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Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

Reading books about the environment can be a great way to not only stay informed about issues facing the natural world, but also to become inspired to take action in your community and make a positive contribution to the planet.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best books about climate change and other eco-issues, including pollution, the use of fossil fuels, and environmental policy. We’ll also give you a few recommendations for children’s books about climate change, ocean plastics, plants and more.

6 Best Books About the Environment for Adults

Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

​Best New Release: All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson

All We Can Save” is a thought-provoking compilation of essays, poetry and art from dozens of women working to solve climate change in the U.S., from scientists and lawyers to farmers and teachers. The collection’s editors, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson, focus on representation within the book, making sure to include voices from all walks of life in the conversation.

Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with about 500 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: This Los Angeles Times bestseller book will leave you feeling hopeful and armed with ideas for how to tackle climate change independently, whether it’s supporting climate journalists, marching in the streets or simply talking about the issue with your loved ones and neighbors.

Buy

​Best Book About Climate Change: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

David Wallace-Wells

To get up to speed on global warming and the ensuing ecological crisis, we recommend checking out David Wallace-Wells’s “The Uninhabitable Earth.” The book presents both the latest research on a variety of climate-related topics and an informed look into how the crisis may play out to affect global politics and capitalism, incite food shortages and climate wars, and change the trajectory of humanity.

Reader Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: It’s not exactly light reading, but this New York Times No. 1 bestseller is well-researched (and well-cited), presenting thought-provoking information about the future of our planet in an accessible way.

Buy

​Best Book About Activism: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg

If you’re looking for something to get you inspired, check out Greta Thunberg’s “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.” The book is a collection of speeches that Thunberg, a teen activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has given about the climate crisis to leaders at the United Nations and on Capitol Hill, as well as to fellow youth activists at climate marches and Fridays For Future gatherings across the globe.

Reader Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 800 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: Thunberg’s unflinching voice and profound calls for action will leave you brimming with a mix of frustration and hope for the next generation of climate leaders — plus a healthy urge to pen strongly worded letters to your elected officials.

Buy

​Best Book About Pollution: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson is widely accepted as a key figure in the history of environmentalism, as her 1964 book “Silent Spring” sparked revolutionary policy changes that protected natural resources from air to land to water.

The book alerted the public to how widely used chemicals and pesticides including DDT negatively affected not only human health, but also posed grave threats to natural spaces. As such, it inspired a new generation of activists and continues to be “required reading” for environmentalists today.

Reader Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: While it follows the journey of chemicals circulating through ecosystems and provides historical context for environmental issues we’re still facing today, “Silent Spring” is written with exceptional prose that holds up decades after its initial publication.

Buy

Best Book About Social Impacts: Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush

Elizabeth Rush

In “Rising,” journalist Elizabeth Rush explores how climate change is taking a toll on wildlife and how people in low-lying coastal areas are already being forced to flee to higher ground or risk their lives weathering intensifying storms and sea-level rise.

Rush weaves together insightful interviews with climate scientists and compelling stories from coastal communities across the U.S. The result is a haunting look at one of the initial social impacts of climate change that’s sure to worsen with time.

Reader Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: “Rising” interlays science and personal narratives to create an impactful illustration of how sea-level rise is threatening our coastlines and what’s in store as the environmental crisis continues.

Buy

​Best Book About Food: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” explores how our diets affect the world around us, delving into the U.S. agricultural industry and the politics around what we eat. It’s an eye-opening look at food that touches on policy, economics, and the revolution of our relationship with the natural world.

Reader Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 3,100 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” will make you consider not only how what you eat affects your body, but also the bigger impacts of the American diet and how you may be able to live more sustainably by changing your food choices.

Buy

5 Best Children’s Books About The Environment

It’s never too early to teach your children about environmental stewardship and the importance of protecting the natural world. These five fiction books touch on critical environmental topics in informational yet entertaining ways that kids can relate to:

Best Children’s Book About the Environment: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss

A classic work of Dr. Seuss, “The Lorax” is an excellent introduction to the dangers of environmental degradation and the importance of speaking up when it counts. In the story, unique and beautiful Truffula Trees are clear-cut until all that’s left of the species is a single seed. The last remaining Truffula seed is entrusted to a child who can go on to save the forest, proving that even young kids can make a positive impact on the environment.

Reading Ages: 3 to 7 years old

Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 7,700 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: Told in Dr. Seuss’s signature rhymes and imaginative illustrations, the story of the Lorax is one that still rings true 50 years after it was originally printed.

