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Living Green – Tips on lowering environmental impacts this Fourth of July

Negaunee residents lay out blankets and set up lawn chairs along the shore of Teal Lake in anticipation of the Fourth of July firework display. Locals can reduce their footprint this holiday by picking up litter and properly disposing of fireworks. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Cans. Glass and plastic bottles. Cigarette butts. Boxes. Plastic bags. Remnants of fireworks.

These are just a few examples of items found littering local parks and streets after last year’s Fourth of July festivities, with a significant concentration of these items found at McCarty’s Cove beach along Lake Superior in Marquette.

In light of this, revelers are encouraged to consider a few simple ways to reduce their impact while celebrating the holiday this year.

“We can enjoy the company of family and friends, celebrate the independence of this wonderful nation and keep it healthy for generations to come,” Emily Leach of the Superior Watershed Partnership said in an email. “While preparing to adventure in town, at the beach or in the woods, keep a few things in mind to lessen your ‘footprint.'”

One major way to lessen the environmental impact is to avoid littering, as litter and other debris can harm wildlife and the local watershed, Leach said.

“Pack out what you pack in on your adventures so others don’t have to clean up your mess,” she said.

Furthermore, she said, it’s important to recognize there’s a large system of storm drains throughout Marquette — and all eventually take the water and debris collected out to Lake Superior.

“The storm drains are not filtered, and directly flow out to public beaches, along with any litter, vehicle fluids, yard waste, pesticides/herbicides applied to lawns, or pet waste,” Leach said. “This is an issue, as there are multiple public swimming beaches and the drinking water intake pipe not too far off shore.”

With “tens of thousands of cigarette filters littering the Marquette city beaches and public spaces,” it’s particularly important to dispose of cigarette filters properly, “as these toxins leak out of the filter and accumulate in the environment,” Leach said.

“If you see debris on the ground, please pick it up to prevent it from harming wildlife, our water supply by ending up in the lake, or in little children’s mouths,” she said.

It’s also important to be mindful of the impact that fireworks and debris can have on the environment, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildfire Prevention Specialist Paul Rogers said.

“Don’t shoot them off in the woods because they can sit there and smolder for a long time and start a fire,” Rogers said, adding that firework users should ensure the ground is “sufficiently wet” before lighting off a firework.

Rogers emphasized that fireworks should be cleaned up and placed in a 5-gallon bucket of water after use, as this protects the land from both litter and fire.

“Always please pick up your fireworks because they can be out in the environment for many years before they degrade and fall apart,” he said.

For those planning a campfire or a backyard fire, always have a 5-gallon bucket of water or a garden hose ready, Rogers said.

“Don’t wait until after a fire has started to try to find water; have it available and ready when you’re having your fire,” he said.

Furthermore, even if it seems a fire is out, pour water on it and stir it around to ensure it is truly extinguished, as embers can be blown out of a fire pit into a nearby area, starting a wildfire, he said.

Before burning, always call 866-922-2876 or check the DNR’s burn permit site at www.dnr.state.mi.us/burnpermits, Rogers said.

For those planning to explore the outdoors this Fourth of July, being mindful of trails can also make a big difference for wildlife and the environment, Leach said.

“Please use designated trails in the woods and on the beach. It is important to keep foot traffic to designated-use areas to prevent disturbance to wildlife and sensitive ecosystems,” Leach said. “For example, beach grass is very important for a resilient dune, as it creates a web of roots under the sand to hold it in place and prevent erosion. With record high lake levels this year, there will be increased coastal erosion this fall when the large gales return.”

Walking and biking to destinations and events in town can also help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars — it’ll also help reduce traffic congestion, which can sometimes be significant during Fourth of July festivities, Leach said.

Other tips for making the Fourth of July more eco-friendly include bringing a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste, packing your own snacks to reduce individual packaging, and considering other ways to reduce consumption of single-use plastics, such as avoiding plastic straws and seeking eco-friendly to-go packaging alternatives. Furthermore, Leach asks those who venture out to not bring glass beverage containers along.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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