Dearest readers,

beach!Ah, Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial kickoff of summer—even though we’re still rocking scarves and raincoats here at Grist HQ. To prep you for this glorious three-day weekend, I’ve sifted through the archives and found these handy holiday-appropriate tidbits, from flying the flag to drinking beer (both arguably patriotic acts). What’s going on your grill this weekend? Can I come over?

Oh say, can you see?
So you want to fly the American flag 24 hours a day but are a stickler for following the Flag Code, which requires the flag to be lit up when it’s dark out? Easy peasy: Save the electricity and take it down at sunset. Too much effort? Try a solar-powered, LED flag light! These are readily available on the interwebs; they make models that clamp directly onto the flagpole, as well as ground-nesting lights. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Boy meets grill.
Grilled veggie kabobs on the brain? Go with a gas grill to cook ’em up (that is, unless you feel adventurous and want to make your own solar oven!). It’s far easier to control the temperature of a gas grill (no more burgers burnt to a crisp), and gas grills produce about half as much CO2 as charcoal grills. And you’ll save yourself the pain (literally) from all those headache-inducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that charcoal gives off. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

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Take the sting out.
Wasps are actually quite beneficial to the ecosystem as predators to other insects like caterpillars, which can wreak havoc on a garden. But wasps can be a nasty addition to your holiday barbecue. I found this handy video on making your own wasp trap from a used plastic bottle and a coat hanger, as well as some readymade glass wasp catchers. Both lure wasps into a vessel with fruit juice as bait. Once the wasps have succumbed to the fruit juice’s siren call, they are unable to scramble out of the bottle. You just empty the container out when you feel like you’ve got a full house in there. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Give yourself a wedgie.

So you’re worried that the lime wedge in your beer bottle’s going to make the thing unrecycable? Never fear! When you recycle your beer, the bottle is picked up curbside by a hauling company, which brings it to a glass-cleaning plant, which then ships it to a glass-manufacturing plant, where it begins a new life. A “contaminant,” as your lime would be called, is either picked out at pickup or removed during the cleaning. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Get baked—or not.
Conventional chemical sunscreen can be toxic to your body and the planet—from hormone disruption to coral bleaching. Look for mineral sunscreens that contain titanium oxide and/or zinc oxide. And if you’re going to be taking a dip in the ocean, choose a screen with plant-based ingredients—we ooze 4,000–6,000 tons of sunscreen into our oceans every year; scientists say we’re probably putting 10 percent of reefs at risk, so choose wisely. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

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