Dear Recyclebank: How can I work toward a waste-free Independence Day? –Juliana A.
Dear Juliana: Nothing says Americana quite like a 4th of July BBQ. But once the fireworks end, and the guests head home, there comes the dreaded clean up, when we wish we’d planned ahead to avoid a cumbersome trash pile. Working towards a waste-free holiday isn’t just easier on the host — it’s good for the planet, too. That’s why we’ve collected some of our favorite things that you can do to bring some green into your red, white, and blue festivities this year.
If you’re the brave host of a summer BBQ this year, be sure to communicate to party guests that you are focused on keeping your BBQ waste free. Encourage your guests to bring homemade goodies in reusable containers instead of bringing store-bought treats. Homemade treats are often better anyway.
The most important thing you can do as a host is to cut out single-use plastic — the quintessential plastic party-cup (and don’t even think about plastic straws). If you’re planning on buying those two-liter bottles of soft drinks, use reusable plastic or glass cups that you already own and can wash after use. Or consider buying soft drinks in aluminum cans, or glass bottles, which need just a quick rinse before they can be tossed in the recycling bin. Make sure you have a recycling container set up in a can’t-miss-it spot for returnables like bottles and cans. While cups can be avoided, things like plates and utensils generally can’t. Reusable plates are more preferable than disposable plates, but if they aren’t practical for your BBQ, opt for compostable plates — just make sure to tell your guests that these plates don’t belong in the trash!
Waste doesn’t stop at the dinner table. Those playful fireworks are actually no good for the environment, as they release chemicals that gain access to our soil and water. Instead of contributing to this by buying your own fireworks, move the party to the street, and take an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood for some firework hunting.
Not everyone will be hosting their own 4th of July party; some of us have to be the party guests attending these shindigs. If you’re heading elsewhere for your festivities, there are still plenty of ways to minimize your footprint — starting with how you get to where you’re going. For local BBQs, walk or ride your bike to the fun! In addition to cutting back on your carbon emissions you’ll get to make the most of the short-lived summer weather! For parties farther away, reach out to other party guests, if you can, and plan a carpool — this may even get the party started sooner.
As is true of any celebration, what you bring with you matters most. When it comes to making a side dish, try to buy fresh local ingredients from a farm stand or farmers market near you. This reduces the carbon footprint of your food — because less fuel is burned to get it to you — while supporting the local economy. Be sure to remember your reusable grocery bags. Once your prep is done, pack your party goodies in one of many reusable food-carriage systems, and you’re good to go!