After a long, dark winter, it’s fair to assume most of us are looking forward to the summer months. Light blue skies, a balmy breeze, and some long-awaited sunshine can only mean one thing — it’s time to fire up the barbecue grill and host a BBQ for family and friends. But are you also aware of how harmful BBQs can be for the environment? Other than the obvious gas emissions from the grill itself (which can release as many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as a 90-mile long car journey), these get-togethers can leave a lot of plastic waste behind.
But we didn’t come here to preach. We love that our friends enjoy summer hosting as much as we do. We just need to be more aware of the impact our actions have, and take responsibility. So the best way to start is by making sure that your barbecue is a sustainable one. We’ve got you covered. Here are some tips to make your summer BBQ season an eco-friendly one.
1. Make veggies the stars
One of the most effective ways to live a greener life is to monitor your water consumption. You may not think about water being in what you eat, but think about this: It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce four half-pound hamburgers. So we recommend opting for chicken over beef, and vegetables over chicken. But we understand. Because what’s a barbecue without any meat? A waste of time!
2. Reduce cooking time
If you do choose meat, get as much onto the grill as possible at one time. The more you can cook at once, the greener your grilling session will be. You can also try and cut down on how long you have the grill running for by slicing your meat finely to allow for even and efficient cooking.
3. Waste not
Reduce your food waste by raiding your fridge for leftovers to repurpose for your BBQ. Any frozen food could also do the trick. What about those ears of corn and bell peppers that have been sitting there? Throw them on the grill! And when it’s all said and done, offering your guests the leftovers could also be a nifty way to reduce food waste.
4. Go for green drinks
Skip the sugary sodas and wasteful plastic bottles and cans. Impress your guests with a homemade tasty beverage this summer. From lemonade to sweet tea, there are plenty of drinks you can easily make yourself. Best of all, you'll save some money too!
1. Sustainable fire
Nothing says BBQ like an old school charcoal grill with lighter fluid and your dad burning the burgers. As fun as that is and as many memories it brings back, it’s the worst option out there! A charcoal grill will generate three times the amount of greenhouse gas compared to a natural gas grill. The most eco-friendly option is a solar-powered grill that uses the sun’s energy instead of charcoal. The issue is that they’re pretty hard to find, so your next best bet is an outdoor electric grill. After that, we recommend gas, and lastly, charcoal. If you absolutely must cook with charcoal, lump charcoal and a charcoal chimney is a greener choice than briquettes or lighter fluid.
2. Grill over oven
The good news is, you’ve already made an eco-friendly decision by heading outside to make a meal, as backyard grilling is more energy-efficient than pre-heating your indoor oven. But there are dishes that are traditionally cooked indoors. We challenge you to try to move some of these dishes to the grill as well. For example, think about prepping baked beans, potatoes, and/or corn inside, and then putting them onto the grill in a pan, taking advantage of the heat rotating inside the grill to cook side dishes.
3. Keep the lid on
Remember to shut the lid on your grill during cooking time to conserve as much heat and energy as possible. This method also maintains the moisture allowing for a more even cook. If you’re using gas, be sure to switch it off when you’re not using it to reduce your CO2 output as well.
If you need more tables, chairs, games, cups, or plates, instead of running out to get more, ask your guests if they have any you can borrow. We promise, they will be more than happy to help and this will save you money! It’s also much more eco-friendly to use materials that already exist in the waste stream than it is to buy brand new.
2. Decorate like Mother Earth
When it comes to decor stick with what your mama gave you… mama Earth, that is! Dress up your summer parties with fresh flowers and plants. Local farmers markets are usually great options to pick some fresh sustainable blooms. If you’re curious as to what classifies a flower as sustainable, look for flowers and plants that bloom annually. You can also light candles and put them in lanterns, using old mason jars and upcycled old tins.
Ah, yes, but how do you keep these guests entertained? Around here, we like to create Spotify playlists to play while the party is in full swing. It’s also easy to find or even make corn hole boards and horseshoe games for everyone to play in the backyard. The kids have an old slip and slide that they’re too old for now? Set it up for adult relay races. And card games are always a win. But Uno has the tendency to ruin friendships, so be careful.
4. The cleaning
Save your money and clean your grill with a paste made from baking soda and water — just make sure you scrub those grates right after you finish cooking. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to clean and the longer you’ll burn off the dried bits the next time you decide to fire up the grill.
5. Choose reusables
People tend to lean into the disposable plates or red solo cups at parties, but think about reusable items! Backyard barbecues often produce images of hot dogs stacked on Styrofoam plates, mustard covered paper napkins and lemonade spilling out of red, plastic cups. Upgrade your outdoor eating with reusable dishes, glasses and napkins and you’ll instantly take your meal to the green zone. And don’t forget to remind your guests to bring their own reusable containers for leftovers.
There are good times to be had at barbecues, but with them comes the potential to do some serious harm to our planet. These tips will help make going green at your next outdoor shindig a breeze.