A pitcher of water with mason jars for glasses.
Brian Francis

Bulk Up

When shopping for the festivities, make sure to think big. Simply put, buying in bulk reduces waste from packaging. This mindset goes for the fare as well. For example, buy family-sized bags of chips instead of individual snack packs.

Tip: Rather than serving bottles of water and soda (think of all that wasted plastic!), opt for large pitchers filled with your favorite beverages. That way, your guests can easily serve themselves.

A glass mason jar.
Brian Francis

Mason Dixon

Replace plastic cups -- which can take years to biodegrade -- with every day drinking glasses. This instantly dresses up your party, and each guest can use the same glass multiple times.

Here, we used Mason jars because they’re fairly inexpensive and can be reused either as drinking glasses or for canning fresh summer produce.

Ball Quart Regular Mason Jars
$10.99 (case of 12)
Available at the Canning Pantry

Salad in a bamboo bowl.
Brian Francis

Buy Locally

Nothing tastes better than fresh fruits and vegetables, so visit your local farmer’s market for summer produce. When you buy locally, you’re not only supporting community farmers, but you’re also helping cut down on energy and fuel used to ship items cross-country.

Tip: When it comes to beef, poultry, and seafood, look for items that are organic, free range, and/or wild.

Click here to find a farmer’s market near you.

Get summer grilling recipes, guides, and essential from MyRecipes.

A group of guys looking over a grill.
Brian Francis

Grill Green

With a few simple changes, you can become an eco-friendly grill master. Start by using natural wood or lump charcoal -- such as Cowboy Charcoal -- rather than traditional briquettes, which are often made of sawdust and held together with chemical adhesives. (These artificial additives can absorb into the air -- and your food.)

One-Touch® Gold Charcoal Grill
Available from Weber retailers

Get food safety tips for grilling

A man adding charcoal to the grill.
Brian Francis

Light Your Fire

There’s no need to drench charcoal in lighter fluid (or buy pre-soaked briquettes) to achieve a steady flame. Instead, invest in an inexpensive chimney starter to quickly and safely light the coals. An added bonus: after the party, use the ashes to amend the soil in your garden.

Rapidfire® Chimney Starter
Available at Weber

Get step-by-step instructions on lighting a charcoal grill.

A family at a picnic table.
Brian Francis

Use What You Have

Add a touch of elegance to the most casual cookout by replacing store-bought flowers with cuttings from your yard and plastic or disposable tablecloths with your own linens.

Tip: To save yourself a pre-party task, drop off tablecloths at the local dry cleaner for a quick press.

A table with food for a barbecue.
Brian Francis

Set a Buffet

The beauty of backyard cookouts is that they’re fun and easy. Setting up a buffet allows you to have a central location for food and invites guests to eat when they please.

Tip: To add visual interest to your buffet, incorporate colorful serving dishes and place small bouquets of flowers throughout your spread.

Vintage Hemp Table Runner
Available at Branch

A plates, bowls, and serving utensils made of bamboo.
Brian Francis


Bowls and utensils made of bamboo (a durable renewable resource) are ideal for outdoor gatherings. We stocked our buffet with pretty serving pieces (they get their vibrant colors from natural lacquers) made of organically grown bamboo.

Large Handmade Bowls by Bambu
Available at Branch

Handmade Low Bowls by Bambu
Available at Branch

Handmade Curvy Servers by Bambu
Available at Branch

Biodegradable plates and bowls and recycled plastic forks.
Brian Francis


Paper plates and plastic utensils are easy, but not always the eco-smart option. Replace them with disposable dishes made from natural fibers (they’re just as durable and 100% biodegradable). As for utensils, purchase recycled plastic pieces.

Tip: Ban paper towels from your cookout. Cloth napkins are durable and can be reused. Repurposed flour sacks also can be used as napkins, and once washed, make great kitchen towels.

Compostable Plates and Bowls
Available at RealGoods.com

Recycled and Reusable Cutlery
Available at RealGoods.com

Flour Sack Towels and Napkins
Available at RealGoods.com

Wicker baskets for recycling.
Brian Francis

Easy Recycling

Think outside the blue box and offer your guests convenient (and cute!) recycling options. Here we used labeled apple crates, but any baskets or bins you have around the house will also work. The key is to make it easy for your guests.

A mason jar with a citronella tea light candle.
Brian Francis

Bugs at Bay

Any outdoor event (especially when food is served) presents an open invitation for bugs. Guard your guests with citronella candles (our citronella tea lights are nestled in Mason jars filled with birdseed) and natural insect repellant sprays.

A couple relaxing in chairs.
Brian Francis

Family Celebration

The most important ingredient to any successful party is your guest list. Keep the menu and details simple, saving you time to spend with those you love.

Get great ideas and recipes for your Fourth of July Menu.

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