For many people, summertime means lots of gatherings centered around the grill. Summer cookouts are a fun, leisurely way to get outdoors and spend time with friends and family. However, grilling poses a unique set of environmental challenges. Here are four ways to reduce the footprint of your next cookout:
1. Green grilling
Grillmasters debate fiercely about the best method for outdoor cooking. From an air pollution standpoint, natural gas and propane grills burn the cleanest in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter. Does that mean you should update your equipment? If you grill infrequently, stick with the grill you have to eliminate the environmental impact of a new major purchase. If you grill on a regular basis, consider investing in a clean-burning gas grill or experimenting with a solar cooker. (Check out Ask Umbra for more info on comparing the eco-impact of grills.)
Charcoal grillers should use a chimney starter instead of petroleum-based lighter fluid to get their coals started. Seek out lump charcoal made from recycled wood instead of charcoal briquettes, which may contain polluting chemical additives. Regardless of your grill type, cook with the lid down to improve energy efficiency.
2. More than meat
Don’t limit your grilling menu to meat. Use beef and lamb sparingly or skip them altogether, as these types of meat generate the greatest greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Working Group. Tons of varieties of veggies and even fruits (like pineapple and peaches) are delicious on the grill.
Check out these vegetarian cookout recipes that are sure to be a hit:
Buffalo-Blue Curly Cheese Fry and Crispy Black Bean Burgers
3-Ingredient Grilled Ranch Potatoes
Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad
Old Bay Grilled Corn
Cilantro-Lime Marinated Veggie Kabobs with Barley Kale Salad
Tandoori Grilled Broccoli and Cauliflower Kebabs
Grilled Brussels Sprouts
3. Bulk beverages
To minimize waste, serve bulk drinks like iced tea, lemonade or fruit-infused water from pitchers or coolers with reusable glasses, instead of stocking up on individual cans or bottles. Serve local beer or wine from refillable growlers. If you do use cans and bottles, be sure to recycle them!
4. Reduce & reuse
Reusable dishes and cups are the best way to reduce waste at your cookout. To cut down on cleanup time, set out a tub of water or fill a sink where dishes can soak. Skip paper napkins and go with cloth instead—they’ll work way better for wiping off sticky BBQ sauce.
Cookouts are all about enjoying the outdoors, so follow the tips above to cut pollution and waste and keep the outdoors clean for future generations of grillmasters.