How To Have a Greener Fourth of July

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 3, 2011. Enjoy!

The 4th of July is the iconic American holiday when we remember our past as we spend time with family and friends. However, if we aren’t careful, we can have a bigger impact on the environment as we celebrate than we realize. Take fireworks, for example, whose brilliance comes from chemicals, some of which are toxic to us. A Mother Nature Network article cites a 2007 study of an Oklahoma lake after fireworks displays in which perchlorate levels were over 1,000 times more than the baseline level for 14 hours following the displays. Perchlorate blocks iodide from entering the thyroid gland.

What if you really want to see fireworks? Is it better to buy your own or go see public displays? Personal firework displays carry the added risk of fires and injuries. There were 576 injuries and fires caused by fireworks in the state of Washington last year. How green is it to risk fire and injury? So, if you really must see fireworks, it’s better to check out the displays at your local stadium.

Barbecuing is part of the 4th of July for many Americans. What is greener: charcoal or gas-powered grills? Charcoal is basically dirtier, an article on the Planet Green website states. However, charcoal can come from renewable resources, while gas is a fossil fuel. Yet, charcoal, when burned, “can result in 105 times more carbon monoxide than burning propane and lots of harmful volatile organic compounds.” Real or chunk charcoal doesn’t have the dirty additives, but comes from “thousands of miles away,” which results in more carbon emissions. Research by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory founded that gas produced 5.6 pounds of carbon an hour, while charcoal produced 11 pounds.

Another way to green your 4th of July is by using reusable plates, bowls, cups, and silverware. Plastic-based disposable plates and silverware are made from petroleum. Paper plates may seem like a greener choice, but paper comes from trees. If the thought of having to wash all those dishes is daunting, throw them in the dishwasher, which uses less water than washing by hand. And if you live in the country like me, then you have a well, which means that using water uses electricity.

Here are a few other ways to green your 4th:

  • Serve pitchers of water instead of providing water bottles
  • Use reusable table cloths
  • Limit or avoid pre-packaged foods and you will avoid a lot of waste
  • If you have a garden, serve produce from it

Photo credit: bayasaa

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Charlie Rush
Charlene Rushabout a year ago

At my age, I'm seen as many fireworks as are necessary.

Loesje vB
Loesje vBabout a year ago

Thank you for re-posting.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn
Maria Teresa Schollhornabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Nikolas K.
Nikolas K.about a year ago

I fail to any reason for celebrating July the 4th as it was not a normal birth of a nation but an engineered creation of the banksters. Do the survivers of the Indian nation celebrate this day or do they stop in remembrance of the slaughter of their Forefathers who saved the pilgrim from starvation and were killed in thanksgiving. Today the killing of those the Americans do not like or are different to them continues unabated. sadly Australians are blindly being dragged into this senseless killing to make Americans feel better by our support which is government as the people feel the opposite.

Brett Byers
Brett Byersabout a year ago

Have a greener 4th by saving acres of rainforest for the cost of a handful of firecrackers:

Jane H.
Jane H.about a year ago

My cat will be so scared as he is on New Year's Eve.

Carole R.
Carole R.about a year ago

Thanks for the tips.

Ursula Margrit Joos
Ursula Margrit Joosabout a year ago


John chapman
John chapmanabout a year ago

I don't like things made in China.

Usually I don't have much choice.

This time I do.

No I don't think fireworks are made anywhere else.

But I don't have to buy them.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B.about a year ago

Used to love seeing fireworks when I was younger but nowadays I dislike them because I see how terrifying they are for pets and know must be even more so for wildlife. Selfish humans - AGAIN!!!

Birgit W - just a note - ? the laterns you mention could be a danger to wildlife as highlighted here: