Celebrating a Sustainable Fourth of July

Celebrating a Sustainable Fourth of July: Embracing Environmental and Social Responsibility

As the Fourth of July approaches, you may find yourself wondering how you can add a twist of green to your red, white, and blue celebration. For many folks, the Fourth means big parties, which can come with a ton of plastic consumption, processed foods, and single-use decorations. The Fourth can seem especially daunting if you’re trying to improve your sustainability but still want to have fun and celebrate. Luckily, there are a ton of ways to improve that this Independence Day by thinking more sustainably about what you’re buying, cooking, and even how you celebrate!

If you’re looking to make your Fourth of July celebration more sustainable, but just as fun, here are some ways to focus on both environmental and social sustainability. 

Environmental Sustainability: Actionable Steps

Celebrating the Fourth of July sustainably can significantly reduce waste and pollution, aligning your fun with a commitment to the planet.

Eco-friendly and silent fireworks set off

Use Biodegradable/Reusable Decorations and Utensils: Traditional Independence Day celebrations generate a ton of waste to clean up. If you’re hosting a big event, look into purchasing compostable, biodegradable dishes and cutlery. If your party is a bit smaller, try to use what you have and provide reusable cups, plates, and other utensils. Single-use decorations often leave a mess and get thrown away. Instead, try saving your decorations for next year and beyond. 

Choose Eco-friendly Fireworks: Historically, firework displays have been essential to Fourth of July celebrations, but did you know that “The…firework shows we see on the Fourth of July emit around 94.3 kilotons, or over 200 pounds, of carbon dioxide emissions annually”? If you’d like to do your part in reducing these emissions, there are a couple of alternatives you can try. Eco-Friendly Fireworks, which are designed to emit less smoke, chemicals, and noise but are just as spectacular. You could also rethink hosting your own fireworks display and instead opt to attend a local fireworks show in order to cut back on the cumulative use of fireworks.

Reduce Your Energy Consumption: One easy way to improve your Fourthof July sustainability is simply by holding your party (weather permitting) outside! This makes use of all the Summer natural light and reduces your energy waste. If your party is at night, think about using solar-powered lights or repurposing your Winter string lights to get more use out of a different holiday decoration. Make sure to instruct guests to “leave no trace” and you’ll (hopefully) have an easy-to-clean, energy-efficient Fourth of July!

Shopping Local: Choosing food from local farmers for your Fourth of July celebration can be a great way to have a more sustainable holiday! Because they often require far less transportation, purchasing produce grown locally can reduce carbon emissions. Many local farmers may also grow their seasonal produce more sustainably because it takes less energy to grow. Here, you can find which produce is in season for you by plugging in your state and the month!

Acknowledging Historical Context for Greater Social Sustainability

A Venn Diagram with three overlapping circles representing social, environmental, economic factors and their separate and combined interactions with the term sustainability. Designed to display forms of sustainability in each sphere.
Venn Diagram of Sustainability concepts and their overlap: social, economic, and environmental

Sustainability is “the integration of environmental health, social equity, and economic vitality in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse, and resilient communities for this generation and generations to come.” Because of this, sustainability on the Fourth can and should extend beyond choosing eco-friendly fireworks and include promoting social and economic sustainability too. 

Celebration of the Fourth is a false assertion of independence, and while it’s fun and seems harmless to celebrate uncritically, it’s important to keep in mind that Independence Day began when only White Americans could celebrate being “free”. Enslaved Black people continued to suffer under slavery well after the fourth, and although Congress recognized Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday in 2021, the damage done by slavery and subsequent systemic racism is felt by Black Americans to this day. Indigenous Americans have been similarly overlooked and are just as important to consider when you want to celebrate more sustainably. Both of these communities face sustainability-related injustices such as environmental racism in the form of increased exposure to pollution, communities located in food deserts, and systemic removal from connection with the Earth. Acknowledgment of these inequities can bring an even deeper layer of sustainability to your Fourth of July parties so you can balance environmental, social, and economic efforts as you plan your celebration. 

Supporting Black & Indigenous-Owned Sustainable Businesses

Individuals working at Soulfire Farm, an Afro-Indigenous farming community located near Albany, New York

This Fourth of July, you can balance your sustainability in multiple areas by shopping Black-owned sustainable businesses for your celebrations!

Research and Shop Consciously: Use directories and social media to find Black-owned sustainable businesses in your area. Purchasing from these businesses supports economic equity and environmental sustainability. (Here’s an index you can use!)

Promote Food Sovereignty: Food sovereignty emphasizes the right to define food systems. Supporting Black farmers is crucial, as they represent only 1.4% of farmers in the U.S. and face significant economic and social barriers in maintaining those farms. If you can, buying from Black and Indigenous farmers at local markets is an amazing way to promote land and food sovereignty.

Support Social Justice Initiatives: Donate to or volunteer for organizations that work towards racial justice and equality. Supporting these initiatives helps dismantle systemic racism and promotes social equity.

Celebrate Juneteenth Too!: Next year, recognize Juneteenth the same as you would the Fourth. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and observance of the holiday helps bridge the gap between America’s ideals of freedom and its historical timeline, promoting a more inclusive celebration with acknowledgment of ways we can all improve.


This Fourth of July, you can commit to celebrating in ways that honor both the planet and all its people. By embracing combined social and environmental sustainability, you can create a more inclusive and sustainable Fourth of July celebration for everyone. Celebrating with purpose not only enriches your fun but can build habits that carry you into a more sustainable lifestyle overall. 

If we all embrace this together, we can make this Fourth of July a celebration of sustainability, equity, and justice.

Written by ZC Communications Intern Alyson Newsome ’27