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Proper Green: Fireworks for the Fourth?

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Fireworks are a tradition we’re not ready to give up; here’s why! Plus, 5 ways to make your fireworks experience greener.
Dear Proper Green,

I’m heading to the local fireworks display for Fourth of July. Are fireworks bad for the environment?

-Eileen R., MI



Dear Eileen,

The explosions and colors that make fireworks so enjoyable are the result of the combination of many powerful chemicals and metals. As you know, what goes up, must come down — so the chemicals that power the fireworks into the sky, and the metals that color them, linger in the air and then make their way back to the ground.

Little research has been done on the long-term effects of fireworks on the environment near a fireworks display, so it’s hard to say for sure whether they are either “good” or “bad”. We do know that really large quantities of any of the individual chemicals or metals would be bad for the local air, land, and water, but as fireworks don’t emit those large quantities, and as fireworks displays happen relatively infrequently, it’s probably a better use of your time to make sure that what you do while you enjoy the fireworks is as green as possible.

Here are some ideas so you can attend a fireworks display the same way you would go camping or hiking, by leaving nothing behind:

  • Travel Lightly: If possible, walk, bike, take public transportation, or car pool to the fireworks. If you head out in your own vehicle, pack lightly to get more gas mileage.
  • Bring Reusables: Make your own snacks, and pack the snacks and any drinks in reusable containers. Bring finger foods so you don’t require any utensils, and you’ll reduce waste and cleanup!
  • Repel Naturally: You can reduce waste and the use of unnecessary chemicals by trying out a make-your-own bug spray.
  • Leave Nothing Behind: I’m not ignoring the need for napkins, or the fact that many favorite, easily-portable drinks come in their own containers. Rather than placing them in a park trash can, bring one bag or container for your recyclables and one for your trash, and dispose of them at home.
  • Plan for Next Year: If you find yourself in the market for bigger fireworks- and general picnicking-items, shop around for green goods. Consider lawn blankets made with organic or recycled-cotton, or bamboo folding


How are you greening your 4th of July? Share your ideas in the comments below!
About Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and the environment are still evolving) to providing easy ways to make your every day more sustainable, Proper Green aims to help smooth the way with answers to questions that are important to you!

Do you have a question for Proper Green? Send inquiries to propergreen@recyclebank.com. Please note: Questions may be edited for clarity and length.


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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more