The #Fourth Of July is the pinnacle of an American summer, and here in the USA, we don’t hesitate to celebrate our Independence day to the fullest extent. In 2015, 42 million people traveled at least 50 miles to attend festivities. According to US News, of those, 35.5 million traveled by car, 3.2 million flew, and boats, trains, and buses carried the remaining 3.2 million people. Barbecues around the country resulted in 150 million hot dogs consumed, and $247.1 million dollars were spent on fireworks.

As exciting and extravagant as this all sounds, it does not come without consequences. Fireworks fill our air with toxic smoke and scatter plastic debris that seep contaminants into our soil and water.

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Most backyard BBQs feature disposable plates and plastic water bottles. In 2016, 40 tons of trash was cleared from Fort Lauderdale beach. That's only one city. However, there’s no need to forgo the festivities just yet. Here are some simple ways to have an eco-friendly Fourth of July.

Opt for greener fireworks

A 4th of July without fireworks is out of the question. It’s a beloved tradition but unfortunately harmful to the environment. If you’re planning on hosting your own firework display and your wallet allows for it, opt for fireworks rich in nitrogen. These put less smoke in the air and contain less harmful chemicals.

Whether you buy traditional fireworks or “greener” ones, make sure you set them off from a single location. This makes the debris more concentrated, and easier to clean up.

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This is an incredibly important step. The longer you leave debris on the ground, the more chemicals will seep out and contaminate our neighborhoods.

Fireworks are considered explosives, and cannot be recycled. The National Council on Fireworks Safety says to “Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.” You can also contact your local fire department and ask about firework disposal in your county.

Fireworks are expensive, and clean-up can be a hassle. While there's no true, green firework option, the most eco-friendly (for environment and economy) way to enjoy them would be to attend a local, public firework display. This is a great way to see bigger and more extravagant shows.

Say goodbye to plastic

Plastic is cheap, easy, and convenient. There’s no denying that disposable plates and cups are a hassle-free option when throwing a large party. But it’s so harmful to the environment it’s just not worth it.

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Plastic can take anywhere from 450 to 1000 years to break down! That means they could still be around on July 4th, 3017. These plastic bottles end up in our oceans and rivers, harming wildlife and making our beautiful country a 3.797 million mi² dumpster.

Spare your wallet and use regular dining plates and cups, or encourage guest to bring their own. Try hosting a contest for the craziest design as an incentive. If you still want to go the disposable route, put in a couple extra cents and purchase biodegradable and recycled plates, utensils, and cups. If you’ve never bought them before, opt for paper straws! They come in cute festive colors and designs, are strong enough for multiple uses without getting soggy, and are 100 percent biodegradable.

Use propane for grilling

Any barbecue invites the debate over propane vs. charcoal. Which one produces more flavor? Which is cheaper? Faster? While opinions may vary, there’s one fact that remains: propane is the greener option.

According to a study conducted by the Environment Impact Assessment Review, “the overwhelming factors are that as a fuel, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production and considerably more efficient in cooking.” It all comes down to the overall carbon footprint of each option. Charcoal produces 998 kg of carbon dioxide while propane used 349 kg. Another benefit of using propane is the trade-in option. Most stores let you bring an empty tank and give you discounts on a new one.

Shop local

You keep hearing this over and over, but why is it important? Shopping locally instead of at large national retailers reduces food miles (the distance food travels to get to you). After all, your food shouldn't be traveling more than you. Shopping local isn’t only good for the environment, it's good for the community and local economy. The easiest way to shop locally is for food. Check out local farmers markets, or do a quick search to find local farmers and vendors near you. If you can’t make it to a farmers market, remember that fresh is best. Make the eco-friendly choices at your grocery store by skipping the cans. Not only do they have a ton of additives, less nutritional value, and extra junk your body will thank you for not ingesting, but you won’t be producing any extra waste.

Save your decorations

Every Fourth of July has the same, basic decor: Red, white, and blue. In 2015, 48 million Americans bought party supplies and apparel, averaging at $71.23 per household, only to throw most of these away. Save yourself time and money by storing your decorations away for next year. You or someone you know can use them at your next Independence day celebration or backyard party.

Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Before the festivities begin, make sure to have a clearly marked recycling bin and a trash bin at your party. Any disposable dinnerware, plastic cups, utensils, and bottles can all be recycled. Paper plates and straws must be thrown out because of food residue.

When it all comes down to it, Fourth of July is a celebration of our beautiful nation, and we must work all together to protect it and keep it clean. Have a happy, and hopefully eco-friendly, Independence day. #Eco Friendly #Climate Change