Many Americans celebrated the nation’s independence this week. I bet some of you attended a cookout or joined friends for a small town commemoration. Last year, Americans spent a total of $7.7 billion on food and $3.9 billion on alcohol (mostly beer) for July 4th, according to Capital One. That’s a bunch of bucks for a brat and a brewski.
Dollar stores sold tons of imported red, white, and blue bric-a-brac. Dollar General alone sold over $4 billion in seasonal merch last year. We know that’s non-biodegradable plastic, toxic dye, built-to-break assemblies, and – yep – polystyrene. Almost 1,400 tons of Styrofoam are buried in U.S. landfills every day, according to the website Eco Friendly Habits.
On Tuesday night, our pets were traumatized by fireworks. According to national statistics, animal control officials across the country see a 30-60% increase in lost pets each year around the holiday. July 5th is one of the busiest days for shelters. Then there is the impact on wildlife. According to the MIT Press Reader, “The dangers are serious for wild animals like birds, squirrels, frogs and fish too. During fireworks explosions, nearby resting birds will flee in fear en masse from trees and ponds and fly off into the night sky. Babies die of dehydration or starvation when terrified or disoriented animal parents cannot find their way back to their nests and burrows.”
And what about fireworks’ impact on air quality? “During average years, July 4th brings a sizable 42% increase in the level of fine particulate pollutants across the U.S., putting it in line with some wildfire events,” NPR reported.
Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article about why some Americans are rethinking celebrating Independence Day. One source, Isaac Norbe from Seattle, reacted to the most recent rulings from the high court. “It is very challenging going into the Fourth of July due to the Supreme Court decisions,” he said. Are you struggling with that, too?
This post isn’t trying to rain on anyone’s patriotic parade. Really. Perhaps, though, you’d be open to claiming your freedom in ways that can help save and savor the Earth. With these eye-opening stats from Global Citizen, we could declare our independence from:
> Throwing away old electronics. “When cell phones and electronic material are not recycled or disposed of properly, the toxic materials they are made of can harm the environment and people’s health. These toxins – including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chlorine and bromine – can leak into the soil and water supply, contaminate drinking water and plants, and lead to organ failure and cancer in humans.” Schedule with CHaRM to recycle your electronics.
> Overeating. “The average food size served in restaurants, fast food chains, and grocery stores has increased by 138% since 1970. That means people today are eating larger portions of food than they were 50 years ago, and often don’t know what a healthy portion size should look like. This can lead to people buying more food than they will eat, the rest of which ends up in the trash. Furthermore, food waste sitting in landfills releases methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas that is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.” See how much the NIH thinks you should eat.
> Eating Fast Food. “It’s no secret that eating fast food regularly is bad for your health. The high-calorie and high-trans-fat food not only makes your waistline expand, but also accounts for other unpleasant health consequences. Researchers have tied fast food to headaches, depression, and premature aging, among other things. In 2011, half of all street garbage came from fast food chains, according to one study. Fast food companies still produce a large amount of waste – from manufacturing to packaging to actual food waste. The process of making just one Big Mac results in 1-3.5 kg of CO2 emissions. And many fast food restaurants still package food with styrofoam, which can take 900 years to decompose.” The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for choosing healthier options.
Are you ready to declare your independence from… inaction? Take a look at the UN’s “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World” and then work your way through some of its suggestions: things you can do from your couch, things you can do at home, things you can do outside your house, and things you can do at work.
We can be mindful of our history, choose to celebrate responsibly, and act with an eye – and heart – on the future.
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund grant opportunity. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT.