4 Tips for a Sustainable 4th of July

Marley Flueger

Did Somebody Say Vegan Barbecue?

There’s nothing like getting together with loved ones, especially after all the time we spent sheltering at home last year. And with the 4th of July just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to cut loose and reconnect. 

This year, host a holiday shindig that your favorite people and the planet will enjoy. Get started with these four high-impact tips for a sustainable 4th of July. 

1. Opt for Earth-Friendly Eats

Holiday celebrations center around good food and great company. But it can be hard to scale your personal sustainability practices to accommodate a large (and hungry!) group. Try these easy strategies for big meals with small footprints. 

Power Move: Host a Vegan Barbecue

Burgers, baby back ribs, and hot dogs top most 4th of July menus. Unfortunately, they also top the list of climate polluters. Beef’s carbon footprint is six times greater than that of chicken, and ten times greater than that of most plant-based proteins. 

That’s why hosting a vegan barbecue is one of the most sustainable choices you can make. Influencing just ten people to eat an Impossible Burger instead of a regular burger for a single meal has a carbon impact greater than that of planting a tree and growing it for a year and a half. 

It might feel daunting to ditch red meat, but plant-based proteins have come a long way in recent years. Try these vegan barbecue swaps that even your “meat and potatoes” friends will enjoy.

  • Meat Alternatives: For plant-based burgers and brats, look no further than Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. For a planet-friendly alternative to poultry, throw some Daring Chicken on the grill.  
  • Vegan Cheese: Cows are the least sustainable livestock. Unfortunately, their footprint gets passed on to cheese, too. Daiya and Violife are popular (and tasty) vegan alternatives. Your friends might not even notice the swap. 
  • Vegan Condiments: Rejoice! Most condiments are naturally vegan. Just swap in vegan Just Mayo and double-check you’re using vegan barbecue sauce. Sweet Baby Rays, Heinz, and Kraft all make the cut.
  • Vegan Barbecue Recipes: Check out these round-ups from No Sweat Vegan and The Green Loot for pro-planet 4th of July dishes. 

Other Tips for Earth-Friendly Eating

  • Cook from Scratch: Home-cooking gives you more control over your ingredients and reduces packaging waste. Put on your chef’s hat and whip up a dish that your guests will be talking about all summer:
  • Eat In-Season and Regional: Food grown close to home is often fresher, higher-quality, and better for your local economy. Opt for seasonal eats to avoid the energy-intensive practices required for out-of-season produce. 

  • Collect Compost Scraps: Capture vegan barbecue scraps by designating a compost bin at your party. If you don’t home compost yet, a local community garden is sure to welcome your weekend waste.
  • Sip Sustainably: When it comes to cheers’n & beers’n – some beverages are more sustainable than others. Clink cups with one of these eco-friendly alcohol brands, or try Proud Pour for sustainable wine and cider. When possible, pick beer or wine in aluminum cans or Tetra Pak packaging, which are more easily recyclable, over plastic or glass packaging. 

2. Pass on Party Waste

Holiday celebrations can generate a lot of waste. Hosting a group is a lot of work, and we often end up prioritizing convenience over conscious choices. But by planning ahead, you can make small changes that have a big impact on the planet. 

Power Move: Use Sustainable Dinnerware 

The reason single-use cups, plates, and silverware are so popular is because they’re easy. But all that trash winds up in landfills, or worse, our eco-systems. When you’re planning for your party, consider this dinnerware hierarchy:

  • Worst – Styrofoam: Not only do styrofoam cups and containers take hundreds of years to decompose, they leech harmful chemicals into the environment while they’re at it. 
  • Moderate – Recyclable: Recyclables are better, but be aware: of the 380 billion tons of plastic we produce each year, less than 9% actually gets recycled. Check which types of plastic your city or town recycles, and choose products that fit the bill. 
  • Better – Paper & Compost: If reusables aren’t realistic, opt for paper or compostable dinnerware. Even if you’re not in an area with composting, paper and compostable materials will at least have a lower footprint than styrofoam or plastic. 
  • Best – Reusable: When it comes to sustainability, reusable dinnerware reigns supreme. Plus, the feeling of real dinnerware elevates any party. Just do your best to use what you already own and avoid buying new dishes. 

