The fourth of July represents the day we won our freedom from England and became a separate, independent governing body. But it is also a day in which we remember those who have fallen for freedom and for the American cause.
We celebrate by sporting the colors red, white, and blue; we hold our flags high; we wear shirts with the stars and stripes and the occasional Bald Eagle as a proud emblem of our country. In addition to waving our colors high, there is the feasting of hamburgers, hotdogs, and potato salad; the smell of charcoal in the air and of course; and of course, the fireworks, which typically begin about two weeks before and last about two weeks after the fourth of July.
We also use this time to reflect on our freedom, the costs and the benefits.
One popular reflection I’ve recently spotted is the phrase, “Freedom is not free.” I’ve spotted it on billboards, bumper stickers, and signs and I’ve seen this statement in the past, but it always pops up more frequently around the Fourth of July. I know that many men and women have given their lives to preserve freedom in our country and we recognize the cost of human life to maintain that freedom. But freedom means more than just war and Independence from outside forces; it also means fighting the good fight here at home too. There have been many social movements in our recent past that have granted freedoms: the civil rights movement as well as the women’s suffrage movement, these too required the cost of life. And let’s not forget that there is currently a social war playing out for freedom of gay rights and freedom for women’s reproductive rights.
All of these things represent our Independence Day and we celebrate those beliefs by spending time with family and friends, laughing, cheering, and remembering. This got me thinking, thinking about all of the celebration, the fireworks, the travel, the eating and drinking, the decorations, all of it, and how it impacts our planet. The celebration itself isn’t free either. I don’t mean financially of course, we all know that those things cost money, I mean environmentally.
The price that all the plastic plates, silverware, cups; all the aluminum cans, juice boxes, and beer bottles; all the leftover firework packaging and gallons of gas that is burned acquiring all the above; these all take a toll on our environment. There is a cost to celebrating our freedom, a cost that we might not immediately see, and a cost in our consumption that in the long run is going to have a negative effect on our environment.
This why I urge people to recycle those plastic and aluminum commodities, we should not allow our celebratory experiences to have such a negative impact on our globe. When thinking about the cost of freedom, the monetary cost, the human cost, and the social cost, let’s also think about the environmental cost; the price that those plates have in the landfill where they end up or the price of plastic cups and bottles in our oceans.
I hope that with all the celebration in the air, that some of the plastic, paper, and aluminum reach a recycle bin. I also hope that consumers recognize this opportune time to use consumer power to purchase products made from recycled material or made in a sustainable fashion, which lessens our celebratory environmental impact.
With all the red, white, and blue in the air, let’s make an extra effort this year and for years to come, to not forget about the green.