Holidays often lend themselves to excess consumption and inconsiderate resource use. Of course, you, dear Ecocentric readers, care too deeply to throw your environmentalism to the smoke-filled wind, so this 4th of July, we show you how a few simple tweaks to a barbecue can reduce your impact on the planet. Call it a red, white, blue and greener celebration, and share your ideas in the comment section!
1. Make this Independence Day a Meatless Monday ! Meat production takes a heavy toll on the environment, so this 4th, hop on the Monday bandwagon. Visit the Monday Campaigns for tasty recipes like this BBQ Tart Cherry Tempeh, and if your partygoers include little guys, visit Kids Cook Monday for kid-friendly dishes like Black Bean Burgers with Jicama Slaw.
2. And/or Choose local, organic meat . If it’s likely that your carnivorous friends will expect to see some burgers on the grill, then locally grown, pasture raised meat is the best option. Use the Eat Well Guide to find a vendor or producer in your area. Defray the cost of higher quality meat by serving cute little sliders, or throw a potluck and ask your guests to bring side dishes.
3. Eat seasonal. There’s no better time of year for it! Here in the northeast, greens and cherry tomatoes are abundant at the moment; making salad a delicious and simple addition. Strawberries and blueberries are still available, and you can make this festive Red, White & Blueberry Quinoa Salad. Strawberry rhubarb pie is a simple and seasonal crowd pleaser. Peaches are abundant too, and nothing beats those juicy bites of a summer peach!
4. Reduce waste . If possible, use real dishes and silverware instead of plastic. Plan ahead and make a list so that you buy the proper amount of food. You can also buy in bulk, which is cheaper and reduces unnecessary packaging. If you end up having leftovers, send your guests home with to go containers. Choose a sustainable option such as bamboo or a compostable option like Greenware. Compost any food scraps.
5. Choose tap water. Avoid unnecessary petroleum-based plastic bottles and serve your guests with H2O straight from the tap, using a filter if you're concerned about your water quality. Fill up a few large water jugs and provide your guests with refillable glasses – I find that mason jars are always a big hit – or ask them to bring their own. Another fun idea is to make sun tea before your guests arrive. It’s simple: all you need is a large jar and a few tea bags. Just fill the jar with water and leave it in the sun to brew away. Pour over ice and enjoy!
6. Grill responsibly – Unless you're prepared to go solar, propane vs. charcoal is always the debate. If you're going to use charcoal, choose a natural one that doesn’t contain any additives. Last year, the Huffington Post recommended Cowboy Charcoal Company. That said, propane is still more efficient and doesn’t emit nearly as much carbon dioxide.
7. Choose local libations : Help green your local economy too, by serving beer from local microbreweries and wine from local vineyards. My favorite is Sixpoint in Brooklyn. This summer they are experimenting with a “mad scientist” series, throwing into their barrels items that so far have included spelt, coffee and hibiscus flowers. Find your local brewer here.
8. Reduce your carbon footprint : Encourage your guests to walk, bike, take the subway or the bus, or organize carpools.
9. Avoid fake decorations. These will likely get tossed in the trash after the party’s over anyway. Instead, seek out natural accompaniments. Round up a few friends to go foraging for local accents. You might be surprised at what you can find!
10. Ditch the fireworks – Sadly but not surprisingly, these staples of 4th of July are not so eco-friendly (uhm, they're made of paper and you blow them up). At the least, steer clear of buying fireworks for your own display. Check to see if your town is having a show- at least this reduces the impact!