Other Ways to Cut Waste

  • Go Family Style: Plastic bottles, ketchup packets, and individually-wrapped silverware sets pile up quickly. Serve drinks from large containers, bring condiments from home, and opt for party-sized packages. 
  • Designate Dinnerware: If you’re using single-use items, set a permanent marker out so your guests can keep track of their personal cups and plates. 
  • Potluck Plates & Containers: Add a sustainability note to your invite and encourage guests to cook and pack their food in reusable containers for potluck dishes. (And bring an extra one for leftovers!)
  • Eco-Friendly Party Supplies: Streamers, confetti, and plastic decor are often only used once. Instead, make sustainable centerpieces from wildflowers or garden blooms, light reusable lanterns or beeswax candles for ambiance, and get creative with decorations you already own.

3. Skip the Toxic Traditions

Opting for vegan barbecue and sustainable cutlery can cut your party’s carbon footprint, but be mindful of the pollution associated with other parts of 4th of July. 

Power Move: Skip the Fireworks Stand

US air quality levels plummet on the 4th of July, thanks to a billion dollars of fireworks blasting off. They may be quintessential to the holiday, but fireworks are packed with pollutants and heavy metals that pollute our lungs and ecosystems. Plus, with the 2021 drought in full swing, they risk igniting a runway blaze. 

Instead of lighting backyard fireworks, walk, bike, or carpool to a nearby public display once the sun sets. Better yet, check for 4th of July laser shows in your region, or stay home and make star spangled s’mores over the grill. 

Other Ways to Cut Pollution

  • Use a Sustainable Grilling Medium: Charcoal grills have a carbon footprint nearly three times higher than gas-powered ones and are banned in high-risk fire zones. Gas grills can save around 4.4kg CO2e per event, that’s comparable to an 11 mile car ride! Invest in an electric or pellet grill for an even more sustainable alternative. 
  • Use Mineral-Based Sunscreen: Conventional sunscreen is harmful to freshwater and marine wildlife (coral in particular). If you’re celebrating near a natural water source, use a mineral-based sunscreen before you escape the heat and take a dip. 
  • Organize a Clean-Up: After you munch down on your vegan barbecue, gather your crew to hit a local park and pick up trash. Make sure to designate bags for both landfill and recycling-center bound materials. There’s nothing more satisfying than a good beach cleanup - but don’t take our word for it. These pictures say a thousand words.

4. Kickstart a Climate Conversation

While getting together for the 4th means pandemic conditions are improving, there’s another crisis getting worse. When you’ve got your favorite people gathered together, find ways to put climate on the menu. 

Power Move: Connect Climate to Current Events 

The 2021 wildfire and drought season is - frankly - insane. With over half the continental US impacted, it’s a topic that’s on everyone’s mind. If someone brings up the sweltering heat, tie it back to human-driven climate change. Our article on droughts, climate change, and eco-anxiety unpacks the issue further. 

Other Ways to Put Climate on the Table

  • Practice Climate Conversations: It may feel weird to bring up the climate crisis at a light-hearted get-together, but it’s important. Chances are it’s on your guests minds, too, but they’re hesitant to mention it. Break the cycle of climate silence with these tips for climate conversations.
  • Read the Room: Climate change is confusing, but there’s no shortage of incredible resources to demystify the crisis. Brush up on the details with one of these climate reads, and bring along to lend out to an interested guest. 
  • Activate Your Crew: In 2020, Joro users saved 22% more carbon when they connected with friends on the app. Call in your crew to take climate action alongside you and  download Joro today. Bonus: with our new referral program, you’ll receive a $5 offset credit for every new user you recruit!

Be a Net Zero Hero

Making sustainable choices is important, but we live in a fossil-fueled world. Even the best eco-friendly party host will still have a small carbon footprint. Joro’s Net Zero Membership automatically compensates for everything you buy through high quality carbon offsets. Go Net-Zero today to fund the solutions that matter most to solve the climate crisis.

A climate action practice is the daily exercise of bringing awareness and intention to reduce the carbon emissions within your control.

Grow your practice with exclusive tips and advice.

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