06/29/2010 05:13 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Have a Greener Fourth

Sunday is the Fourth of July, and what better way to honor the nation we love by protecting and conserving its natural resources? Here are four tips to help you plan a bright-green celebration.

1. Green Your Grill: Some 60 million Americans fire up the grill on Independence Day, consuming enough energy -- in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas, and electricity -- to power 20,000 households for a year, and releasing about 225,000 tons of carbon emissions. To reduce your output, opt for an electric or propane grill, both of which are cleaner-burning than units powered by charcoal. If you must use coal, choose briquettes made of invasive tree species, or derived from sustainably managed forests. The Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council help consumers make this distinction; just look for this seal or this one when making your purchase.

2. Better Barbecuing: Now that you know how to green your grill, what can you responsibly place atop it? Meat is the historical choice, but given that the raising of livestock for food causes more emissions than all the world's cars, trains, planes, and boats put together, it'll behoove us to consider more progressive alternatives. There are many faux meats on the market, some so excellent that even professional carnivores rave about them. Or you can pick up fresh vegetables at your local farmers' market for a colorful kebab. If meat's a must, however, opt for organic, grass-fed cuts so that you're less likely to be supporting the dirty factory-farming industry.

3. Party Preparations: Instead of buying all-new U.S.A.-themed decorations, look around to see what you already own that you could use. White Christmas lights could brighten up a late-afternoon get-together. Flowers from your (or a generous neighbor's) garden can make the perfect centerpiece. Still yearning for red, white, and blue? Dress in it, bake a three-hued cake, or put out bowls of strawberries, blueberries, and sliced apples. Speaking of snacks, buy stuff like potato chips in bulk to prevent single-packaging waste (as long as you're sure it'll all be eaten).

4. Don't Let the Sparks Fly: Fireworks shouldn't be a DIY thing, so don't set off your own, and discourage others from entertaining themselves with ill-gotten explosives. Unprofessional fireworks aren't just dangerous in the immediate physical sense -- they also release noxious chemicals into the air and water, causing long-term eco-damage. Instead, carpool or take public transit to a community fireworks display, and in advance of it, campaign your local event coordinators to use biodegradable sparklers, or the compressed-air fireworks that Disney uses.

[via The Green Life blog]