Barbecues are a summer staple. There’s nothing quite like firing up the grill on a beautiful summer night and sharing a meal outside amongst your friends and family. And this year you can do so even more sustainably.
While backyard grill-outs are super enjoyable, they typically go hand-in-hand with a lot of waste. The good news is by cleaning up your barbecue routine with some simple swaps, you’ll be able to have a much more planet-friendly gathering without sacrificing any of the fun.
6 Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Barbecue
1. Go for a Greener Grill
Grilling with charcoal can be dangerous if not done properly. Not only that, but charcoal grills also leave a much bigger impact on the environment than their gas counterparts. “The carbon footprint of a gas grill is about one-third the footprint of a charcoal grill,” researcher Eric Johnson told NPR.
Instead of rolling out the old charcoal grill this summer, Johnson recommends investing in a gas or electric grill. “Gas-fired grills are similar to the stove you use in your kitchen. It’s much more attuned to how much you’re actually going to cook, how much energy you really need to use,” Johnson says.
2. Look for Sustainable Meat Options
If you’re planning on serving up meat at your barbecue, opt for the most sustainable and ethical options you can find. We recommend looking for trustworthy labels (like “Certified Humane” or “Animal Welfare Approved”) that tell you exactly which type of environment the animal was raised in.
Also, be sure to check out your local farmers’ market or natural grocers. Sometimes those meat options are more ethical and planet-friendly than what you’ll find in traditional supermarkets, as they come from local and small family-run farms.
3. Incorporate More Plant-Based Foods
Barbecues don’t need to be all about meat. There are plenty of delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes you can grill that are sure to satisfy, from pulled “pork” made from jackfruit to delicious veggie skewers.
This year, try to go lighter on the meat and focus on having plenty of plant-focused foods. Not only are they often healthier (hello, veggies galore!), but they’re also better for the planet.
4. Opt for Reusables
It may be easier to buy a pack of plastic forks and knives at the grocery store and call it a day, but why not bring out the ones you already have at home? Aside from saving money, that simple swap keeps single-use plastic waste out of the landfills.
Also cool: Using traditional cutlery instantly elevates the vibe of your barbecue from casual hangout to a more sophisticated meal. (Plus, IMO, everything tastes a whole lot better when it’s not eaten off of plastic!)
5. Make Your Own Drinks
This one may seem simple, but it can help in a big way. Instead of offering up beverages in cans and plastic bottles, make your own. You’ll have fun coming up with all the possibilities, from homemade lemonades to sangrias and margaritas.
You’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing that people are enjoying drinks you came up with, all while preventing even more waste from winding up in the garbage.
6. Send Leftovers Home with Guests
If there’s extra food at the end of your barbecue, send it home with your guests! Pack it up in reusable containers or jars that they can return to you the next time they come over. Or, plan ahead and ask them to bring their own.
For food that’s been sitting out a little too long, put it in a compost bin instead of tossing it in the trash.
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