They are beautiful and exciting, fun and special — fireworks are the ultimate tools for celebrating any event. Yet, recently, reports have found that fireworks displays can have a significant impact on the surrounding environment, sending particles into the air and frightening local wildlife.

Fireworks and Pollution: Reducing the Impact
Mike Enerio

It is possible to have a stunning fireworks display and keep your surrounding environment safe and healthy, too. Here are some tips for keeping your fireworks fun eco-friendly, regardless of what you are celebrating:

Choose Eco-friendly Fireworks

For centuries, fireworks have been made with charcoal and sulfur — gunpowder — to propel the pyrotechnic into the air and cause awe-inspiring explosions. More recently, fireworks include other chemicals to serve as binders, colorants, and propellants, making pyrotechnics less expensive, easier to produce and use, and more exciting to watch.

Unfortunately, many of the components of traditional fireworks are toxic to the environment. Though the color and sound of pyrotechnics are undeniably spectacular, they emit excessive amounts of smoke into the air. In fact, after fireworks festivals like America’s Independence Day or India’s Diwali, cities can see a significant decrease in air quality with severe levels of fine particulate matter in the air, which can create or exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular illness. Unfortunately, the particulate matter can also filter into water, creating toxic environments for wildlife and potentially for people, as well.

Fortunately, advancements have been made in firework composition to reduce or eliminate toxicity, both to people and the surrounding ecosystem. For example, you can buy fireworks online that utilize a clean-burning, nitrogen-based fuel instead of carbon and sulfur. This results in dramatically less smoke, which means less particulate matter ending up in the air, water, and soil.

Firework packaging can also pollute environments. Cardboard and plastic pyrotechnic containers can create litter, much of which must be disposed of in particular ways to prevent toxic compounds from infiltrating water and soil. To combat this issue, many fireworks companies use biodegradable packaging. As a result, any uncollected debris from fireworks displays can quickly and harmlessly disintegrate within the environment.

Invest in Smaller, More Intimate Displays

Long, large pyrotechnic events can create massive environmental impacts, especially when cities host multiple massive fireworks displays in a single evening. While eliminating public fireworks events isn’t entirely practical, you might request your city to limit the number of large-scale pyrotechnics and instead prioritize smaller and more intimate fireworks displays amongst family and friends.

Ground and ground-to-air fireworks tend to be less environmentally impactful than aerial displays because they are smaller and have a limited range. Yet, for many fireworks viewers, these types of fireworks can be even more engaging and exciting than the giant sky shows because they are closer and experienced immediately, unlike large aerial displays which are launched sometimes hundreds of yards away.

Some examples of smaller fireworks worth your money include:

  • Firecrackers
  • Snakes
  • Bees
  • Smoke balls
  • Spinners
  • Fountains
  • Comets
  • Mines
  • Roman candles

You might also look into kid-friendly fireworks, like poppers and sparklers, which pose essentially no environmental threat as long as you dispose of the packaging appropriately.

Make Your Display Carbon Neutral

Finally, you can feel good about your fireworks display even if you can’t find eco-friendly pyrotechnics and want to enjoy larger, aerial shows, as long as you put in work to neutralize the carbon emissions. A handful of cities already commit to neutralizing the carbon output of their holiday fireworks, and you can do the same on a smaller scale.

Going carbon neutral requires calculating your carbon output and working to reduce emissions as much as possible before contributing to projects that reduce and consume carbon in the environment. You can purchase carbon offsets from companies like Terrapass, Carbonfund, Cloverly, or Wren. Using a carbon offset service like this is a convenient way to keep yourself accountable for your carbon footprint.

However, you can repay the environment for pyrotechnic use in other ways. For example, you could:

  • The landscape around your home with native plants
  • Install solar panels or other green energy solutions
  • Composting kitchen and yard waste for reuse in your garden

You shouldn’t feel bad about loving fireworks. The big, booming blooms of light thrill and delight almost everyone, and given the development of eco-friendly pyrotechnics, there is no reason to cease all fireworks displays for eternity. Instead, if everyone were a little more conscious of how fireworks can impact the environment and careful to take steps to limit the negative effects of firework use, we can enjoy public sky shows and private fireworks events in the future.