Fireworks have to be the single most ironic thing. So beautiful. So dangerous. So Ariana-Grande-Circa-2016. And yet every year, with or without legal authorization, fireworks light up the sky across the nation in the name of Liberté.
In the spirit of the 4th, which happens to coincide with Plastic Free July, here are a few easy ways to cut back on your waste this holiday. Maybe you pick just one of these tips and commit to it. Maybe you take them all on. Regardless, you’ll be making America very proud.
1. Straws suck.
Unless you have a medical condition, there is no legitimate reason to use a straw. Period. Straws can never be recycled so once you’ve finished your drink, that’s it—end of the line. And although your one straw may seem insignificant in the moment, try to imagine how many people are thinking the exact same thing.
What can replace that little sucker? Personally, I’ll be carrying my metal straw with me for the next couple of days. It’s easy to clean and fairly inconspicuous. But, there’s always the option to go without. If you’re ordering drinks, just ask the bartender to skip the straw and urge friends and family to do the same. And if you’re hosting the party at your place, don’t even offer straws. Trust me, if the drinks are good, no one will notice the difference.
2. Glow sticks are cool. Also, terrible.
Glow sticks were a staple of my childhood 4th of July celebrations. And as much as I love their satisfying snap, the truth is glow sticks are pretty ecologically inconsiderate. For one, they’re entirely made of plastic and unfortunately, can never be recycled. Two, inside those flexible vessels of joy, are all kinds of nasty chemicals, including Phenyl oxalate ester (a chemical used in nail polish), that you don’t want on your skin or leaking out of a landfill into your drinking water.
While we’re on the topic of holiday-themed knickknacks, I also want to urge you to avoid any of the following items:
- Plastic necklaces
- Anything designed to make annoying sounds
- Cheap sunglasses
- T-shirts you won’t even sleep in
- Plastic cups
Unless you can see yourself using it for years to come, save yourself the spring cleaning and leave emptyhanded.
3. Take public transit.
Depending on where you live, public transit can be a more relaxing way to travel during the holiday. Fourth of July weekend is one of the most congested travel periods and particularly in busy, metropolitan areas, even a few less cars on the road can help traffic move more smoothly. By taking the bus or train, you’re removing unnecessary vehicles from the road and maybe even reaping discounted or free public fares in return. If public transit isn’t in the equation for you, try to get a group together and carpool instead.
4. Pick up after yourself.
This one should be implied but unfortunately, I’ve seen one too many grown-ass adults drop their trash in the middle of the sidewalk to not become skeptical. Point blank—if you make trash, own it. Throw out anything that can’t be composted or recycled and if those options are available, walk the extra block to dispose of food and bottles properly. Please, and thank you.
Stay green and Happy 4th!