Ben HaywardOctober 21st

Remember remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot… 

Although some people still seem as angry with Parliament as old Guido was back in 1605, thankfully, rather than plotting to blow the whole place up, they can distract themselves with a lovely old bonfire night party instead. 

But, as we become increasingly conscious of the damage us humans are doing to this planet, even the humble bonfire comes with its own set of considerations.

Damaging air quality, traumatising both domesticated and wild animals and creating tons of waste are just some of the undeniable negative impacts our bonfire night celebrations have on the environment. 

This can all seem like a bit of a downer when everyone just wants to have bit of fun during our long ol’ winter, but the truth is that with a little extra consideration we can all enjoy a much more guilt-free bonfire night.

So, with that in mind here are the main things to take into account when you’re planning for this year’s festivities.

Get back to nature…

Although it’s tempting, don’t use your bonfire as an excuse to get rid of any old rubbish. 

Burning certain things such as plastics, rubber and even treated wood not only harm the environment, but also the health of anyone unlucky enough to be standing nearby.

The Environment Agency says: “Everyone must remember that it is illegal to burn most types of waste and setting fire to treated wood, tyres, plastics, rubber and oil can seriously harm health and pollute the environment.

“There are also fears that people will use Bonfire Night as an excuse to burn old furniture, mattresses or even household rubbish.”

Even a nice natural bonfire can give off a lot of smoke - which is bad news for air quality. Small adjustments such as not using firelighters, and using dry leaves for kindling will massively reduce the amount of smoke your fire kicks out. 

Won’t somebody please think of the animals!?

With the numbers of many mammals dwindling in the UK, it’s important to ensure that you’re not putting any little critters at risk when lighting your bonfire.

A pile of wood makes a pretty good home for all manner of creatures -especially your local hedgehogs, so to avoid any unwanted accidents it’s best to build your fire just before you light it.

Also, if you’ve been storing wood to burn, make sure you transport it to another spot to build your fire to ensure no animals get caught out.

According to Green Impact Sheffield: “Garden log piles are hog heaven, providing crucial shelter and food at a time when they’re preparing for hibernation.”

It’s also important that pets are taken into consideration on bonfire night, as for many the noise and flashes can be extremely traumatic.

There are are a number of ways to help calm their little nerves, and the British Veterinary Association has issued five top tips for managing your pet’s stress on bonfire night, which you can find here.

Go green (well, white) with your fireworks

Obviously it wouldn’t be bonfire night without fireworks, but what the Chinese people who invented them about 1000 years ago didn’t realise was that they’re actually incredibly bad for the environment. 

Causing extensive air pollution in a short amount of time, fireworks discharge a whole host of metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke into the air - some of of which never fully decompose or disintegrate, instead hanging around and poisoning everything they come into contact with. Not great. 

So, one option is to try and get your hands on some eco-friendly fireworks. The problem is they can be hard to find and - because the technology isn’t that advanced just yet - expensive compared to regular fireworks.

However, there are some steps you can take to reduce your individual impact. In general, white coloured fireworks will have fewer harmful chemicals and if you try and use more ground-based ones, there’s less chance of having debris that you can’t find and dispose of safely.

But if you’re looking to be as eco-friendly as possible it’s best to attend a public display. This’ll result in fewer emissions than lots of smaller garden events. But if attending a public display is impractical why not try teaming up with some neighbours to put on a joint display? 

Blame it on the weatherman…

You may not have thought it, but the weather can make a massive difference to the extent to which bonfires and fireworks pollute the air.

To try and minimise the impact of your bonfire, check the weather forecast and choose a suitable evening.

“If the night air is still and misty, then the effects of pollution are intensified,” explains Green Redeem. “Try to choose a night when the air is clear with a light breeze. “

The morning after the night before…

It’s important to take a little bit of care after the celebrations have ended - no matter how fuzzy your head may be!  

Try and clear up as many firework remnants as you can to help ensure that none of the toxins are washed into the soil by rain.

 If you had a bonfire, the ashes will be rich in potassium, an important nutrient in plant growth. Add it into compost or even dig it directly into the soil around gooseberry and current bushes to give them a boost!

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