July 4 is a time of heightened patriotism. Celebrating our independence from Great Britain's rule, Americans across the nation gather with friends and family to commemorate the establishment of our freedom and the principles on which our country was founded.
While recent events have made us critical of the United States government's capacity to uphold the ideals put forth by our Founding Fathers, the signing of the Declaration of Independence "was an act of progress with resounding historical significance," making this holiday of particular importance to American citizens.
Here are unique 5 ways to celebrate July 4 and the political independence of our nation.
1. Eat A Veggieburger, Not a Hamburger
Barbecuing on the fourth of July has become a defining tradition in American patriotism and a staple in our celebration of Independence.
While hotdogs and hamburgers continue to fight for the number one spot in the hearts of Americans, a new player is entering the patriotic feud - the veggie burger.
Why depart from your annual tradition of cured meat and smokey beef? A 2012 study by Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra examined the water footprint of animal products - or the amount of water required to produce them - and concluded:
"Replacing all meat by an equivalent amount of crop products such as pulses and nutswill result in a 30% reduction of the food-related water footprint of the average American citizen."
Beef has the water footprint of roughly 4 million gallons per ton produced. Compare that to vegetables, which have the water footprint of 85,000 gallons per ton. Becoming a vegetarian, or eliminating meat from your diet, reduces an individual's water footprint by almost 60 percent, professor of history at Texas State University James McWilliams concludes in the New York Times.
California residents especially should heed this advice, as we are experiencing one of the worst droughts in the state’s history. In a state that allocates an estimated 80% of our water to agriculture, reducing our water footprint should be a high priority.
So no, eating a veggie-burger does not make you un-American. Preserving the land our forefathers fought so hard for may actually be the most patriotic thing you do this Fourth of July.
Why not opt for a vegetarian alternative this fourth of July?
2. Read the Declaration of Independence
Finalized on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence marks the irrevocable departure of the thirteen colonies of the United States from the rule of Great Britain. It not only marks the country's independence, but it establishes the unalienable rights that have become the cornerstone of American freedom:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
3. Watch Fireworks with #NoFilter
While it has become second nature to pull out our phones at every meal, sunset, and event in order to capture the perfect shot to gloriously showcase our good taste, step away from your iPhone this Fourth of July. A recent story in Fast Company explains, in short, how Instagram can ruin lives.
"We are ceasing to see. Using our eyes to appreciate beauty is no longer enough. It always has to be documented for some other time--often resulting in an abyss of recordings," Meredith Fineman, founder of FinePoint Digital PR, writes.
This July 4, enjoy the fireworks show in real-time, because you'll likely never watch that video you record in hopes to document the holiday.
4. Register to Vote Online
What better way to celebrate your independence than by participating in the defining characteristic of our democracy: the voting system. While most local voter registration and election offices will be closed on July 4, many states are now pushing for more aggressive online voter registration systems. In California, you can register to vote here.
Find out if your state allows you to register to vote online here.
5. Protect Your Pets
Pets, unlike humans, do not associate the load roars and bright flashes essential to any good firework show to a celebration of patriotism, resulting in more pets getting lost on July 4 than any other day of the year. Keep your pets safe this July 4 with these 10 tips.