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Whether you’re camping, going to a beach, or hosting your own party this Fourth of July weekend, there’s a good chance you’ll be near a barbecue.

Firing up the grill is about as much an Independence Day tradition as watching fireworks, but the process of preparing a cook-out can generate a lot of garbage — plastic, in particular. 

And most of this plastic waste will be of the hard-to-recycle variety — styrofoam meat containers, plastic wrap, throwaway utensils, flimsy cups, plastic snack packaging, condiment bottles, and more.

But the Fourth of July doesn’t have to be so unsustainable. In fact, it’s easy to reduce your plastic footprint, while also having a great time. 

Here are five ways to limit your plastic consumption this holiday weekend. 

1. Bring reusable utensils and plates

Bringing reusable utensils and plates to a barbecue will eliminate a common type of plastic pollution — single-use forks, knives, and plates. Many cities and states have begun to ban these types of materials because they’re so hard to recycle and often end up contaminating beaches and oceans. 

Although you’ll have to look after and collect all the utensils and plates, and then bring them home to be washed, this is a small inconvenience to pay in order to avoid polluting the environment. 

Going forward, you can carry your own utensils and tupperware containers in a backpack so you can avoid single-use items whenever you get fast food, visit a cafe, or otherwise eat out. 

Read More: The 10 Best Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint, According to Science

2. Grill fresh vegetables 

Fresh vegetables rarely come wrapped in plastic. The day before the barbecue, you can go to your local market with a tote bag and pick out fresh peppers, onions, asparagus, corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and more. 

Not only will these veggies not have a plastic footprint, they’ll also stay delicious for the next day. 

Adding vegetables to your grill rotation will bring new and robust flavors to your barbecue. 

3. Buy meat from a butcher 

Most cuts of meat at grocery stores sit on styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic. Almost all of this plastic is non-recyclable. 

You can avoid this packaging by getting fresh cuts of meat wrapped in paper at butcher shops or at the butcher counter in grocery stores. 

Read More: 5 Plastic Alternatives Doing More Harm Than Good — and What to Use Instead

4. Make your own beverages 

Rather than buying cases of soda or water, you can make delicious and fresh beverages the day of your barbecue to cut down on plastic. 

Buy some fresh herbs, teas, and syrups, and mix some tasty and refreshing drinks in pitchers that you can pour into reusable cups. 

5. Buy a reusable cooler

At gas stations and grocery stores across the US, styrofoam coolers are often the only option for people looking for something to keep their drinks and food cold at barbecues and beaches. 

These coolers, while convenient, easily break down and are currently impossible to recycle — a key reason why governments around the world often ban styrofoam before other types of plastic.

Read More: 10 Simple Tips to Reduce Single-Use Plastics in Your Life

Whatever you do, avoid styrofoam. There are countless reusable coolers that you can buy that will save you money in the long run and reduce your plastic footprint. 


Defend the Planet

5 Ways to Have a Plastic-Free Fourth of July

By Joe McCarthy