JULY 3, 2015 BY 

From Sierra Club

What for many Americans is the highlight of summer—the picnics, parades, and fireworks of the 4th of July—can be less than ideal for the planet. Let Earth in on the celebration this year by making these simple green choices.

1.) Grill intelligently

An estimated 60 million people fire up their grills on Independence Day, spewing about 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. While there’s no way to grill without pollution, electric and propane grills are cleaner than charcoal. If you can’t part with the charcoal taste, choose coal made from invasive tree species or from sustainably managed forest trees. And before you sprinkle lighter fluid on the grill, consider investing in a chemical-free chimney charcoal starter instead.

2.) Shrink your food’s footprint

Buying mostly fruits and vegetables, and buying them locally, can save the energy used to transport and package processed foods. But if potato chips are a picnic must, opt for the bigger bag. Buying in bulk can save the waste involved in the production and disposal of individually wrapped snacks. Click to see our favorite vegan barbecue recipes.

3.) Decorate with class, not cash

Instead of buying new decorations, use what you already have. White Christmas lights, flowers from your garden, or a bowl of bright-red strawberries, blueberries, and apples all look great. Save any decorations you do buy for next year.

4.) Reduce picnic waste

Ask each guest to bring his or her own dishware. If reusable dishes aren’t a viable option, use compostable flatware made from corn or bamboo.

5.) Nix the fireworks

Instead of setting up your own fireworks display—which explodes a personal contribution of smoke and dangerous chemicals into the air—attend a community display. Ask your local firework coordinators to consider using biodegradable fireworks or the gunpowder-free fireworks that Disney launches using compressed air.