The best thing about summers is the backyard barbecue along with chilled, refreshing drinks, some music and of course our friends for fun. However, the environmental concerns of BBQ suggest that we go for an eco-friendly version of our favourite summer activity.
Let us talk about some facts first – according to The Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA), 8 out of 10 Canadians and 7 out 10 Americans own a grill. Scientists also report that a typical barbecue for four people releases more greenhouse gases than an 80-mile car journey. If you think of the number, that’s extremely high. Can you imagine the collective damage to the environment if all of our grill at least once a year? People choosing barbecues over regular cooking must understand that it does leave a big foodprint especially when it is meat. Knowing what we are going through this year due to Covid-19, it is time to rethink how we should treat our mother nature. Here are 5 eco-friendly suggestions:
Use the right grill
Statistics show that 61% of American households use propane gas grills, 49% own charcoal models and 10% use electric models. Among them, electricity is the most sustainable option only if the energy consumed is from green sources, such as wind, solar, or hydro. On the other hand, charcoal is the least favourable. Based on estimates, propane-powered grills beat charcoal grills because they contribute three times fewer greenhouse gases. Charcoal grill produces nasty, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter into the air that causes problems to people’s health. What’s more? Burning coal emits about 10 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour as compared to 5.6 pounds per hour when cooking over the gas. Charcoal also releases the main contributor to smog – ground-level ozone. If you are among the 37% who are thinking about buying a grill soon, opt for a gas or electric model. For those who are looking for the most sustainable option, purchase the one that uses renewable energy such as solar cookers. It is affordable and does not require any non-renewable resources for power. If an upgrade is not a choice or you just prefer charcoal models, you can still do it in the greenest way possible. You can use lump coal or briquettes made from invasive trees, such as bamboo or wood harvested from sustainably managed forests.
Lower your meat consumption
People who love meat like to use it the most in any barbecue. But everybody needs to know that animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined, not to mention the amount of land and water required for livestock farming. The pollution resulting from the runoff of factory farms and livestock grazing, and the disruption of the sensitive marine ecosystems from commercial fishing sheds light on why eating less meat or organic meat matters. Fortunately, there are ways to make things better. You can swap some meat for fresh and healthier veggies, or even make the whole barbecue vegetarian. If meat is a must, choose organic, grass-fed beef or plant-based meat such as Beyond Meat and veggies burgers. Otherwise, choose chicken and fish, which have smaller carbon footprints than beef or pork.
When searching for the best complementary veggies to include in your BBQ or even in your regular meal, cut down your food miles by buying food from your local farmer’s market. By reducing these miles, you are reducing the environmental impact of your food, so-called foodprint. These veggies are the freshest and most sustainable because they are organic and hormone-free. Not only will they taste better, but you will also be supporting the local economy especially in the time of this pandemic. Plus, it is summer, go for a walk to the local markets, and have a fun conversation with the vendors to get a better understanding of the food you are eating.
Have you ever noticed that there are always tons of waste left after BBQ? Whether you are hosting the cookouts at home or public spaces, consider cutting down on the use of paper plates and plastic cutlery. Switching to any alternative of plastics such as reusable plates, silverware, cups, and napkins is crucial to a sustainable grilling. It may require more clean up, but this will reduce your waste and even save money in the long run. Again, if single-use utensils are a must, try to use biodegradable ones. Besides single-use plastic, think twice about throwing all the leftover food right in the trash. If the food has to be thrown away, put them in the compost pile. Bonus tip: You can use the compost pile to improve your backyard!. Learn how to compost at home here.
Clean the grill
Cleaning the grill properly will prolong its life and ensure that it won’t end up in the landfill. While the grill is still hot, scrape the grime from cooking and use nontoxic cleaners instead of commercial detergents that are full of chemicals. You can make your cleaner at home too.
We all love barbecue in summers and if we put some extra efforts and make eco-friendly choices, we can eliminate a lot of waste and leave fewer carbon footprints. Help in keeping our planet green and healthy! Cheers to green grilling!
By: Maria Chen
Photo from Unsplash by Hari Nandakumar
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