It’s that time of year again. The pumpkins have started to go soft, the leaves are falling from the trees and you find yourself needing to wrap up with an extra layer before you go outside. Halloween is over and the next mark on your calendar is Bonfire Night.
Bonfire Night is a celebration that marks the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ foiled Gunpowder plot in 1605, and as the 5th of November draws closer, we’ve been doing some thinking about the impact this festive celebration has on our planet.
Fireworks are a mixture of gunpowder, fuel and an oxidiser, which together create a potentially polluting concoction. The addition of certain trace metals and specific additives in the 1830s by the Italians created the colours we know so well today but only serves to make fireworks more toxic. For every 270 grams of black powder used, 132 grams of carbon dioxide are created, the rest of it turning into potassium sulphide and nitrogen, according to Treehugger.
So what can you do to reduce your environmental impact this Bonfire Night?
1) Soak your firework wrappers
If you can’t live without fireworks, make sure you dispose of them properly. Soak your firework in a bucket of water for at least 15 minutes, until water logged. Once you’re satisfied, drain any excess water into the toilet, and place your fireworks into a sealable bag to maintain moisture.
2) Avoid Chinese Lanterns
Chinese lanterns become litter as soon as they land. They often harm local wildlife and the RSCPA have warned that there is a risk of ‘ingestion, entanglement and entrapment’ for animals. If you do want to use them, try to source biodegradable ones.
3) Choose White Fireworks
According to Ecotricity, white coloured fireworks have fewer harmful chemicals than coloured fireworks and are therefore less polluting and toxic. Sustainable alternatives can be difficult to find bu they do exist!
4) Remember the Hedgehogs
Its important to think about where you build your bonfire, and what you build it with. Hedgehogs often mistake bonfires for cosy new homes.. Hedgehog populations have declined by over 50% since 2000 and Bonfire Night is the most lethal time of year for them. Re-siting your bonfire pile on the day you plan to lite it is a simple but effective way to ensure you don’t trap any of our spikey little friends.
Remember, everything that you throw onto your bonfire will burn and whatever’s in that product will be released into the air around us, so burn natural woods and paper, not plastics and household rubbish.
5) Check the Weather
The weather can have a big impact on pollution. If the air is still, the effects are worse. If you are hosting a fireworks event, it is best to do it on a clear, breezy night which will minimise the amount of pollution that will be stagnant in the air.
If you feel strongly about the effect of fireworks, take action to change what’s happening in your community. Raising a voice is a powerful way to highlight the danger of fireworks and the importance of protecting the environment. Some major retailers, including Sainsbury’s, have already made the commitment to stop selling fireworks in their stores based on customer feedback.