As the final hues of sunset painted the sky, a soothing warmth descended on Annie and LJ’s street. On the front lawn of their house, the neighborhood children created an intricate starscape fashioned from green and blue Lumis–that would glow at night, a safe, eco-friendly alternative to the traditional fireworks. It was the 4th of July, and this year, Annie and LJ hosted the celebration.

Their day started at dawn, with both rising early to tackle the list of to-dos that would ensure everything was ready before noon, the official start of the celebration.

“I am so glad we planned this party well in advance. It startled me to see all the neighbors’ RSVPs were yes!” Annie said, smoothing sunblock on LJ’s neck.

He turned around and gave her a quick kiss. “I kind of was too, but wasn’t. Our neighbors know the food will be delicious and fresh, the games fun, and the music perfect.”

“I believe everyone is coming because we emphasized that this year’s celebration would focus on sustainability. When we told them to bring a favorite dish made with whole, organic ingredients, I got tons of responses accepting the invite and the challenge.”

“Oh really! Like what?” questioned LJ.

Tad and Barb are bringing The Best Grilled Portobello Mushroom burgers. They say the trick to transforming the shrooms into a delicious substitute for meat is in the marinade.”

“I’m looking forward to trying one. I checked the solar-powered BBQ grill, and it is ready.”

Annie smiled. “Good, I’m really proud of Tad and Barb. It was difficult for them to stop eating meat and switch to plant-based nutrition. But both started losing weight, which propelled them into an exercise program that has helped them lose even more.”

“They do look good. Change is hard when it comes to food, especially when it’s food for a tradition like the 4th. However, whenever we choose what’s best for planet Earth, we also choose what’s best for our children and future generations. When presented with an earth-friendly alternative to lifestyle habits, most people resist but eventually get on board.”

As of 2021, 85% of people worldwide have changed their habits to be more sustainable. Millennials have had the most influence, with 24% living in an earth-friendly way.–

“I agree. I’ve watched Nat and Johnny grow a floral and veggie garden in place of their putting green. They tore it out because it was made of fake grass, which is not environmentally friendly and harmful to birds and wildlife. The garden is so successful that they are bringing floral decorations for the tables.

Dhruv stopped by with a dozen beautiful Indian tablecloths that have been in Nishi’s family for generations, so now I can set the tables. I’m happy we bought tin plates and tableware at the second-hand store. They were inexpensive, in great condition, and perfect for outdoors. Do you mind getting the glasses down for me? I want to make sure we have enough.”

“Sure, and then I will start making the Sugar-Free Watermelon-Strawberry Agua Fresca. I’m also making Sugar-Free Lemonade. The addition of pineapple makes it sweet.

“Nice, LJ; the parents will appreciate not dealing with kids on a sugar high.”

“Right, which reminds me. Rachel and Sam are bringing an ice cream maker and all the ingredients for Chocolate Ice Cream. They want all the children to help make it, so I’ve set up a prep area for them.

“That’s a great idea,” laughed Annie. “Barry and Tara are bringing several games, including a cornhole set that Tara’s grandfather made. A badminton set Barry has had since he was a child, and Tumbling Timbers, which they bought at a garage sale. It sounds like everyone understands the assignment that this is a sustainable event.”

“Yeah, it certainly seems that way. My book club buddy Robert and his wife Clara are bringing dominos and his favorite Jamaican Mango and Cucumber Chow.”

“Wow, now I am officially hungry; I love whatever those two make. It’s already ten o’clock, and we still have lots to do.”

The 4th of July celebration was a hit, and as the sun set and night descended, the children handed out Lumi’s to the adults to wear and showed off the starscape they made on the front lawn. It was a great way to avoid polluting the air with fireworks and harming wildlife while celebrating America’s Independence Day.

As the party broke up, everyone pitched in to help clean up. “This is so easy,” remarked Clara. It’s as simple as putting food waste in the composter, loading the dishwasher, and breaking down the tables and chairs. There’s no trash!”

LJ nodded. “That was the plan, and everyone helped make our party sustainable. Robert Swan said,

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.

Today we showed that with a little planning, we can have good times together that don’t harm our planet, our only home.”


Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.

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