7 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Labor Day Weekend

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As we say goodbye to summer, it’s time for one last hurrah before fall sets in.

Holidays are often times for excess, but if you want to make more responsible choices and do your part to improve sustainability, it’s entirely possible to have a fun-filled Labor Day weekend while still being as eco-friendly as possible.

Green Labor Day Strategies

These are some of the best ways to do it:

1. Help clean up after the parade. If your city is like most, it probably has a Labor Day parade. There, you’ll see floats and groups of people throwing individually wrapped pieces of candy to the crowd, passing out flyers that most people immediately dispose of, and possibly even spraying confetti. All this litter is bad for the environment, so consider sticking around when the parade is over to help with the cleanup efforts.

2. Avoid disposable party ware. Using plastic utensils may make your life a little more convenient, but the process of making paper cups, plates and silverware is egregiously harmful to the environment. Companies cut down trees or burn significant energy making plastic, then burn fuel shipping those disposable products all over the world. When you’re done with them, they’ll probably end up in a landfill, taking up space. Try to use washable dishes and silverware as much as possible while hosting gatherings.

3. Upcycle your decorations and displays. Every new thing you buy has an environmental impact; it takes raw materials and energy to produce and ship goods around the world, which adds to your total carbon footprint. Instead of buying new decorations and displays for your party, consider upcycling what you already have. For example, you could use old hubcaps to support flower arrangements, or turn an old throw into a makeshift tablecloth.

4. If you’re grilling, use propane. If you’re going to light the grill and have a few hamburgers and hot dogs, consider using propane. It may not seem like an eco-friendly option, but as a fuel, it’s relatively clean, and greenhouse gas emissions from propane are far lower than those from any carbon-based fuel.

5. Don’t crank the AC. Depending on where you live, Labor Day is likely to be one of the last truly hot days of the summer. If you’re sensitive to the heat, you might be tempted to bring everyone inside and crank the air conditioning. However, this is inadvisable, as air conditioning produces some harmful byproducts and demands significant amounts of electricity (most of which are supplied by carbon-fuel-based generators). The good news is that most modern air conditioners no longer produce the ozone-crushing chlorofluorocarbons that have already contributed significantly to climate change, but even with the most efficient model on the market, you’re better off staying outside in the shade.

6. Gather in groups, but carpool. Sharing resources means you’ll consume fewer resources in total. Try to gather together in groups to celebrate (which you probably don’t need much motivation to do). When traveling to other locations, consider carpooling to reduce your fuel consumption even further — or better yet, bike or walk to your destination instead of driving.

7. Recycle (and make it easy for your guests to recycle). Finally, make sure it’s convenient for your guests to recycle (and set a good standard by recycling yourself). Include a clearly marked recycling bin next to your main eating area, and help any unfamiliar guests understand the difference between recyclable and nonrecyclable products. Not only will this improve the sustainability of your Labor Day gathering, you can also seize this as an opportunity to teach your friends about the sustainability of their actions — as long as you don’t kill the festive mood.

The Bottom Line? Consume Less

The best general strategy we can offer this Labor Day is to try and consume less; use less fuel, use less electricity, buy fewer products and properly dispose of the products you do use. It won’t take away from the fun and excitement of your day off, nor will it take much additional time to accomplish. You’ll feel good about celebrating Labor Day, and ready to head into fall with your best eco-friendly foot forward.

Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities and worked with more than 100 businesses over the course of the past 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking and skiing with her family.