With summer in full swing and the Fourth of July around the corner, everyone can benefit from a few tips on how to reduce the environmental footprint of their summer celebrations. Here are five tips to be more environmentally friendly this summer in the activities we take part in and how we stay cool (as well as some motivating statistics to illustrate why its important to do so):
Take a stroll/hop on a bike
The average passenger vehicle emits 423 grams per mile, averaging about 5.1 metric tons a year so every bit counts when trying to reduce the miles we drive. Exhaust from cars also contributes to city's heat island effect so can make the city feel even hotter. Instead of giving into our dependence on cars and fossil fuels, walk or bike to that Fourth of July BBQ you plan on attending, or carpool with a friend if it's a longer trip. Getting a little sunshine, exercise, and reducing your carbon footprint is a win-win-win.
Pick up after yourself
Litter has environmental and economic impacts as well as threatens wildlife. Although not all litter is plastic, 90 percent of marine litter is with 10 million to 20 million tons of plastic entering the ocean every year. And this litter is coming from us: the top 10 items found on beach clean up day include food wrappers, beverage containers, and plastic bags. As you are out camping, having picnics, enjoying rivers and beaches don't forget to leave with everything you came with. Let's keep those beautiful places beautiful for generations to come!
Be conscious of your A/C use
In the U.S., about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year due to air conditioning use -- an average of about two tons for each home with an A/C. If you plan on having guests over to enjoy Fourth of July festivities and plan on being inside, make sure the A/C is operating efficiently and minimize energy consumption. Clean out your air filters, cool only the rooms that you are using, and advise guests to keep doors and windows closed. Make sure all vents are open; closed vents mean that the system will work harder to maintain a constant temperature.
Replace the plastic
The U.S. generated almost 7 million tons of plastics as non-durable goods, such as plates and cups in 2012. Only 9 percent of the 14 million tons of total plastic waste was recycled (and we already mentioned where a high percentage went). It is easy to just grab a plastic water bottle on the go, but it is so much more fulfilling to fill up a reusable one. If you're having guests over for the long weekend, try to use reusable silverware, cups, and plates which are the more environmentally friendly choice for your Fourth of July BBQ, and perhaps ask some close friends to help with dish-washing after.
Don't forget the veggies
Livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions with cattle-raising alone contributing 65 percent of the livestock sector's GHGs. Our meat addiction also has environmental and social effects across borders as tropical forests continue to be cleared to meet increasing demands. Of course we love BBQs, but it's no secret that eating vegetables is better for the environment. Show salads and summer veggies some love as well this Fourth of July!
Keep these tips in mind when you are out-and-about enjoying your summer in order to minimize the impact your Fourth of July activities have on the environment!
Follow Rosaly Byrd on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sustain_cooptve