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Tips for a safe and sustainable summer

Summer is here! Time for summer fun—backyard barbecues, beachside picnics, fireworks, and more. Whatever you’ve got planned, check out our tips to keep your summer safe and sustainable:

How to dispose of barbecue coals

Did you know that barbecue coals remain a fire hazard even after cooking is finished? Moving air can reignite barbecue coals, causing unexpected fires to occur. Here are some helpful tips to keep your summer cookout safe:

  • Use only as much charcoal as needed. Larger piles of coal will take longer to cool.
  • After cooking, place the lid over the barbecue and wait until the coals have completely cooled before you toss them in the garbage (about 48 hours).
  • If you can’t wait 48 hours for charcoal to cool, use long-handled prongs to place coals in a bucket of water. Note: DO NOT pour water directly onto the coals. The resulting steam may cause severe burns.
  • Once cooled, dispose of coals in the garbage.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. In the event of an unexpected fire, clear the area quickly and call 911.


How to safely dispose of fireworks

Fireworks are illegal in Seattle. Both used and unused fireworks pose a significant danger to you, your family, and your home. If you choose to use fireworks in a region that allows them, please keep the following disposal tips in mind:


Used fireworks

If disposed of improperly, used fireworks can pose a danger to employees who handle trash at local transfer stations. Make sure used fireworks are completely burned out and cooled down by submerging them in a bucket of water for fifteen minutes before putting them in the garbage. Learn more on the Washington State Fire Marshal website.

Unused fireworks

  • Never put unused fireworks in the garbage.
  • Both Seattle and King County residents may take small residential fireworks to the Seattle Police Firing Range. For more information, call 206-684-8980.


Zero waste summer meals

Eating outdoors is a popular summer activity. Unfortunately, dining al fresco can generate a lot of waste—plastic cups and utensils, paper plates, prepackaged food. Use the following tips to make your next outdoor meal more eco-friendly:




  • Ask guests to label their plastic cups so they don’t lose track of them and use more cups than necessary.
  • Encourage guests to bring reusable water bottles or cups.


  • If you’re packing for a picnic, bring real plates and utensils instead of paper or plastic.
  • If you don’t have room to pack regular flatware, choose compostable plates, utensils, and bowls.


  • Avoid pre-packaged items such as chips, snack-packs and candy bars. Instead, try a potluck meal where guests can bring their favorite recipe in a reusable container.
  • Don’t toss leftovers—take them home to store and freeze, or offer them to your guests.
  • Compost unusable food scraps.

Not sure which bin to dispose an item into? Check out our Where Does It Go tool online.


Plastic Free July

How many plastic items do you use in a day? The answer might surprise you!  Plastic Free July is a campaign developed to encourage individuals and communities to reduce their use of disposable plastic items in the month of July. Don’t worry, you can still use your computer, phone, car, etc. The challenge is about reducing single-use plastic like water bottles, bags, and straws—items that are used once, but leave a lasting eco-footprint. Here are some tips for plastic free living:

  • At the grocery store, choose paper bags or bring your own reusable shopping bags.
  • Need a coffee fix? Use a reusable coffee cup or mug. Remember to decline plastic straws, too.
  • Bid farewell to all those plastic cleaning bottles like bleach, window cleaner, and fabric softener. Instead, opt for natural, nontoxic household cleaning solutions that are better for you and the environment. Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water in a glass jar to make your own all-purpose cleaner.

To learn more about Plastic Free July and get additional tips to reduce your plastic use, visit

Let’s keep summer fun, safe, and sustainable! Our collective effort to be stewards of our environment­—to safely dispose of waste and to reduce, reuse, and recycle when we can—helps keep Seattle the best place to live.

Do you have any other tips for a sustainable Seattle summer? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.