Buy

Best Children’s Book About Climate Change: The Lonely Polar Bear by Khoa Le

The Lonely Polar Bear by Khoa Le

Khoa Le

Climate change can be tough for kids to wrap their heads around, but “The Lonely Polar Bear” serves as a subtle introduction to the topic. In the book, a polar bear wakes up after an Arctic storm to find himself all alone, his mother and brother nowhere to be found. He soon makes friends with a little girl and wanders across the Arctic to find his family, meeting other animals that are dependent on the shrinking polar environment including elk, wolves, whales and puffins.

Reading Ages: 6 to 12 years old

Reader Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 100 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: Along with teaching about climate change and the melting Arctic, “The Last Polar Bear” explores the biodiversity of polar wildlife and the importance of friendship.

Buy

Best Children’s Book About Ocean Plastics: Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon

Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon

Nathan Bryon

Rocket Says Clean Up!” tells the story of Rocket, a science-loving kid who is visiting her grandparents at the beach. Rocket’s plans to surf all vacation are thwarted when she finds a baby sea turtle tangled in plastic and decides to do something about all of the trash polluting the coast. Through educating fellow beachgoers and organizing a cleanup, Rocket clears the beaches and allows the little turtle to safely return to its home.

Reading Ages: 3 to 7 years old

Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 600 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: This inclusive children’s book shows young kids that our beaches are in trouble but that we can still turn the tide on ocean plastics. It also includes a section on sustainability and how readers can take action and clean up their own communities.

Buy

Best Children’s Book About Ecology: The Magic and Mystery of Trees by Jen Green

The Magic and Mystery of Trees by Jen Green

Jen Green

In a way that’s easy for kids to understand, Jen Green’s “The Magic and Mystery of Trees” explains the intricacies of these organisms, from their web of roots that tangles underground to how they communicate with one another. The book even has sections that address the threats against trees and how we can help them thrive, bringing kids into the conversation around conservation.

Reading Age: 3 to 9 years old

Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: “The Magic and Mystery of Trees” eases kids into the subject of ecology and will leave your children filled with wonder at the natural world.

Buy

Best Children’s Book About Activism: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen

In “Hoot,” a teen and his friends attempt to stop the construction of a new restaurant that would destroy an endangered burrowing owl habitat. A Newbery Honor winner and No. 1 New York Times bestseller, “Hoot” is a classic environmental book that proves anyone can make a difference by standing up for a cause they believe in.

Reading Age: 9 to 12 years old

Reader Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratings

Why It’s a Must-Read: Although it’s written with young teens in mind, Carl Hiaasen’s representation of Florida’s wild spaces and its colorful inhabitants — both human and animal — will give parents just as much enjoyment out of reading this book.

Buy

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Although a plastic-free road trip is no small feat, it can be done with a little effort. When traveling by car, you're already creating a large amount of pollution through vehicle emissions. Cutting out single-use plastics is a good way to make your vacation a little more eco-friendly.

Plastic Free July lands smack in the middle of vacation season, and this year, my summer plans included leaving North Carolina and driving through four cities in Florida to spend some time in the humidity sun. The challenge was: Could I really carry out a plastic-free road trip?

With a lot of planning and even more improvising, I was able to significantly cut down my waste and successfully avoid single-use plastic throughout the entire journey. Here, I’ll share the best tips I learned and a few items to pack if you’re embarking on your own plastic-free road trip.

Disclaimer: If you want to take it a step further and have a zero-waste road trip, you may need to adjust some of the following tips.

Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.


Plastic-Free Road Trip Food and Drinks

Road trips usually mean a lot of eating en route. Here are a few ways to have plastic-free food and drinks while traveling by car:

Snacks

Snacks are an essential part of any road trip, but there are few gas-station finds that aren’t wrapped in single-use plastic. One of the best ways to avoid this waste is to stock up before you hit the road. Fill up reusable containers with fruits, veggies and dry goods. If you run low, see if the cities you’re driving to (or through) have zero-waste shops, farmers markets or stores with bulk bins to refill your containers.

Drinks

In my experience, you can usually bring your own cup inside a gas station or inside quick-service restaurants for sodas and water. Just tell the cashier how many ounces your cup holds (or offer to pay for the largest-size cup they carry). You can also fill up your reusable water bottle at rest-stop water fountains.

