Courtesy Daan Roosegaarde

Discover This Biodegradable Alternative to Fireworks

How a Dutch artist is rethinking the traditional celebratory display with better-for-the-planet, naturally glowing materials.

Whether it’s Independence Day celebrations in the United States or New Year’s Eve in Northern Europe, fireworks have been an event staple for centuries. But in these climate-conscious times, it is hard to ignore the fact that the joyful displays also cause environmental harm: Traditional fireworks have been known to ignite wildfires, and the colorful explosions rain down plastic particles, unburnt propellants, and metal by-products (used as colorants) across vast swaths of land and water. Those synthetics are nonbiodegradable and dangerous to the animals that inadvertently ingest them. 

Courtesy Daan Roosegaarde

Seeking to rectify this problem while preserving the tradition, Dutch installation artist Daan Roosegaarde has succeeded in turning a mass of naturally glowing and biodegradable materials into an entertaining display called SPARK, which behaves like atmospheric bioluminescence and dances like fireflies or bird murmurations—both of which his team studied for inspiration. Composed of thousands of individual light particles, a cloud spanning roughly 164 by 98 feet forms in the air and gradually swarms out of shape, following wind patterns. The only fireworks-like feature missing is the classic boom. But crowds still experience the same level of awe and wonder. 

Roosegaarde has taken this light show on tour, staging it for festivals and conferences in cities such as Bilbao, Spain; Melbourne, Australia; and Amman, Jordan. SPARK has emerged as a new celebratory medium. He says, “It shows the beauty of a better world, combining design and nature to create a place of wonder.” 

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