Lighting up the grill and enjoying an afternoon in the backyard with family and friends is the quintessential summer experience. After all, what’s better than great weather, better company, and the best food? The only downside is that BBQing can produce a lot of pollution and waste. The fuel used in cooking produces CO2, and the disposable cups, plates, and cutlery end up on landfills. If you’re wondering how to have fun without any of the guilt, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover three simple ways you can turn your backyard BBQ into an eco-friendly event.
When it comes to eco-friendly grilling, the fuel you use is an important place to start. Charcoal briquettes are popular for their convenience and taste, but they emit a lot of carbon dioxide. They also contain harmful ingredients like coal dust. You can switch to a pellet grill as a more sustainable option. Pellet grills use a renewable fuel, called pellets, made from recycled sawdust. They not only burn clean; they also reduce landfill waste. Propane and natural gas are two more sustainable options for grilling. While these aren’t renewable, they burn much cleaner than charcoal. Natural gas is the best option of the two, since it produces far less pollutants and is more efficient for cooking. This will help to reduce your carbon footprint every time you fire up the grill.
If a new grill isn’t in your budget right now, consider changing up the charcoal you use instead. Look for natural charcoal or lump charcoal, for example. Both are made from lumber scraps without the use of any additives or binders, providing a cleaner burn than regular charcoal. When lighting the grill, be sure to also use natural lighter fluid, candles , or an electric starter. Anything that’s petroleum based will release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Don't forget to clean your grill regularly, either. Over time, food particles and grease build up, which can lead to excessive smoke when grilling. Too much smoke can damage your porch screens and outdoor furniture. It’ll also pollute your environment and irritate your lungs. Give the grill a good scrub when it’s still hot for maximum efficiency.
Food production plays a huge role in polluting the environment, and meat is one of the biggest offenders. It may seem counterintuitive to host a BBQ without meat, but it is the most environmentally friendly option. Why not try a tasty alternative, like Portobello mushroom burgers? If you can’t do without meat, consider buying less, and from a sustainable butcher instead of the supermarket. This meat is sourced from local, family-run farms that follow sustainable and ethical farming practices. Stick to just one or two meat options for your BBQ and provide plenty of salads and sides to keep guests full.
When it comes to stocking up on fresh produce for salads and sides, go for locally-grown, organic ingredients where possible. The farming methods used to make this kind of produce doesn’t contaminate the environment or the food. Organic food also tastes better, since it’s free of hormones and pesticides. With a big enough space, you could even try your hand at growing your own! Tomatoes, for example, are quick and easy. You can also try herbs, like oregano, mint, and basil. If you’re heading to the store, don’t forget your tote bags to haul your fruits and veggies home.
Single-use plastics are some of the most harmful pollutants to our environment. Since they aren’t biodegradable, they break down into microplastics instead. These end up contaminating our water and food supplies. It’s best to avoid them as much as possible. That means ditching the plastic cups, plates, knives, and forks at your BBQ. Don’t let paper products fool you either. Many of these are coated with plastic to help them hold their shape, which means you can’t recycle or compost them. The best thing you can do for the environment is to use items that can be used again.
The cutlery and crockery you already have in your drawer is the most eco-conscious option. We understand, though, that you may not want to risk damaging your best set. Consider, then, investing in a separate, affordable stainless-steel set to use for entertaining. You could also go for something like bamboo. This popular plastic alternative is widely available in the form of cups, bowls, cutlery, and lunch boxes. Just be sure that whatever you pick out is free of melamine. Melamine is sometimes used as a binding agent in bamboo products and can be harmful, especially to children. Palm tableware is another eco-friendly option. Palm leaves are an industrial waste product, and the process used to turn it into tableware doesn’t involve any chemicals. Be sure to also provide plastic-free straws and reusable napkins to keep your BBQ eco-friendly.
By choosing better fuel, shopping locally, and ditching single-use plastics, you’ll be well on your way to hosting a more eco-conscious BBQ. These changes are simple and small, yet significant. Not only will you feel better about the time and money spent, you'll also encourage those around you to be more eco-friendly with their decisions. This creates a healthier environment for all, which, in turn, helps ensure many more BBQs to come.