Go Green for the Red, White and Blue

Holidays don’t have to be a reason to spend all of your hard-earned extra cash. Here are our tips for having a budget-friendly, eco good time this Fourth of July.

1. Stay close to home: It seems that as of late, our country is being barraged with floods and fires. The last thing we need is everyone converging onto the highways and flight paths all at once. Lucky for us gas is so expensive we can’t afford to leave anyway! This is a good time to spend a relaxing, long weekend at home.

2. Enjoying a good BBQ: You’ve probably heard that gas grills are more environmentally-friendly than charcoal. Yes, definitely if you’re talking about the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air, but there are other considerations and options (eco-friendly briquettes?). Read more about charcoal versus gas grills in this article from Slate. But let’s presume you already have a barbecue and you are not in the market to buy a new one this week. Good…don’t be wasteful. Let’s focus on the food. There are lots of vegetables in season that would be fantastic grilled: corn, onions, zucchini squash, bell peppers to name a few. A fruit salad also makes a great side dish. If ever there was a time to try the farmer’s market, now is that time. See our related post on farmer’s markets and organic food.

If you plan on grilling up some meat, consider organic and free-range. Organic meat can be expensive, but it’s well worth the cost given the health and environmental benefits. To keep to a budget, make a few calls before you shop. Try a local butcher, grocery store, as well as an organic specialty grocer. If you’re cooking for a lot of people consider that ground, organic turkey will be much less expensive than organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you’re willing to dice a few onions and some garlic and roll your own turkey patties, you’re going to save quite a bit.

If you live in an area that has fruit trees, try making your own juices for the party. You’ll cut down on waste and you’ll save money. See our previous post on how to make strawberry lemonade.

3. No paper or plastic: If you’re hosting the barbecue or party, keep it small enough that you can use your regular dinnerware. Every time you think that creates too many dishes to clean, think about millions of barbecues going on at once, across the country, and the resulting hefty bags filled with paper plates, plastic cups and disposable dinnerware sitting on the curbs the next morning. Those hefty bags have to go somewhere.

4. Recycle: Barbecues, get-togethers and holidays should be synonymous with recycling. So many empty beer bottles and cans, so little time. Put clearly-labeled recycling containers or bags where your guests will be eating so that recyclables don’t make their way into the trash. Psst…another great tip is to put a small trash bag next to the recycling containers, gently encouraging your guests to separate before they toss.

5. Take advantage of local fireworks shows: Everyone has their own tradition when it comes to celebrating Independence Day and far be it from us to interfere with your tradition. With that said when you’re making plans consider these ideas: enjoying a local fireworks show will often times cost you no money, and it creates less trash than putting your own show on at home. There might be a paid show you can catch for “free” if you’re able to find somewhere high to sit such as your roof, a parking garage or a nearby hill. It’s enormously satisfying to gather as a large group, watch the fireworks and take part in the celebration of our independence. Taking a small bit of time to plan your holiday will help you to become a more independent consumer as well.