sustainable Memorial DayMemorial Day weekend marks the start of summer and is often a time for getting friends and family together for barbecuing, pool parties, and even trips out of town to beautiful spots.  No matter how you choose to celebrate, you can choose to make your celebrations more sustainable. Below you’ll find some simple tips to make your plans for a sustainable Memorial Day!

1- Get creative with decorating. Buy things you can reuse for future celebrations and consider buying gently used or upcycled items. The American flag you buy for your party can become a time-honored tradition you use year after year.

2- Use pitchers of water instead of water bottles and make sure to use re-useable cups, plates, and silverware. Don’t use single-use plastic or styrofoam and even paper plates that can recycled or are made of recycled material have a larger carbon footprint than using a plate that can be washed and re-used. When you clean up, you can pop them in the dishwasher and use them again and again. Reducing our use of single-use, throwaway items like plastic cups and silverware is one of the best example of how small sustainable choices can make a big impact on reducing our consumption.

3- Splurge on organic veggies. Buying organic produce is one of the healthiest choices you can make for yourself, your friends and family, and the planet. If you want to take it to the next level – buy locally grown, organic produce. When you buy from local farmers you reduce the carbon footprint required to get the produce to you AND you support your local economy. It’s a win/win.

4- Embrace your inner vegetarian! Use those fresh ingredients to cook up vegetables, pastas, and delicious summer salads instead of relying on meat products that require thousands of gallons of water and lots of energy to sustain and produce.

5- Try to barbecue without the lighter fluid and you’ll reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds released into the air. Mixed with sunshine and other pollutants, those chemicals add to ground-level ozone. They can also taint the taste of the food you are grilling. If you plan to use charcoal, use a charcoal chimney and crumpled paper instead of lighter fluid to light your barbecue fire. 

What is a charcoal chimney? It’s a metal cylinder about seven inches across with a handle and a grate in the bottom that holds the charcoal. A charcoal chimney costs about $15 and lasts for many years.

6- Instead of charcoal, consider grilling with propane gas, natural gas or solar energy. Using these alternative sources reduces air pollution. Ground-level can be a problem in the hotter months. When ozone measures above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s standard, it can cause health problems for some people. Elevated levels of ground-level ozone can affect children, the elderly and people with lung or heart disease, including asthma and congestive heart failure.

7- Instead of barbecuing at home, visit a state or national park or other natural wonder near your home. Get outside, connect with nature, and enjoy the gorgeous weather while appreciating our country’s native beauty.

8 – If you’re heading out of town for the holiday weekend, make sure the mode of travel you use is as sustainable as possible. Can you carpool? Is there a train you can take? If you know you have no alternative except to fly, you can even consider offsetting the emissions from your trip by purchasing carbon offsets.

9 – Heading out to shop Memorial Day sales? Seek out stores and brands that take sustainability seriously and remember to recycle or donate a few items from your home before bringing in new ones.

10 –  Since Memorial Day is a holiday created for us to take time to remember all the brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country, consider marking the day by planting a tree in honor of our fallen heroes. It is a natural, carbon re-reducing tribute that adds both shade and beauty to your surroundings.

Whatever you decide to do this Memorial Day weekend, make an effort minimize the waste you create in every way you can think of. You can enjoy time spent relaxing and socializing and feel good about making this planet we share a more sustainable place.

Meredith, a former professional in the software industry, has come to the Mrs. Green’s World team through an unlikely journey that took her through the world of non-profit management and on to becoming a part of MGW mission and purpose – helping people understand climate change and what we can do about it – is very near and dear to her heart. She lives in Tucson with her family and too many pets.