This Fourth of July weekend, Americans will light up more than 60 million barbecues and will roast about 150 million hot dogs and 890 million pounds of chicken and red meat. A yummy prospect for most picnickers, but consider that, according to Jason Green, coordinator for St. Petersburg College’s Office for Sustainability, “A typical party of 30 guests can create 80 pounds of waste.”
Not only is paper waste an environmental concern, but as Green reports, “It’s estimated that Americans using their grills will create the same amount of carbon dioxide as if 2,300 acres of forest were burnt.”
Think it ends with paper waste and CO2 emmissions? Think again. Fireworks contain potassium perchlorate, which gets into the soil, air and water and causes damage to the thyroid gland. Other ingredients include such heavy metals as barium and copper, which are toxic.
Party Like an Independent American, AND Minimize Damage to the Environment!
What are the best ways to celebrate the holiday season in an environmentally friendly way? Here are some ideas:
- For July 4 parties, use real plates, silverware and cloth napkins and stay away from paper napkins, disposable paper plates and plastic utensils. If you must use disposable plates, buy plates that are biodegradable. Did you know that disposable plates are now available that are made from corn, potato and sugar-cane pulp?
- Throw a potluck party to share resources and carpool.
- Prepare meals and desserts with locally-grown organic ingredients and free-range, grass-fed meats and poultry. (Bonus: they’re much more delicious!)
- Balance your meat dishes with more sustainable vegetable-based items. Potato salad, anyone?
- Provide recycling bins for glass bottles, cans and plastic — A must-do!
- When BBQ-ing, use natural gas grills — they pollute less than charcoal grills. To make matters worse, over-charring meat produces toxic chemicals in the food itself.
- Don’t shoot off polluting fireworks at home; instead, go to one of the city- or county-sponsored events.
- Make your own natural insect repellent! Frequently reapply basic essential oils like lavender, rosemary and cedar wood. These oils can trick insects into thinking you’re a plant.
- If you must use a DEET-based insect repellent, choose products with less than 20% DEET. Never apply over cuts or wounds; never apply on infants or if you are taking any medications; don’t spray in enclosed areas; and wash skin with soap and water after use.
- Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products and cloths or micro fiber rags to clean up after the party.