Caffeine

If you need something to help you stay alert on a long drive, many gas stations and convenience stores sell caffeinated sodas, energy drinks and coffees in cans. Don’t forget you can bring your own cup to Starbucks as well. If you’re striving for even less waste, you can make and bottle your own coffee or cold brew ahead of time and pack it in your cooler.

Meals

For meals, dine in at a quick-service restaurant that uses real tableware, like Panera. (Or, to get back on the road right away, order your food for dine-in and carry it out in your own reusable to-go container). You could also opt for a place like Chipotle, which packages many items in foil and other plastic-free containers. Just remember to bring your own silverware and cup or water bottle.

In a pinch, many fast-food chains wrap items like burgers and tacos in biodegradable paper. Subway wrappers, for example, even say “please compost” on them. If you go this route, just ask for no sauce packets/cups, silverware and other small sources of plastic.

Ice

If you’re packing a cooler, you’ll need to keep it cold without buying plastic bags of ice. If you’re staying at a hotel, use the ice machine to replenish your supply. If you’re staying somewhere else that has a freezer, bring re-freezable ice packs or pack ice trays and freeze them overnight. If you’re camping or don’t have freezer access, freeze a tub of water and pack strategically, keeping your most perishable items nearest to the tub. A large block of ice will melt much slower than individual cubes.

Avoiding Plastic While Lodging

If you aren’t driving through the night, you’ll likely be staying at a hotel, campsite or rental home. Use these tips to avoid plastic in each scenario:

Hotels

One of the biggest culprits of waste in hotels is in-room amenities. From ice bin liners to mini toiletries to coffee bar items, there are a lot of single-use plastics that can be easily avoided. If you leave these items untouched, it’s likely the housekeeping staff will keep them out for the next guest. When checking out, make sure to return your key card so it can be passed on as well.

If your hotel has a continental breakfast or other type of buffet, you may be able to find some plastic-free fare. However, the utensils and plates may be disposable. Be sure to bring your own tableware and a cup for coffee or juice.

Campgrounds

Food and drinks are often the biggest sources of plastic waste while camping. Sure, a dehydrated backpacking meal is convenient and quick, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t come in plastic packaging.

Here are a few alternatives:

  1. Cook your own meals at home and dehydrate them before the trip, then rehydrate them at camp.
  2. Cook your own meals at home and freeze them, allowing them to thaw a bit in your cooler before you heat them at camp.
  3. Plan, pack ingredients and prepare plastic-free meals at camp.
  4. Stop for a meal before heading to camp for the night.

Rental Homes

Staying at an Airbnb or other rental home is the easiest way to cook your own food, as many have kitchen setups and all of the cooking and dining dishes you may need. Some homes may have single-use plastic items like coffee pods or mini toiletries, so make sure you avoid these.

Plastic-Free Packing: Toiletries

From shampoo bars to cardboard-cased deodorant, more and more sustainable toiletry items are becoming widely available. (In fact, I found both of these plastic-free items at Target.) However, toiletries can still be a big source of waste while traveling. Here are a few ideas to avoid the unnecessary plastic:

Liquid Toiletries

When packing for a road trip, you’ll have at least a trunk’s worth of space. While it can be tempting to throw everything from your shower into the car, it’s often a better idea to just bring what you need.

For liquids like cleansers, shampoo and conditioner, I used Cadence’s leakproof capsules, and they worked like a charm. If you’re using other containers and are worried about spillage, instead of using a Ziploc, pop them into a reusable storage pouch like a Stasher bag.

Dental Hygiene Products

If you’re like me and refuse the plastic-filled goody bag of travel toothpastes, toothbrushes and flosses at the dentist, you may not have any totable dental hygiene products lying around. This is where bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste tablets and refillable floss containers come into play.

Feminine Hygiene Products

Traveling on your period? There’s no better time to make the switch to plastic-free menstrual products. A menstrual cup is one way to go, as it can be worn for up to 12 hours. However, they do require regular washing, which can be difficult in a public restroom. Another option is to pack a few pairs of leakproof period underwear from a company like Proof. Proof undies can hold up to five regular tampons and have leak-lock edges, so you can wear them all day and still stay dry. These can be washed by hand (which, again, can be difficult in a public bathroom) and hung to dry overnight.

Must-Have Items That Made My Plastic-Free Road Trip Easier

Planning is the key to a successful plastic-free road trip. As you make your packing list, here are a few things I recommend bringing along. Many of these items turned out to be useful in more ways than one, and having each of them in tow, I was more easily able to avoid single-use plastics.

Item

Why Pack It on Your Plastic-Free Road Trip?

