The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan
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Barbeques, quality time with family, fireworks, concerts, and parades – the Fourth of July (or July 4th, written as an American date) is an American staple and holiday that never goes out of style.
But have you ever stopped to wonder about all the environmental damage that typical Fourth of July events come with?
Any holiday that takes place in the summer, like the Fourth of July, is bound to have an environmental impact as most of the events take place outside – but just how bad is the Fourth of July for the planet?
The Fourth of July, also known as Independence day for Americans, dates all the way back to 1776.
👉 In 1776 on July 2nd, the Continental Congress granted the 13 colonies independence from Great Britain. Two days later, on July 4th, 1776 – the delegates from the 13 colonies drafted the Declaration of Independence.
Since 1776, July 4th has been celebrated like the birthday of the United States.
The Declaration of Independence is a historical document written by Thomas Jefferson that all thirteen colonies supported as an official declaration of separation and independence from British rule or governance.
56 delegates from various colonies of what now make states of the U.S. signed the Declaration of Independence – including John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
The three key components of the Declaration of Independence are that people have the innate right to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, all men are created equal, and all should abide by the moral duty to defend themselves as well as others for their individual rights.
Even though the Declaration of Independence wasn’t believed to be fully signed until August 2nd, 1776 – the Fourth of July tradition that Americans have created has remained.
The Fourth of July has been celebrated for over two hundred years – so why is the environmental impact of the Fourth of July progressively becoming more noticeable, and more harmful?
Americans participate in multiple 4th of July activities – the most common being large family gatherings and barbecue parties and grandiose firework celebrations.
👉 As the 4th of July is a federal holiday, many Americans usually have time off of work – therefore, it’s common that small summer vacations are taken during the fourth of July as well.
These trips are often to spend time with family or see special firework shows that wouldn’t be possible without travel.
Especially given Summer 2023 is another summer where COVID-19 and the pandemic feel truly behind us, Fourth of July celebrations are expected to kick-off in full swing: with bigger fireworks, more family gatherings, and more travel.
The Fourth of July may not be as travel inducing as Christmas or Thanksgiving – but the figures show that the celebrations for the Fourth of July are popular enough to have an impact on the environment.
Let’s take a look at the predictions of events for the Fourth of July Summer 2023:
👉 This data reveals that 4th of July 2023 celebrations are expected to be busier than usual as a result of the pandemic finally subsiding.
So, what do these larger than normal figures for 4th of July plans mean for carbon emissions and the planet?
What are the most common traditions that make the Fourth of July so bad for the environment?
Honestly, none of the typical Fourth of July celebrations are good for carbon emissions or preventing pollution. However, there are a few Fourth of July activities that are worse for the planet than others.
Here are a few of the reasons why the Fourth of July can cause so much distress to the environment.
If there’s one quintessential activity that almost every American does for the Fourth of July – it’s a good old fashioned American Barbeque. American families congregate outdoors and more often than not, grill copious amounts of food for a potluck style dinner for the 4th of July.
But did you know that barbequing isn’t good for the environment? A normal summer cookout for less than five people emits more greenhouse gas emissions than an 80 miles car ride.
Given more Americans plan to have a barbeque than to travel for the Fourth of July – it is clear that this common 4th of July celebration will provoke more pollution.
👉 Not only are the greenhouse gas emissions that your grill releases bad by itself, but did you know that consuming red meat, a staple component of any American barbeque and classic favorite for the Fourth of July – is one of the worst dietary habits you could have?
Producing 100g of medium beef burgers emits the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as it does to fill 60 balloons.
Switching the chicken for your Fourth of July barbeque could cut those greenhouse emissions by a quarter – but still isn’t beneficial in the long-term fight against climate change.
👉 Did you know that it takes three times the amount of water to feed a carnivore than it does to feed someone who is plant-based?
As veganism continues to saturate the food industry, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try and grill less meat this Fourth of July or summer season if you’re interested in reducing your own carbon footprint for the Fourth of July.
Hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill in combination produce a high amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and purchasing other over processed foods such as cupcakes, pies and other store bought desserts also aren’t good for the environment.
Also, don’t forget that when it comes to major outdoor gatherings or parties like the Fourth of July – the hosts are more likely than not to use paper plates, plastic cups, and non-reusable straws for their guests.
These are all the reasons why barbeque gatherings on the Fourth of July don’t do the environment any favors.
Another essential part of celebrating the Fourth of July are the incredible firework shows! But did you know that fireworks are the cause of drastic air pollution?
The captivating and coloring firework shows we see on the Fourth of July emit around 94.3 kilotons, or over 200 pounds, of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Although the pollution caused from a short firework show usually effervesces quickly, fireworks for the Fourth of July aren’t quite the same.
Because fireworks for the Fourth of July operate on a more grandiose scale, the pollution from these magnificent illuminations in the sky can not only cause pollution levels to suddenly spike – but to stay at an alarming level for several days afterwards.
👉 Fireworks from the Fourth of July also have the potential to impact one’s health. The smoke from fireworks contains particulate matter, such as strontium, barium, and lead that can provoke asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases.
Fireworks are alluring and a great way to celebrate, but they aren’t great for air pollution or our health.
As the Fourth of July sometimes falls on a three-day weekend and takes place in the summer – excessive carbon emissions from Independence day travel are inevitable.
Planes and cars are the types of transit that leave the largest carbon footprint behind, and simultaneously – they are the methods of transportation most commonly used for travel during the Fourth of July.
👉 Air travel during the 4th of July leaves behind 1645 kilotons, or 3,626 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, and cars leave behind 1465 kilotons, or 3,229 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Live music is another way Americans celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July.
However, concerts are also an unknown contributor to global warming and further environmental damage.
Concerts negatively impact the environment on a multitude of levels. For instance, the plastic waste purchased by the concert-goers produces waste – and the energy necessary to operate all of the sound and light equipment also leaves behind a large carbon footprint.
The larger the concert, the larger the carbon footprint – therefore, concerts on the Fourth of July are bound to be bad for the environment.
Another popular Fourth of July festivity are public parades.
👉 One of the most well-known American parades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – is a major contributor to carbon footprint, as the copious amounts of helium required to fill those massive balloons isn’t good for the environment.
The same goes for any parades for the Fourth of July – even if the balloons aren’t as extravagant.
Overall, all of these typical Fourth of July festivities consume enough resources that could power electricity in 1,511,455 homes, fuel 1,673,765 gasoline powered gasoline powered vehicles for a year.
The carbon emissions that the Fourth of July also prevents one of the most popular carbon offsetting projects – tree planting.
128,444,548 tree seedlings could grow for ten years in place of the thousands of pounds of carbon emissions produced solely from the celebratory events of the Fourth of July.
Is there a way for Americans to still celebrate the Fourth of July, without Independence Day harming the environment the way it currently does?
👉 If Americans opted to use glass dishware at their barbeque get-togethers, decided to celebrate with friends and family who are local in order to remove the desire or necessity to travel, or serve more vegetarian options at their Fourth of July celebration – the amount of carbon emissions caused by the festivities of the Fourth of July would be greatly reduced.
Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to happen – as many Americans tend to stick to their traditions of grilling red meat, serving with paper plates and plastic cups for easy clean up, and attending concerts or firework shows.
However, if you’re able to make a few, or even just one of the small suggestions made above, Americans could work together to reduce the environmental impact made by the Fourth of July – and allow the holiday to be enjoyed without a guilty conscience.
If reading this article about the 4th of July and its environmental impact has made you interested in reducing your carbon emission to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!
Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.
Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
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