Here’s how to be sustainable without sacrificing July 4 fun

MIAMI – Uncle Sam wants you to go green this Fourth of July. While celebrations will be on and popping throughout South Florida, it can also be one of the most harmful holidays for our environment.

But it doesn’t have to be. You can still get your red, white, and blue on and be sustainable without sacrificing any of the fun.

The fireworks, the parades, the beach parties and picnics, often leave a giant mess behind. Not just that,  the Fourth and the Fifth of July have some of the worst air quality of the year. According to a study by the journal Atmospheric Environment, Independence Day fireworks introduce 42% more pollutants into the air, and some of those toxins never fully decompose or disintegrate. That’s why Coconut Grove is opting for a drone show with the Miami Symphony Orchestra instead of a traditional fireworks show.

Cynthia Seymour, the acting executive director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, said there are a lot of advantages to drones over fireworks.

“The drones do not release shrapnel. There is no waste from the drones,” Seymour said. “They fly into the sky and they’re able to create formations. They’re soundless, so they don’t scare dogs. They don’t scare little children, and they don’t scare people with PTSD.”

The Grove test drove the drones last year at the annual Peacock Park Independence Day picnic to see how the public would respond.

“It was an absolute smashing success,” Seymour said. “People loved the drones. So we’re bringing them back this year.”

And that’s not all. In an effort to be more sustainable and reduce waste, this party is 100 percent plastic-free. That means no concessions will be offered. Instead, participating Grove restaurants will offer picnics to go that guests can order and pick up in reusable takeaway containers. And please leave the red Solo cups at the store!

“So if you bring your reusable water bottle, we will be able to fill it up for free with water, iced tea, or lemonade at various participating locations,” Seymour said.

And if you happen to forget your refillable bottle at home, no worries. Organizers have you covered. They’ll be giving out metal reusable water bottles for free on a need-by-need basis. It’s important because, the only way you’ll be able to get something to drink is by using these at various refill stations with water, beverages, and other libations throughout the event.

And to up the ante, there’s even a grand prize: two free night at the luxurious Mr. C Hotel, for whoever brings the most sustainable picnic.

“The more people that step up to the plate and are good examples, the better,” Seymour said. “And so we need to celebrate people actually caring enough to do whatever they can to make a difference.”

And that goes for you boaters too!

“When you get here by Monday morning, all these small sandbars and all the small beaches along the edge, it will literally look like a trash dump,” paddle instructor Paolo Ameglio said.

For years, we’ve been showing you the problem: careless boaters and jet skiers trashing Biscayne Bay’s spoil islands. It’s worse on the holiday when thousands hit the water.

“It’s upsetting. People need to load in and load out. They should leave no trace and leave the beach as they found it,” Jeremy Waks, with Debris Free Oceans, said.

But they don’t. Many continue to stuff these garbage cans even when they’re already overflowing with trash, leaving bags of waste on the ground, not realizing that some of these islands only get serviced once a week.

When the tide rises, all that trash flows back into the bay.

So boaters, please remember: your trash is your responsibility. Pack it in, pack it out. Don’t leave it on the islands.

“I think people care when it comes down to it, but they just need to be educated that at the end of the day, somebody’s not going to come clean up after them,” Waks said.

Don’t bring single-use plastics, and don’t bring balloons on the boat. They’ll fly off and end up in the water.

So happy Fourth! Have fun, but please be mindful of the footprint you leave behind, even if others around you are not.

“If you see some other trash lying around you, you should pick that up as well and try to be part of the solution,” Waks said.

Click here for tips on how to be a more sustainable boater.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.