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Monday, June 30, 2008

A Green 4th

by James Stevenson, Extension Educator, Urban Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

In 1968, a rebellious and ostensible “counter-culturist” was arrested for wearing a shirt that resembled the American flag. My, how times have changed! It is time to get out that patriotic garb, hoist Old Glory and celebrate our Nation’s birth.

On Friday many of us will take part in an American tradition: firing-up the grill, inviting friends over, eating together and celebrating with a sky full of gunpowder. How can we make this holiday more green? Here are some tips:

Dispense with the disposables, and recycle
Forget the throw-aways, use real plates, cups, and cloth napkins—just think of the red, white and blue possibilities, ready for Flag Day, Memorial Day, Presidents’ Day, etc.! If your plans include a cook-out, bring these items along, or request that your guests bring their own. Start a patriotic re-usables competition; whoever has the best non-disposable spread gets to belly-up to the grill first. Make sure to provide recycling containers for the inevitable paper, aluminum, and plastic detritus associated with eating outside of home.

Eat Local
Right now, Florida farmers are looking at a “dry spell” with crops (and cash) in an unenviable holding pattern. Some produce is at the end of its season, some just at the beginning. According to Fresh From Florida, the following foods are ripe for the picking right now in the Sunshine State: avocado, cantaloupe, green beans, green peppers, mangoes and watermelon. We all know the reasons for eating locally-grown foods; supporting Florida’s farmers, lack of transportation issues, and freshness among them. For more information, see this UF site:

Be Travel-Conscious
On Monday, June 30th CNN reported the national average price for a gallon of gas had risen to $4.086, with 33 states paying more than $4 a gallon. (source : CNN,com). Do you really think it is wise to fill-‘er-up, drive 20 miles, use petroleum-based cutlery, squirt oil onto a heap of charcoal and grill meat from another country right now? Consider your alternatives: Invite the neighbors around, pool resources to save everyone on expense, walk to a local park. Just think before you hop in the SUV.

Grill Green
Nationwide, the estimated 60 million barbecues held on the Fourth of July alone consume enough energy—in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas, and electricity—to power 20,000 households for a year. Tristram West, a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory composed a study for the U.S. Department of Energy, and found that this one annual celebration burns the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest and releases 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. What are the alternatives? Use a propane tank to make your patties sizzle. Try traditional charcoal made in a sustainable (read: old-fashioned) way; free from additives and unhealthy chemicals. There are several brands available now, proving that there is nothing new under the sun! Forget the petroleum fire-starters and use kindling (newspaper, yard-thinnings, etc.). What could be more rewarding than starting a fire from scratch to feed the tribe? It is in our DNA. For more information on grilling and nutrition, visit: Pinellas County Families and Consumer Sciences at

We at Pinellas County Extension wish you and yours a happy, safe and healthy Fourth of July, whatever your plans include.


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