if you can get an e-ticket that doesn't need to be printed out. Bonus points for supporting <a href="http://greenupgrader.com/10419/rock-stars-record-labels-and-concert-venues-launch-the-green-music-group/" target="_hplink">green musicians and eco-friendly venues</a>!
Are you planning on inviting guests over to celebrate Independence Day? To keep your summer soiree green, check out <a href="http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/entertaining/partiesevents/greenentertaining" target="_hplink">Epicurious' article on throwing a green party</a>. They suggest buying organic, eco-friendly food and bringing it home with a reusable tote bag as well as going green with your alcohol. Try serving a signature cocktail with local, seasonal ingredients, or <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/wine-of-the-month-clubs_n_1500018.html" target="_hplink">checking out some organic wines</a>. Don't forget to play acoustic Americana music for patriotic entertainment!
Taking advantage of your time off for a quick vacation? Make your trip Earth-friendly by picking the greenest mode of transportation you can. <a href="http://planetgreen.discovery.com/travel-outdoors/instances-fly-drive.html" target="_hplink">While some debate</a> whether flying or driving is a greener option, both have a pretty heavy carbon footprint. <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98638763" target="_hplink">According to National Public Radio</a>, traveling by bus is the most emissions friendly, emitting only 15% of the carbon compared to a regular 23 miles-per-gallon car. <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15160745" target="_hplink">Taking the train</a> is the next best option since it emits half the carbon emissions of flying, NPR says in another article. If you must drive, taking a hybrid may be your best bet. Still figuring out your final destination? Opt for somewhere natural, like the beach, instead of an energy-consuming resort or cruise, which the New York Times says are <a href="http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/travel/15green.html" target="_hplink">known for their high carbon footprints</a>.
Flying The Flag
It's no secret that the patriotic spirit runs high on July 4th, and many people show their pride by flying an American flag. Two great ways to make the tradition greener are by taking your flag down at night so you don't need to shine lights on it (an interesting law regarding <a href="http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf" target="_hplink">the display of flags here</a>) and getting a recycled flag from <a href="http://www.recycledusflags.com/" target="_hplink">RecycledUSFlags.com</a> or <a href="http://www.republic-flag.com/green-flag.html" target="_hplink">Republic Flags</a>.
How to Have a Green 4th of July
In this video you will find helpful tips for a green Fourth of July.