As family and friends gather this summer for barbecues, picnics and parties, there will be plenty of memories being made and waste being produced. Each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. WM wants to encourage consumers to keep a few safety and environmental tips in mind at summer festivities.
As you plan your Fourth of July barbecue or picnic, here are some ways for disposing of, reducing, reusing and recycling waste.
Using reusable dishware is always best, as it reduces waste going to the landfill. If that’s not practical, try to buy environmentally friendly, disposable tableware instead. Look for products made out of renewable, plant-based materials like sugar cane and bamboo that will biodegrade in compost piles and landfills.
When entertaining, be sure to provide a convenient, clearly marked receptacle for recycling next to any trash cans. To further decrease waste going to the landfill, add a bin for food scraps that you can compost later.
Buy Local Foods
Think locally when planning your menu. Shipping ingredients from another part of the country, or even the world requires a tremendous amount of fuel. Look to your nearest farmers’ market for in-season fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, eggs and dairy products. They’re fresher and are often priced the lowest.
Use Aluminum Foil
Clean foil can be crumpled up and tossed into the recycling bin, making it better than plastic wrap to cover and store food.
Scrap your traditional paper party invitations and go digital! Online evites are often free, and help cut back on the four billion trees forested each year for paper products.
Carpool, Ride Your Bike or Take Public Transportation
Encourage guests to car pool; it helps save time, money and the environment! Let guests know who else is coming from their area, and offer to put them in contact with someone who might be able to give them a ride, or might appreciate getting a ride from them. For guests that are arriving on a bicycle, offer a secure place for them to store their bicycle and helmet. Help them identify possible bicycle-friendly routes to the event. Provide guests that are riding a bus or other public transportation with the location of the closest bus or train stop to the event and clear directions on how to get to the event from their stop.
Use Sustainably Sourced Firewood
Using coals made from invasive tree species or trees from sustainably managed forests is better for the environment. Additionally, petroleum-free charcoal starter is available for purchase at many household discount and hardware stores. Remember coals or ashes fresh from the barbecue should never be put directly into your collection container. They should instead be cooled for several days and then placed in a metal container with a tight lid for proper disposal. To speed up the cooling process, you may carefully place coals in a metal container full of water to “drown” them like you would a campfire. Never place them in plastic, paper or wood containers.
If your community allows the use of fireworks, remember that fireworks also require special handling when the celebration is over. The National Council on Fireworks Safety advises soaking used fireworks in water and letting them sit for 15 minutes before disposal. Dispose of all fireworks debris, used matches, wrappers, etc. in your trash can to prevent littering and water contamination from gunpowder residue.
Furthermore, fireworks spew gunpowder, heavy metals and accelerants into our air. To help improve air quality and still enjoy the fireworks festivities, avoid setting off personal displays, and check out your local area’s show. You can also encourage your city officials to start using more environmentally friendly fireworks methods.
With just a little extra effort, you can have a safe, fun and eco-friendly Fourth of July. We know summer is a fun and busy time, and hope these simple tips will help keep thinking green a priority.