Independence Day, terrify your dogs with loud explosions day, July Fourth, old dead white men day — however you choose to acknowledge the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, it’s a dangerous roman-candle littered obstacle course for anyone trying to live sustainably.

We can help!


Food – what to eat, what to avoid, how to eat it, how to avoid it

Fake dyes, processed foods, meat, meat, and more meat: these are a few of the traditional celebratory “foods” we put into our bodies on the 4th. They are bad for you and also for the planet for various reasons depending on the thing. #muchsentencewow #englishmajor

If you really want to honor your country by eating foods that are the same color as the flag, reexamine what patriotism means to you* or check out the Honest Company’s blog post on festive foods that are naturally red, white, and blue.

If you insist on eating meat, try to stick to grass fed beef** — the closer you are to the farm and the more you know about it, the better. Not only will local, grass-fed beef probably be tastier, but the cows will have been pumped with fewer antibiotics, and will have gorged on less of the subsidized monoculture corn that is destroying our farmland.

But grilling veggies is easy and yummy, as a replacement or an addition. Some veggies that are delicious grilled include: all of them pretty much (for real though, zucchini, summer squash, artichoke, mushrooms {if you’re into that kind of thing} are all amazing on the grill). And I know some people take their grilling very seriously, so to bump grilling veggies up to an art form, here’s a recipe for blueberry bbq sauce.

These are best thing that ever happened to fake meat. Veggie dogs kinda fall into the ‘your fave is problematic’ category, but they are still my go-to bring-along to the family barbecue. We’re not going to tackle the giant monolith that is industrial soy right now, but trust me when I say, soy production is still more sustainable than beef/pork/chicken. And if your patriotic aunt sticks her nose up at the prospect of grilling you a zucchini these are a pretty good compromise.

Navigating what to eat is hard enough, but how do you cook it sustainably? Fortunately Grist has a fantastic article on the greenest way to grill — you should check it out and plan accordingly.

If you’re full veg – check out all these amazing recipes while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

And we musn’t forget beverages. To really celebrate America, why not buy locally brewed (and maybe even sourced) beer? Sure, Budweiser is American-made technically, but transportation and agriculture issues aside, do you really believe that’s the best your country can offer you?


Be Conscious of Waste – these things are true any day of the year

Please please please please please please PLEASE, don’t use paper plates and plastic cutlery.

If you aren’t the party planner, I highly recommend investing in portable silverware and plates. You can also just bring your own regular kitchen-ware from home. Yes, the other party-goers will look at you like you are half-zebra, but you can enjoy the self-righteousness feelings of environmental superiority when they all look longingly at your sturdy plate and utensils as their pasta salad drips onto the grass out of their soggy wasteful paper contraption. #swingyournalgenelow

Please for the love of all that is holy, recycle any and all of the cans from the libations you consume. (Story time: Jessi used to work at a boat landing and one time she had a shift a day or so after the 4th and someone had FILLED THE PORTA-POTTY WITH BEER CANS. Protip: that is the wrong way to do beer cans on holidays.)


Fireworks – boss level

Here’s the thing about Fireworks. Yes, they are pretty. Yes, the pyro in me always goes oooh cool. But they are literally fossil fuel bombs we shoot up into the sky. Fireworks are made of a chemical colorant and gunpowder. Gunpowder is made of sulfur and charcoal. And charcoal is an amorphous form of carbon that’s obtained when a residue of wood, bone, or other organic matter is heated in the absence of air: in other words, fossil fuel. So, they may be pretty, but their production and use is contributing to climate change.

So, if the idea of commemorating “bombs bursting in air,” or the toxic chemicals and ash that rain from fireworks gross you out, here are some alternatives: lazer tag battle (you can even recreate authentic british-colonial warfare #huzzah #yaywar), stargazing, glow party, firefly racing, making out.

God bless America.


*This coming from someone who can’t function in a social setting unless there is a theme. I talk a tough game, but please go hard with the red white and blue, I am here to support you
**If you find yourself stranded with no recourse but the processed blahh at your cousin’s dogs, friends, co-workers Independance Day fire-pit I’ll forgive you for grabbing a hotdog. Hotdogs get a bad rap, but as far as eating processed meat goes when it comes to the environment, they actually encourage the use of a lot of meat that otherwise would get thrown away. Plus relish is delicious.

Written by Jessi Lawrence

Jessi's greatest dream is to start an LGBT bicycle gang called "Mermaids on Bikes." She is a ~recent graduate~ of Smith College w/ an experiential major in being militant about her beliefs. She's vegan, particularly cares about the intersection of social & environmental issues, & has feelings about it.

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