Some kinds of independence are worth fighting for. Independence from Britain -- that was a good idea. Independence from other people's oil (and from oil altogether, come to think of it). Independence from 4th of July mania and the urge to drive your SUV 40 minutes to the nearest über market for boat loads of red, white, and blue junk that’ll wind up clogging landfills come the fifth of July.
So whether you'll be watching the Macy's fireworks, listening to the Boston Pops, or just shooting the breeze in the backyard, spend a few minutes considering these easy steps you might take to green your stars and stripes this year. Then slip into your organic, nontoxic blue jeans, strap on your fair trade sandals, and enjoy the festivities in good conscience.
If you haven't got a push mower, borrow one from a neighbor, or invest in one of your own. With gas prices skyrocketing the way they are, it'll pay for itself in no time. You might even finally build up some biceps.
Next, be sure to disinvite the mosquitoes and no-see-ums to your party: citronella is the miracle bug-repellent scent when it comes to outdoor gatherings. People love it. Mosquitoes can’t stand it. Set some citronella candles out on your porch or lawn, and keep some natural, DEET-free bug spray (available at most natural food stores) on hand for guests. Some other delicious scents that bugs will go out of their way to avoid include: cedar, verbena, geranium, lavender, pine, cinnamon, rosemary, and peppermint.
Eat, drink …
Overuse of antibiotics is bad news for soil and water health, and also for humans. You've read the news lately about bacterial strains that are antibiotic resistant? That's thanks, in part, to all the antibiotics we're consuming through corn-fed beef. Genuine grass-fed beef, though, comes from healthier, happier, leaner, and more humanely treated animals. It's also higher in beta carotene (Vitamin A), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and Omega-3 fatty acids, but lower in fat and cholesterol.
As for the rest of your meal, go for organic and locally grown produce whenever possible. Visit your farmers market for some sweet corn on the cob, loose leaf spinach, carrots and fresh local blueberries. Pick up some beets and whip them up in a tangy (and appropriately colored) beet salad. Many farmers’ markets even offer free-range, antibiotic-free chicken. For dessert, throw some organic and fair trade chocolate chips in those brownies. Go crazy.
And there's something about the 4th, isn't there, that makes people thirsty? Stock up on organic beer like Peak or Wolaver's. Or, if you're mixing cocktail pitchers for your guests, try these tasty recipes for sustainable white wine sangria, vodka watermelon, pisco sour, watermelon martini, joie de Veev, strawberry mojito and margarita popsicles.
… and be merry
As a more sustainable alternative to fireworks, let your inner child loose and make your own ruckus instead: bang pots and pans (we're sort of kidding, but also sort of not), blow whistles, harangue a friend into playing the guitar for everyone. And sing! Remember singing? That thing people do in groups when they're happy and want to celebrate something? If you're a little fuzzy on the lyrics to America's patriotic songs, give these favorites a quick skim: The Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, America the Beautiful, This Land is Your Land. The words are more inspiring than you remembered, right? Did you get a chill? Let's keep America beautiful and free.
Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in July 2008. It was moved to MNN.com in June 2009.
Copyright Environ Press 2008