With the impressive flashes, colors and crashes of July 4 fireworks displays, it's easy to forget that they're dangerous. Sure they can cause fire and explode. But a one-time display can also have a lasting impact on the environment. Fireworks are made of chemical compounds and heavy metals that make beautiful explosions, but also cause air pollution, contaminate groundwater and lead to health problems.
In fact, potassium perchlorate, an oxidant in most fireworks, is under scrutiny from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The chemical compound is believed to cause thyroid dysfunction and birth defects – not exactly something you want floating around in the air. And barium nitrate, a heavy metal that makes explosions a green color, is thought to have toxic effects on the heart and lungs.
A 2007 study by the EPA shows that chemical levels spike to 1,000 times the normal level in the air and water after big fireworks displays. Walt Disney Imagineering created a new technology that uses compressed air to launch fireworks. It reduces smoke and noise pollution, but the harmful chemicals are still there. Scientists around the world are working to create more eco-friendly explosions but a viable clean-burning alternative won't be lighting up the sky this year.
Eco-friendly alternatives to fireworks
Whether you don't like the boisterous boom of exploding fireworks or want to stay far away from the pyrotechnics pollution, there are ample activities to replace the classic Independence Day show.
Go to a laser light show
Get all the fancy lights and special effects your heart desires as you celebrate the nation. Laser light shows can be exciting without all the pollution. Though it does take some electricity, the tradeoff is worth it. Fireworks can only be used once, but lights can be enjoyed time and time again.
While you might enjoy twirling a sparkler on a warm July night, it is not a green way to celebrate. Instead, consider making confetti out of recycled paper. It may not have all the flash of fireworks, but it's a great eco-friendly way to join into the celebration.
Participate in a parade
If you need to show your patriotic spirit, join the fun of an Independence Day parade. There are dozens of parades or festivals around the country each year where you can watch or contribute. Enjoy the bang of drums instead of the boom of fireworks. Take in flashes of excitement. Celebrate with your community.
Host a party
You don't have to be in the middle of the action to have a great time on your July 4 holiday. Surround yourself with friends, family and neighbors and show your American pride. A simple get together can be much nicer than a crowded city extravaganza. Break out the grill, stock up on glow sticks for the kids and enjoy a firework-free night.
Create your own noisemakers
A great green alternative to fireworks is to make your own noisemakers. Dig through your recycling bin and reuse materials. A bottle filled with dry beans can certainly fill your celebration with noise!