Soon we will all be getting together to celebrate our nation’s Independence. All across the country, people will gather with family and friends, taking part in their own traditions to mark this special day. While those traditions vary, two common themes emerge – food and fireworks. It’s easy to get caught up in the revelry of the day, but with a little planning and forethought, we can all play a part in lessening our impact over the 4th of July holiday.

Many of the suggestions we make for businesses and large events are also valid for personal gatherings large and small. In fact, one of our goals when we work with businesses is for sustainable practices learned in the workplace to be repeated at home. Our updated Toward Zero Waste Event Toolkit is a great resource that can help you do just that. Now available in both English and Spanish, this toolkit has tips and tools you can use for planning your own events whether it is for a workplace party or family picnic.

Opinions and regulations vary regarding fireworks and this article is not for or against their use, but instead highlights the real need to address the litter generated from fireworks. Just as there are waste disposal challenges for food and other recyclables, the same is even more true for fireworks. Raising awareness of the issue is an important step in having a better outcome so fireworks debris won’t pose a threat to the public, wildlife, and our waterways. It is important when festivities ensue and we are setting the sky ablaze–safely, we hope–that we all have a plan to, and help cleanup.

If you would like to help the cleanup effort even more, there are opportunities to pitch in and help. One community here in Whatcom County that could really use some extra help is Birch Bay. The statistics for waste costs for last year’s Independence celebrations are somewhat staggering–and likely much higher than one would anticipate. In 2016, over 100 volunteer hours were spent removing 4th of July litter of all types ranging from food wrappers to spent fireworks and packaging. The total amount of trash removed amounted to 4.03 tons or 8,060 pounds filling three 30-yard dumpsters.

The 4th of July is a day where many Americans put aside their differences and celebrate this great nation of ours. Let’s set those differences aside for a few days longer and rally around the common cause of cleaning up and removing the remnants of the celebration from our streets, parks, and waterways.

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