Product I Used
Reusable bags Having a stash of reusable grocery bags can come in handy for everything from restocking your food supply to organizing your vehicle. BAGGU Reusable Shopping Bag
Reusable water bottle Rather than buying dozens of plastic water bottles, bring your own eco-friendly water bottle and fill it up wherever there is a soda fountain or water fountain. Hydro Flask Water Bottle
Reusable cup Plastic cups for soft drinks and Styrofoam coffee cups can easily be avoided if you BYOC. YETI Rambler 20-Ounce Tumbler
Reusable cutlery Whether you prefer metal or bamboo utensils, bringing a fork, knife and spoon (or all-in-one tool) will let you skip single-use plastic cutlery. Light My Fire Titanium Spork
Reusable plates From food prep to serving, you’ll get plenty of use out of the plates you pack. MSR Alpine Plate
Reusable straws Straws can make it much easier to drink out of a cup while driving. Pack your own reusable straws so you can avoid single-use plastic ones. Klean Kanteen Steel Straws
Reusable containers Along with using them for packing, bring a few empty reusable plastic or glass containers for storing leftovers or miscellaneous items in your car. Ball Mason Jars with Lids
Car trash bin It doesn’t have to be fancy, but making sure you have a dedicated trash receptacle in your vehicle will help keep your car fresh. Bonus points if you have separate recycling and compost bins as well. HOTOR Car Trash Can
Heavy-duty cooler When you aren’t buying as many items on the go, you’ll need to pack more perishables. A well-insulated cooler that can keep ice frozen for days is a saving grace. RTIC Hard Cooler

Final Thoughts: Plastic-Free Road Trip

Although a plastic-free road trip is no small feat, it can be done with a little effort. When traveling by car, you’re already creating a large amount of pollution through vehicle emissions. Cutting out single-use plastics is a good way to make your vacation a little more eco-friendly.

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Fireworks celebration in Washington, DC on July 4, 2015. Anthony Quintano / CC BY 2.0

As ocean plastics and landfill levels are on the rise, Americans are gearing up for another litter-heavy holiday. Whether you're participating in Plastic Free July or just want to cut down on waste this Independence Day, here are 13 ways to have a plastic-free Fourth of July get-together that's every bit as patriotic as it is eco-friendly.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend about $7.52 billion on food items for the 2021 holiday alone, and 29% of the NRF's survey group reported plans to purchase additional patriotic items this year. Use the following tips to reduce plastic pollution at your backyard barbecue.

As ocean plastics and landfill levels are on the rise, Americans are gearing up for another litter-heavy holiday. Whether you’re participating in Plastic Free July or just want to cut down on waste this Independence Day, here are 13 ways to have a plastic-free Fourth of July get-together that’s every bit as patriotic as it is eco-friendly.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend about $7.52 billion on food items for the 2021 holiday alone, and 29% of the NRF’s survey group reported plans to purchase additional patriotic items this year. Use the following tips to reduce plastic pollution at your backyard barbecue.


Plastic-Free Fourth of July Cookout

When planning your plastic-free Fourth of July menu, keep in mind how your ingredients are sourced. Here are a few tips to cut down on food packaging waste:

1. Think Outside the Bun

Cling-wrapped meat on styrofoam trays, bags of buns, plastic condiment bottles — the waste produced when putting hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill can add up quickly.

A sustainable alternative is to grill skewers. Grab fresh produce like tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, peppers and zucchini, add your meat of choice (as long as it’s purchased plastic-free), and assemble everything on compostable bamboo skewers. These are also a great option for picky eaters and kids — like with burger toppings, everyone can build their own skewers based on palate preference.

If you’re set on burgers, there are a few things you can do to eliminate your plastic waste:

  • Bring your own container to the grocery store butcher counter
  • Buy buns from a local bakery or make them yourself
  • Buy condiments in glass jars
  • Get toppings like onion, lettuce and tomato from a local farmers market to avoid produce stickers

2. Go Fresh for Sides

Typical Fourth of July fare usually revolves around plastic tubs of dip, bags of chips and other containers that will end up in a landfill. Thankfully, summer is a great season for fresh fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy without plastic packaging.

Go plastic-free with a trip to the farmers market and load up on the essentials: corn on the cob, potatoes for grilling or making into wedges, veggies to cut for a crudités platter, whole watermelon and more.

