Memorial Day traditions have become just as American as Apple Pie. And while we are supposed to be honoring those who have died serving in our many wars, most people use the day for cookouts, parades, camping, the start of summer, and of course the American tradition of drinking on holidays.  All these traditions are  a blast and an exciting way to start your summer off with a bang. They also can all be done with the environment in mind. We celebrate our Memorial Day as green as we can and here’s to hoping you will too. Let’s start a new American tradition of making a smaller imprint on the Earth, while still indulging in our fun! To help this new tradition along, we have put together some helpful tips on how to make sure your Memorial Day is red, white, blue, and green!

1) Green that Grill: BBQ is a true Memorial Day and summer tradition and it is easy to green your grill.  Replacing your chemical laden charcoal to more earth friendly means such as wood briquettes or natural organic charcoal. For that smokey BBQ taste, we recommend the wood briquettes! Either of these choices will leave your food without the burning of coal, petroleum products, sawdust, or limestone, which are all toxic. If you want to take it one step further, invest in a new clean burning grill. This will emit far less pollution into the air and your food. It may not be traditional but electric grills, put out 99% less carbon monoxide. If you have the money, the Hybrid Grill is a great way to go, although a tad pricey! For more tips on how to have a green grilling experience, refer to our blog from last summer: Green Your Grill: Eco BBQ Tips.

2) Hold the Meat: Although traditional American BBQs include tons and tons of meat! To truly green your BBQ, we suggest you hold the meat. The meat industry consumes more than a third of the fossil fuels in the US and contributes 18% of greenhouse gases, which is even more than the transportation industry! And those figures are just the beginning of how the current factory farm meat industry is adversely affecting our world.  Environmentalists have long been promoting a veggie based diet as a way to green your life, so why not make the switch for your BBQ this year! There are hundreds of great veggie based “meat” style products on the market such as Veggie Burgers, Soy Dogs, Soy Sausage, Veggie Ribs etc. For some great recommendations check out our Vegan BBQ Tips and Product Battle: Hot Dogs. If faux meat is not your thing, you can always grill veggies straight on the grill or drizzle them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil! For more ideas on veggie recipes look no further than our backlog of delicious vegan recipes. Also, don’t forget to purchase your veggies organic and local if at all possible!

3) Organic & Fair Trade Drinks: Even if we try, we can not deny that many American holidays revolve around drinking! And Memorial Day is no stranger to this rule. Luckily more and more organic beer, wine, and spirits are on the market these days. Try your best to support your local micro breweries when selecting beer, however, if no organic beer is available try a couple of these brands: Peak Organic, Samuel Smith, and Fish Tale Organic Ales. Green America has also put together a list of recommendations for organic beers that we found helpful. For wines look no further than Frey for organic and Etica for Fair Trade. If you like the hard stuff there are also a number of organic and Fair Trade spirits on the market such as Square One Vodka, Tru Organic Gin, 4 Copas Organic Tequila. Also, FAIR Vodka, the first Fair Trade vodka on the market is now available in the US. For ideas on Fair Trade and Organic Cocktails, check out our recipe backlog.

4) Stay Local: We know, we know, a “staycation” is nowhere near as exciting as traveling far away to go camping. However, traveling by car for long distances or by plane is not so eco-friendly. Now we aren’t saying you should camp out in your own backyard literally (although that can be an adventure), we just mean look for destinations close to home. Stay within 20-50 miles of your own home! You may find that there are wonderous campgrounds, beautiful hiking trails, or a pretty lake nearby that you never noticed. You can even do a search on Reserve America to find campgrounds near you or look into the National and State Park systems for local ideas.

5) Alternative Transportation: If you must travel this Memorial Day weekend, we suggest you look to other means besides planes and cars! Bike travel is catching on quickly and is a fun and healthy way to travel. There are plenty of companies that put together tours or you can do it DIY style. Here are some tips on traveling by bike! If traveling by bicycle is a little too intensive for you or if you are traveling with a larger group, you can look into traveling by bus or rail. There are bus companies that will take you and your family to beautiful destinations for camping or hiking. Traveling by public transportation or by bike makes your entire journey an adventure and while you won’t get control of the radio perse, you can experience a whole other world of travel. And really do you ever get control of the radio on family trips?

If you are reading this, you are most likely going to be drunk this weekend. Why? Because everybody gets drunk on St Patrick’s Day. And by everyone, we mean most people. Yes, we know, the holiday occurs on this coming Wednesday, but the only realistic celebration days for the working world are this weekend, which means you don’t have much time to prepare. And that is why you have turned to us! With a drinking holiday fast approaching, we researched our beer options and found purchasing organic is superior for various reasons. Read on and be, first, horrified, then satiated.

Now, like you, perhaps, many of our favorite beers are conventionally produced. Essentially, this means, large-scale, factory farm produced hops end up in almost all beers. Much like with conventional fruits and vegetables, conventional hops are farmed using harmful pesticides. In fact, the EPA has reported in the last 60 years farming has moved away from labor intensive techniques to pesticide heavy methods. This comes with a whole host of environmental nightmares from the obvious pollution of soil, drinking water, and aquatic eco-systems to the startling death of wildlife, more than 60 million birds die annually from pesticide poisoning. Which makes us wonder, how much of these harmful chemicals end up in our bottled beers? In a Japanese study, many residues were found in shelf ready beers. For some chemicals, this means up to 36% of pesticides lacing the hops in the field, survive processing, brewing, and end up in the finished product. The bottom line, we are drinking and ingesting crop duster poisons. Told you we would horrify you, didn’t we?

We have covered why conventional beers can be harmful to both the environmental and our own personal health. Now on to be satiated! Drinking conventional beers can be dangerous, however, we are not recommending you give up the wonderful world of beer just yet. Instead, we can all turn to organics! The benefits of drinking organics is pretty simple, as you won’t be ingesting any of those harmful chemicals mentioned above. But on top of drinking pesticide free beer you will be supporting local farming. Most organic hops come from  farms which are 100 acres or less. So by purchasing organic beer, you are not only doing your body good, but are supporting local and small farms! Sounds like a double win to us.

Fortunately, the organic beer market is expanding and there are many more choices available these days. The best place to find organic beer is in your city or region! Some of the best beers are from small, local, micro-breweries. You should check around your neighborhood for suggestions. However, there are many great organic companies that are available around the nation and should be stocked at your local specialty shop, large liquor store, natural foods store, co-op, or even Whole Foods. There are many different companies to choose from. Here are some of our favorites: Peak Organic(from Maine), Samuel Smith (although from far away Britain, how can you deny flavors like Strawberry?), and Wolaver’s (Vermont brewery, Otter Creek’s organic line). If none of our favorites satisfy your palate, you can check this list of organic beers from the Daily Green.  You just might find something local and delicious!

Organic beers may not be as readily available as the conventional type yet, however, drinking them and supporting their business helps you and the environment. Next time you are at the liquor store think about those poor birds or the pesticides that can survive in your beer and fork out the extra cash to purchase the organic alternative. Remember the more we purchase, the more demand breweries will see, and that means more organic beers to choose from! So knock one back for the ole’ Irish style holiday and make sure your label reads USDA Organic!

-Jeremy Pearson & Gina Williams

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