The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and you’re likely looking forward to seeing a spectacular display with your loved ones. Although it’s a fun tradition, the colorful explosives aren’t good for the planet. Here are some facts that will improve your understanding of the environmental damage from fireworks so you can rearrange your holiday plans as necessary.
1. Fireworks Create CO2
Whether you want to watch a massive fireworks show or buy a pack to use in your backyard, each option will require carbon. Production teams pack it into each firework to make the timed explosions happen. The carbon releases CO2 and intensifies global warming when it burns by adding carbon dioxide to the blanket covering the planet.
2. They Require Fossil Fuel Transportation
Americans buy just over $1.5 billion in fireworks every July, which requires shipping for each purchase. Semitrailers and planes carry them to each state with engines that burn fossil fuels. It adds more CO2 to the atmosphere and drains the planet of natural resources. Anyone who chooses not to buy fireworks will stop contributing to this environmental damage.
3. They Spark Fires
You may only have happy memories of fireworks shows. It doesn’t erase the fact that they cause $43 million in annual fire damage around the country. Even if they don’t spark wildfires, any burned patches of grasslands or woods ruin local habitats that support a healthy ecosystem. It’s much safer to help wildlife by avoiding explosives for holiday recreational activities.
4. They Ruin Local Air Quality
There’s always smoke that drifts away in the wind when a firework explodes. You may not see it in the darkness until the next burst casts it in colorful lights. The smoke contains particulate matter that remains in the air until people and animals inhale it. It doesn’t go away like the trails of smoke from fireworks. It lingers until it sticks inside the lungs and hurts everyone’s health.
Air pollution from factories and vehicles already affects 120 million Americans every year, exacerbating conditions like pneumonia and asthma. Adding more particulate matter only makes the problem worse. Avoiding fireworks allows the air to stay a bit cleaner and makes filtering efforts more successful.
5. They Accompany Grilling
Tradition dictates that everyone enjoys freshly grilled burgers and hot dogs before attending a fireworks show. However, this adds to existing environmental damage. Charcoal and gas grills create more harmful CO2 and may continuously produce it if the grilling lasts all day. Many people contribute to this problem by hanging out next to the grill for longer than necessary.
Meat also hurts the planet. Every pound of ground beef requires 1,799 gallons of water to grow the feed for cows, keep them hydrated and process the meat. That’s a significant amount of a limited resource for a global industry. Opting for vegetarian or vegan options is an excellent compromise if you want to enjoy a meal before a fireworks show without harming the environment.
6. They Emit Ozone
Fire instigates the chemical processes needed to make a fireworks display. A recent study of low- and high-energy fireworks found that both emitted ozone (O3) at the point of combustion. It’s a greenhouse gas that gets less attention than CO2, but it’s an equally bad pollutant. Many people don’t realize it’s a guaranteed effect of their patriotic traditions.
Understand the Environmental Damage From Fireworks
The planet will become a better place to live when more people understand the environmental damage from fireworks. Anyone can reduce their carbon emissions, prevent wildfires and improve air quality by creating new sustainable traditions in place of fireworks this year.
Jane is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co and an environmental writer covering green technology, sustainability and environmental news.