Crisp air, bright stars, sparkling lights, flashes of colour and crashing booms. Bonfire Night can be a brilliantly fun evening.
While we love it, there are a few things you can do to ensure your bonfire night celebrations aren’t damaging to wildlife or the environment.
1. Check your bonfire for hedgehogs
At this time of year, hedgehogs like to find a safe, comfy and cosy place to hibernate for the winter.
Unfortunately, a built bonfire is exactly the kind of place that seems perfect for a hedgehog: a pile of wood and leaves that they can burrow into away from predators.
Make sure you check your bonfire for hedgehogs before you set it alight, if you’re building it ahead of bonfire night, or even better build it just before you set it alight so you don’t
2. Go to an organised firework display, don’t do your own
While fireworks are beautiful, they’re also terrible for wildlife and pets.
The noise and flashes of light can badly scare animals, as anyone who has a pet will know. They can also leave litter behind, like the wooden stake that rockets are launched from, and the paper wrapping that doesn’t always burn up completely. These can rain down on the countryside where animals can get injured by them.
Fireworks also release pollution into the air, so having more people at one event rather than lots of little events all over the place helps minimise this.
The best way to avoid this damage and still enjoy fireworks is to go to an organised event. The displays are always better, safer, and since it’s in a controlled area it can be cleaned up afterwards.
Also, limiting displays to organised events means less fireworks going off all over the place which can scare animals.
And as an added bonus, many organised firework events raise money for charity, so you can have a fun evening and help people at the same time.
3. Choose snacks that are environmentally friendly
Winter treats, hot chocolate, sausages, tasty snacks – all of these are part of a great bonfire night experience. With a little preparation, you can minimise the impact of your food and drink choices on the environment too.
If you want to have hot drinks, why not bring a flask of something with you, or a reusable cup, so you don’t end up using a cup that’s going to be thrown away afterwards. Our favourite winter drinks are hot blackcurrant squash, hot chocolate made with a dairy-alternative such as oat milk, or hot oat milk (or almond milk) with maple syrup. Yum!
For snacks, swap honey and mustard baked sausages for vegan or vegetarian sausages baked in maple syrup. Or how about new potatoes backed and topped with vegan cheese or vegan sriracha mayonnaise for something a bit spicier! These are like mini-jacket potatoes and are perfect hand-sized snacks for a cold evening. Wrap everything up in a beeswax wrap or pop it in a reusable container rather than using tinfoil or plastic bags.
4. DON’T EVER use sky lanterns
These are paper and metal or wood lanterns that fly off into the night when you place a lit tea light candle on the cradle. While they look beautiful, they are terrible for wildlife and the environment.
Once that candle has gone out, the lantern will fall from the sky who-knows-where.
When they land, they can be eating by animals on land or in the sea, and cause a huge amount of injury to them.
So while they look pretty, please please don’t use them.
5. ONLY burn wood, paper and some cardboard on the bonfire
While it’s tempting to pile loads of stuff on a bonfire, many materials can release toxic gasses when they burn.
Don’t ever put rubber or plastic on a bonfire, or wood that’s got lots of paint on it. Instead, use plain wood, paper, and cardboard that doesn’t have shiny plastic colourful coating on it.
That way, there won’t be noxious gasses given off being breathed in by the people standing near the bonfire.
And again, even better, go to an organised firework and bonfire night rather than doing your own!