How to (Sneakily) Be a Patriot for the Planet This July 4

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Act

Heading into the holiday weekend here in the U.S., many of us will be hosting a family picnic or BBQ. Here are my tips for how you can sneakily reduce your clan’s carbon footprint for the Fourth of July, that is, without all the baggage that goes along with harping about something as off-putting as global warming!


  • Keeping in mind that forests around the world are being razed for pastureland to raise beef cattle, you could serve veggie burgers, or Portobello mushroom caps, instead of hamburgers this year. But if it’s too tough to give up your cheeseburger or hotdog on July 4, consider buying locally raised, hormone-free, grass-fed pork or beef. Here’s a cheat sheet on what sustainable food labels (from “free-range” to “shade-grown”) mean.
  • Serve locally grown fruit and vegetables from a farmer’s market (visit LocalHarvest’s site to find one near you). It’s a great time of year for a refreshing fruit salad, strawberry shortcake or any dish with nutrition-packed blueberries (and conveniently these fruits are patriotically coordinated red and blue!).
  • Or invite your guests to share some bounty from their backyard gardens – whatever might be ripe for picking, from tomatoes to peppers, onions to zucchinis (all of which fit well on skewers).
  • Check out the Conservancy’s chef-inspired picnic menu with plenty of ideas for July 4 favorites, like Applewood Smoked Bacon Potato Salad, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Asian Slaw, Purple Lavender Lemonade and Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream. (Getting hungry just writing this!)

  • Now, what about emissions from your barbecue grill? What’s better for “green” grilling – charcoal (literally charred or kiln-baked wood)? Or gas? Slate weighed the pros and cons of each option, concluding that gas creates less carbon pollution per unit of energy (to fuel a barbecue for an hour, a gas grill releases 5.6 pounds of carbon, while a grill using charcoal briquettes pumps out 11 pounds into the atmosphere). But, of course, the story doesn’t end there. Considering the full product life cycle, some argue that if the wood source for charcoal is sustainably harvested, and those trees are replanted to suck more carbon out of the air, your charcoal could actually be carbon-neutral.
  • You can search for wholesale charcoal manufacturers that source their products from certified sustainably harvested forests through the Forest Stewardship Council. (Try replacing petroleum-based lighter fluid with newspaper or garden waste as a fire starter.)
  • And last but not least, don’t forget to set out a recycling bin or garbage can for empty metal cans and glass bottles. You can also consider biodegradable or compostable paper plates, or portable plastic plates and utensils sturdy enough for re-use.

Planet Change wishes you a happy, healthy Independence Day!

Photo by: Flickr user Philocrites (A patriotic strawberry and blueberry cake), used under a Creative Commons license

Inset photo by: Flickr user theMaykazine (July 4 barbecue grilling) used under a Creative Commons license

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Comments (2)

  • Shirah Miriam "Mimi" Aumann


    How about a solar cooked 4th of July feast?!!! Now that’s a low carbon 4th of July footprint! I built my solar cooker out of a reflective windshield shade (the Solar Cookers World Network has many designs available): clean, efficient, free energy source… The veggies are Farmer’s Market and the fruits organic. The eggs are free-range and the meat is grass-fed. And it is 11+ on the UV index for several days! I’m cookin’…


  • Adele


    Full of salient points. Don’t stop believing or wriintg!


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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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