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.


Get ready

Having people over to your place? Spruce it up by giving your lawn a once-over with a good, old fashioned push mower. Push-mowing the place will take you a bit of extra time, but your lawn will smell like freshly cut grass (instead of gasoline) when the guests start pouring in. Plus, you’ll be glowing with endorphins -- your body's happy drug -- from the extra exercise.

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 …

We've said it before, and we’ll say it again: Corn-fed cows are on drugs. If beef is going to feature in your 4th of July feast, grass-fed is undoubtedly the way to go. The corn-based feed most cattle are given (meant to fatten them up more quickly) is so difficult for them to digest that if their owners didn’t keep them hopped up on daily doses of antibiotics, they'd fall sick with terrible stomach conditions like acidosis.

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

There’s been some talk lately about whether or not such a thing as a "green" fireworks display exists. Let's talk about that. We all love to see the sparks fly and feel that heavy boom in the pit of our stomachs, but explosives are explosives are explosives. No matter how you package your perchlorate -- whether in eco-sinful steel and fiberglass mortars, plastic cartridges or "environmentally friendly" cardboard and paper mache vessels -- blowing up toxic explosives in the sky is just never going to be healthy for the water, soil or people it rains down on.

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 in June 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Green tips for your July 4 celebration
Party preparations, sustainable feasts and green fireworks.