Planning a summer barbeque this weekend? Be sure to check out our tips for keeping it environmentally friendly.
The sun is out, barbecues are hot, and everyone is happy. Except for maybe the planet. We’ve compiled a handy guide on how to have an eco friendly barbecue.
Let’s talk about your options.
Disposable BBQs and picnic options
Instant disposable barbecues are tempting, super cheap, and very convenient. However, they’re also often wrapped in plastic, have a metal grill that isn’t easily recyclable, and the firelighter fluid included in the charcoal area isn’t great environmentally. You can do better.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as new products start to arrive on the market. This CasusGrill Biodegradable Instant Barbecue (£12.99) is completely sustainable, and 100% biodegradable; made with bamboo, cardboard and lava stones. Lay a few of these in for those days when only al fresco dining will do.
We also found these amazing all-natural barbecues by EcoGrill, made from nothing but wood, environmentally-friendly charcoal. Once you’ve finished using it, you can allow it to safely just burn down and all you’re left with are non-toxic ashes. Amazing.
Otherwise, perhaps consider using a small portable travel barbecue, like this LotusGrill Mini, which means you can choose your fuels carefully. The barbecue runs on two batteries (which you can use reusables for) or a power source. And obviously the benefit of this (apart from the fact that they cook better) is that there’s very little waste each time you use it.
Let’s talk about your charcoal…
According to the BBC, the UK imported almost 90,000 tonnes of charcoal in 2018, most of which has been linked to mass deforestation in developing countries such as Namibia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. Wood is cut down and converted to charcoal by burning, and often the wood used is in scarce supply, endangering forestry. Often the charcoal you buy is less than beneficial to the planet and its resources.
A lot of charcoal is made from wood sourced in tropical forests that really ought to be left alone
A lot of charcoal is made from wood sourced in tropical forests that really ought to be left alone. Not only that, it can often be soaked in fire-lighting chemicals which are definitely pollutants – as well as your making your food taste yuck.
So how can you be sure that your charcoal is on the green list? The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the world’s largest certification scheme for wood products and charcoal, so it’s a good idea to look for their stamp on your charcoal bags. But even then, ensure the wood is from sustainable forests.
Charcoal generates three times the amount of greenhouse gases as gas grills, but the wood itself is often from sustainable sources.
There are UKFS (UK Forestry Standard) approved charcoal companies such as The Oxford Charcoal Company or The Dorset Charcoal Company that sells sustainably sourced and carbon neutral charcoal. But look for suppliers in your own local area on the UKFS site.
Buying from UKFS approved charcoal means that you are supporting the regeneration of UK woodlands, and you are using higher quality charcoal to cook your food that does not contain harmful pollutants.
Choosing eco-friendly food
The food you choose to grill up also has some environmental factors to consider.
Barbecues are synonymous with meat and juicy beef burgers. But according to research done by The University of Manchester, a regular medium sized 100g beef burger releases enough greenhouse gases to fill more than 60 balloons. This is equivalent to driving in a car for more than six miles!
Chicken is a better option as it releases far fewer greenhouse gases compared to beef, only 15 balloons-worth, and one and a half miles in a car.
This Greenpeace article goes into detail about how the meat industry is a major contributor to world emissions, which explains the growing demand for a vegetarian or plant-based diet. If you’re willing to make the effort, there are lots of plant-based products widely available so you can still have your burgers and hot dog moment. Why not serve some grilled vegetables on the side? Grilled peppers, asparagus, aubergines, courgettes, corn; and of course you can’t beat a good stuffed mushroom.
If a barbecue isn’t a barbecue for you without some real meat, give thought to where it comes from. Has it had a high welfare life, farmed sustainably? What about food miles – is it local? Can you buy from a decent butcher and not only enjoy better meat without loads of plastic packaging, but support local business too?
Limit your waste
Investing in good quality barbecuing equipment can help limit your waste. Assembling a ‘grill kit’ can be useful in so many ways. Not only will you always be prepared and have everything you need, but these items can also be used again rather than disposed of and repurchased.
Your grill kit could include:
- An apron or two
- Oven mitt
Don’t forget to fill up your water bottles (and bring your own bottles of wine and beers!). Bring your own plates and cutlery, and use recyclable/biodegradable/linen napkins too. Ditch the one-use stuff.
Assembling a ‘grill kit’ can be useful in so many ways
Another eco-friendly barbecue hack is to bring your own plastic wrap-free snacks. Instead, cut up some fruit and snacks, and stock up on some nuts and sweets at a local zero-waste bulk shops. And prep everything ahead if possible, storing in reusable containers (with decent tightly-fitting lids) – you can even double the lids as plates if needed.
Lastly, don’t forget to dispose of your trash responsibly. Bring some biodegradable bin bags with you, or put your trash in your now-empty containers. Whatever you do, don’t just leave it behind.
Take only photographs, leave only footprints. And enjoy!