Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How To Have a Greener Fourth of July

July 1, 2014
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