Fourth of July celebrations call to mind backyard sparklers, burgers on paper plates, and hands holding red plastic cups. Fireworks fill the sky after the sun sets. The next day there are garbage bags filled with evidence of the fun - but are there things we can do to reduce that waste?
For the past ten years, people have been participating in Plastic Free July - a challenge to use no (or less) plastic in the month of July with the goal of reducing plastic use throughout the year. Plastic Free July started in Australia, but has since been practiced all over the globe. According to plasticfreejuly.org, in July 2020, 326 million people from 177 countries participated. Further, people who participate reduce their household waste by 5%, and 8.5 out of 10 people who participate make changes that become a habit.
If this sounds interesting, you can sign up to take the challenge and check out some tips to get started.
Plastic Free July isn’t the only challenge you can participate in. If you want to do a plastic free July, but would like to sign on with a community closer to home, the Coalition of North American Zoos and Aquariums has a Plastic Free Challenge in July. Hennepin County also does a Zero Waste Challenge, and is accepting applications in August 2021. Other cities and counties may host their own challenges too - check out your local community websites to see how you can participate in your neighborhood.
But back to the Fourth of July - here are some specific ways to reduce waste at your celebrations:
These ideas aren’t just for the Fourth of July, they can be carried forward for any celebration. What other ways have you been reducing waste and practicing reuse this summer?
- Bring reusable cups/plates/utensils/napkins. Yes, this means keeping track of the items and bringing them home to clean. Instead of a plastic bag for garbage, bring a reusable tote to collect dirty dishes/utensils and a bag for napkins.
- Avoid plastic packaging on your food by purchasing fresh, local produce and buying from a butcher. Sometimes packaging is a necessary way to preserve food and prevent wasted food (which has a significant environmental impact), but when you’re buying more directly (farm to table!), it can be easier to avoid unnecessary packaging and support the local economy.
- Instead of bottled/canned beverages, brew your own iced tea and/or set up a water station.
- Use a reusable cooler instead of a Styrofoam one.