3. DIY Desserts

While red, white and blue ice pops make for a refreshing sweet treat, the individual plastic wrappers aren’t recyclable in a curbside bin. Instead, make your own frozen desserts. Fresh fruit sorbet can be made in large batches if you have many guests to feed, or you can get creative with ice pop molds.

For a plastic-free Fourth of July dessert you can leave out and forget about, scratch-baked zero-waste cookies can be made pretty easily.

4. Drink Responsibly

Most drinks that typically come in single-use plastic bottles, like lemonade and soda, also come in recyclable cans. If you’re going for zero-waste, mix up your own fresh fruit punches and lemonade in five-gallon sports coolers (and don’t forget to freeze your own ice).

For the adults, you can also opt for canned beverages. Even more fun, get 64-ounce growlers filled at a local brewery or bring in a keg.

No matter your age, stay hydrated with plenty of water. Rather than handing out single-use water bottles, fill pitchers from your kitchen or have a dedicated sports cooler for ice-cold H2O.

Low-Waste Party Supplies

Now that you’ve nailed down your plastic-free Fourth of July menu, let’s talk general party supplies. When planning your get together, keep the following in mind:

5. Use Washable Tableware

Have your guests use real cutlery and plates instead of disposable plastic silverware and paper plates (which are often coated in plastic, anyway). If you don’t have enough to serve everyone, ask guests to bring their own from home.

For drinks, make sure you have reusable cups and glasses handy. You can also ask guests to bring reusable water bottles to fill. And if you must have straws, opt for paper (just make sure they don’t come in a plastic bag) or a reusable straw made from glass or metal.

6. Ditch Plastic Wrap

When eating outdoors, many people prefer to keep bugs out of their food using plastic wrap or cling wrap. Aluminum foil is a plastic-free alternative. Or, if you want to go zero-waste, cover your dishes with a cloth, beeswax wrap or mesh food dome.

There are also plenty of natural ways to keep insects away altogether.

7. Avoid Plastic Foam Coolers

Whether you’re keeping things cold in your own backyard or attending a BYOB bash, skip the foam cooler. Popular brands like Igloo have created reusable coolers made from biodegradable materials that are widely available. Better yet, get a hard or soft-sided cooler that you can use for years to come.

Making Your Plastic-Free Fourth of July Party Festive

Red, white and blue decor can transform a regular summer cookout into a Fourth of July celebration — but it can also create a lot of unnecessary waste. You can go both plastic-free and patriotic with these tips:

8. Invest in Quality Decorations

Like most holidays, Fourth of July comes around every year, so you’ll end up saving time and money in the long run if you purchase reusable decorations to bring out annually. Items like throw pillows, ceramic candy dishes and banners can be placed around the house and easily stored during other months.

If you’re looking for something simple, you can’t go wrong with respectfully displaying a cloth American flag.

9. Play With Your Food

It doesn’t get much more American than a homemade pie with a creative star-spangled design baked on top. Make one (or two) and place them as your plastic-free Fourth of July table centerpiece.

Or, assemble a red, white and blue fruit plate with whatever you can pick up at the farmers market: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, apple slices or anything else you come across that roughly fits the color scheme.

10. Make a Patriotic Playlist

A great way to add ambiance with zero plastic waste is by streaming holiday-themed music. There are plenty of pre-made Fourth of July playlists available on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, or you can make your own mix. (If you don’t have a speaker to use outdoors, ask your guests — chances are someone will have one to bring.)

11. Use Digital Displays

If your party is indoors, use digital decorations. Set your TV to play Independence Day-themed videos or display a patriotic screensaver. This is a little easier if you have a smart TV, but even with a standard display, you usually can hook up a laptop using an HDMI cable and broadcast it from your computer.

12. Keep the Kids Entertained

Outdoor fun doesn’t have to be wasteful. Ask your guests with kids to bring outdoor games to share, whether it’s a hula hoop, football or cornhole set. You can also set up your own games: burlap sack (local feed stores typically have some to spare) or three-legged races, obstacle courses, wet sponge toss — feel free to get creative.

If you have smaller children, blowing bubbles may be more their speed. You can create your own plastic-free bubble solution with household items like biodegradable soap, water and sugar. Then shape old wire coat hangers into wands for hours of fun.

13. End the Night at a Community Fireworks Display

Although fireworks emit high levels of lead and toxins — and many come wrapped in plastic — they’re still a Fourth of July staple in most parts of the U.S.

Rather than light the sky up with your own sparklers or bottle rockets, consider watching another city’s display on television or going to a local fireworks show in your community.

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