Although the Fourth of July is a wonderful time to celebrate our freedom with friends and family, with all the cups, utensils and fireworks we end up using, it’s also one of our most wasteful holidays! So this year, why not take advantage of our six ideas that will help you green-up your festivities without sacrificing an ounce of fun. In fact, it might surprise you to find that following our tips could actually increase the fun quotient while sparing the planet at the same time.

Skewers of vegetables

1. Go meatless for the day

Nothing says Independence Day like a backyard barbecue, but the global meat industry has put a terrible strain on the planet. This year, ditch the pork chops and steaks and consider some delicious vegetarian grilling recipes instead. Although forgoing the meat might seem akin to sacrilege, there are so many more creative dishes available that are good for your health and the planet.

A brown package that reads "100 percent biodegradable recyclable"

2. Use real plates

When you have 15 guests coming around, it’s so easy to break out the paper plates to avoid a sink full of dishes. But imagine the waste if every American went this route! If washing your own dishes in a water-saving dishwasher doesn’t sound appealing, it is now possible to purchase biodegradable packaging that won’t clog up the landfill.

Buses driving in the city

3. Use public transportation

If you live out in the middle of Iowa, taking a bus or train to your friend’s house might not be possible for you. But most city dwellers certainly do have this option. Using public transportation, or even cycling instead of driving a car, has more than one benefit: not only will you reduce your carbon footprint for the day, but you won’t have to drive home after drinking! Which brings us to our next point…

Wooden barrels

4. Buy kegs instead of cans and bottles

Don’t take this the wrong way — Inhabitat isn’t endorsing national drunkenness, but we are realistic. People have the day off, they’re hanging out with their favorite people… beer will be had. Instead of buying a stack of cans and bottles that use up a lot of unnecessary materials, consider purchasing a keg. This is cheaper, usually, and you’ll have zero waste — especially if you use your own mugs or compostable cups.

Red popsicles on a blue plate

5. Cool down with a batch of delicious organic popsicles

If drinking beer isn’t your thing, or you’re celebrating the holiday with a handful of screaming young children, consider following our recipes for 30 kinds of delicious organic popsicles. They’re so easy to make and contain none of the junk that store-bought popsicles do. Plus, you won’t produce any waste as a byproduct of enjoying one of our favorite summer treats.

A white outdoor light on white background

6. Enjoy a sunset with wind- and solar-powered lights

Sunset is probably our favorite part of the Fourth of July. Not that we’re excited for the day to end, but the temperature simmers down at last, and the sky fills up with the vibrant colors of fireworks. Make the ambiance last and reduce your energy footprint by using wind and solar lights. They’re easy to find at IKEA, and they’ll impress the daylights out of your friends and family! Have a happy and green Fourth of July!

Images via Nigel Howe, Shutterstock (1, 2, 3, 4), Inhabitat and IKEA