As our country celebrates its 231st birthday today, many of us are planning a fun-filled day of barbecues, sun, and fireworks. Whatever your level of patriotism towards the good old U.S. of A., we can all do our best to protect our beautiful earth by keeping green in mind for the holiday. Here are a few ways we can all make our star-spangled banner a bit more green.

1. Choose your food wisely
Opt for locally-grown and/or organic produce, avoid foods produced or raised on factory farms or with chemicals and nasty preservatives. Or go a step further and go the vegetarian route, which, aside from the pro-animal argument, is an excellent health and culinary choice in its environmental benefits (industrial meat production accounts for much of the world’s water resources, emissions, land use, and oil consumption, and giving up meat is the single most important thing you can do for to fight global warming). Jill would like to remind you that veggie burgers and tofu-pups taste great and are healthier, cheaper and easier to cook than traditional burgers – so give them a try on your BBQ this year. The Center For Informed Food Choices is a great resource for finding information about the food you buy, and eventually put on the table.

2. Eco-friendly Picnicware
Instead of grabbing the stack of styrofoam plates, opt for greener tableware and utensils. Options like Eatware compostable food containers, bamboo plates, and biodegradable cups are all readily available and inexpensive. Check out Branch’s great selection of eco-friendly kitchen and picnic items.

3. Alternative fireworks
Unfortunately, fireworks are not the safest or greenest spectacle around, but they’re just so darn pretty that they’re hard to cut out of the 4th of July experience entirely. From gunpowder fall out to smoke and dust that contain various heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and other noxious chemicals, fireworks are decidedly un-green. Your best bet is to say no to home fireworks and sparklers and opt for other colorful decorations like ribbon streamers (maybe even home-made recycled newspaper ones!). And maybe even have a chat with your local fireworks authorities- they might be willing to look into using Sekon biodegradable fireworks next year (the gunpowder-free “air launch” technology that Disney now uses).

4. A Greener Grill
Despite all the smoke and ash, barbecuing can actually be a relatively eco-friendly process if you choose your material wisely. There are a variety of sustainably-produced charcoal, including Wicked Good Charcoal, made from industrial scrap wood, or Kingsford Charwood, which is produced using clean-energy turbine heat. And surprisingly, propane isn’t as evil as you might think- granted its origins are less than wonderful in terms of sustainability, but it still produces close to half the emissions of generic charcoals.

This one should be a no-brainer by now, but once midnight rolls around and your picnic grounds are littered with soda cans and glass beer bottles, make sure to round them all up and deliver them to the proper recycling facilities.

The fourth of July is about independence, and a good time to celebrate the idea not just historically, but by looking forward towards American energy independence and a more value-based and far-reaching environmental policy. We live in a great country, have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. Here’s to progress, independence, and living good green lives as American citizens.


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  1. kayla January 7, 2008 at 1:57 pm


  2. Fred July 9, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Check this US Carbon Footprint Map out, has United States Interactive Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State energy consumptions, demographics and State energy offices.

  3. GreenGirl July 6, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Great points on the recyclable dinnerware (and using permanent stuff if it’s accessible)… but how about shopping at the store when you buy all of the food, groceries, drinks, and supplies for the fab Fourth party, or any other for that matter? Pay attention to companies who support (with pr & money) environmental change programs and support THEM by buying their goods.

    Also, when you go to checkout, tell them to keep their horrid plastic bags which kill the environment (not to mention all things living in it) and take your own reusable grocery tote bags. I read the other day that each American uses an average of 500 of these plastic bags per year, that’s disgusting when there are such better alternatives out there.

    I have a set of these:, but there are others out there to pick from, just get something that allows you to reuse it over and over again! It’s the little changes like these that will truly change our world and it’s current path.

  4. 设计界 » Blog ... July 5, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    […] at Inhabitat does a terrific post that we should have thought of and called “how to green your holiday,” suggesting: […]

  5. Angus July 5, 2007 at 10:05 am

    RE TAO:
    yes the rockets red glare as well as the bombs bursting in air… but keep in mind that particular war was for the very independence we have now. commemoration of its impact and the value of its history has nothing to do with whether you support the current state of world engagement or not… (and hopefully not!). war is not in all cases an evil endeavor. don’t let the pendulum swing out of control!

  6. J July 5, 2007 at 8:28 am

    >>”I’ve boycotted fireworks displays since I was in college and realized that the “pretty” rocket’s “red glare” is a metaphor for war, which, especially now, means I have no reason to enjoy watching or hearing this, especially when people are cheering over it.”>> yes Tao, its a metaphor of a very particular war, THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Our independence had to be fought and won, not all wars are waged on empty threats and lies. We have every reason to cheer and remember the hard fight our forefathers put up so we can enjoy the freedom and independence we have now. Not to say the assertions here about the greeness of fireworks is untrue, but to fail to recognize why we do it in the first place is just plain ignorance. Maybe we can start having cool laser shows and stuff instead of fireworks in the near future, who knows, but to deny or forget the sacrifices made to build this nation is simply not an option.

  7. The Tao of Change &raqu... July 4, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    […] not the patriotism I mind, it’s the fireworks. First, they are bad for the environment. says, “From gunpowder fall out to smoke and dust that contain various heavy metals, […]

  8. Tao July 4, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    I’m glad somebody’s finally talking about the damage that fireworks do to our environment. However, it doesn’t stop there – fireworks used at home injure many people every year and can be the start of fires. City organized fireworks may injure less people, but most animals suffer when subjected to this noise, even from a distance. Pets who stay in doors are still at risk. My own, ordinarily calm and courageous dog shakes, drools and pants with terror as soon as the first rocket fires (sometimes as early as Noon!) and I know of another dog who jumped into a plate glass window to escape, was lost for days and badly injured. I can only imagine how this may affect surrounding wildlife.

    I’ve boycotted fireworks displays since I was in college and realized that the “pretty” rocket’s “red glare” is a metaphor for war, which, especially now, means I have no reason to enjoy watching or hearing this, especially when people are cheering over it. I say we need to evolve and ban fireworks for good. How about a light show or raising flags or music? Let’s make July 4th creative, safe and eco-friendly – once and for all.
    Tao of Change

  9. Bryce July 4, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Beyond its green benefits, if you’re planning any kind of romantic picnic, real dishes, utensils and the like take things up a step.

  10. Jill July 4, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Great point Danielle – thank you. Yes, we should have considered this in the article: the most green way to picnic is to use washable/reauseable/portable plates and cups made out of plastic or metal. Plastic stuff like tupperware can be found at the goodwill, and Indian-style stainless steel plates and cups are also durable and lightweight and good for picnics:


  11. Blue Sky Mining »... July 4, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    […] = “3b98d3″; google_color_text = “ffffff”; google_color_url = “ffffff”; Emily at Inhabitat does a terrific post that we should have thought of and called “how to green your holiday,” suggesting: […]

  12. Danielle July 4, 2007 at 7:24 am

    Instead of disposable (even if biodegradable) picnicware, choose reusable, already existing plates, cloth napkins and metal utensils! Buying new and throwing away is eco-hype. True sustainability is using already existing products, and then re-using them! Goodwill, etc. is a great place to find inexpensive second-hand dishes (even plastic, or tupperware – although I’d never advise to buy new plastic or tupperware- if its too cumbersome to carry “real” dishes)
    Thanks for reminding us that party-time is still eco-time, and a great occasion to rethink how we do things. Thanks for your sustainability site. I just discovered it.

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