Firing up the grill is as synonymous with summer as sunshine and swimming. Best of all, barbecue season is an excellent time to gather old and new friends, chill a few beers in the cooler, and sear some juicy steaks for dinner.
But our favorite way to get together in the summer isn't always the best for the environment. From the food you serve to the dishes you serve it on, there are easy adjustments that can make a real difference to the planet. Here are eight surprising tips for greener summer get-togethers.
Go With Gas
Each grilling method has its own issues, but gas grills pollute less and are more energy efficient than charcoal grills. So whenever possible, choose this style or consider it when purchasing a new grill. If gas is already your go-to, propane is usually more efficient, as it burns faster and hotter than natural gas.
Create Cleaner Fires
If you use a charcoal grill, avoid petroleum-based lighter fluids and self-lighting charcoal. Natural lighter fluids won't release petrochemicals into the atmosphere. While you're at it, natural charcoal and lump charcoal made from wood scraps without additives will create a cleaner fire.
Reduce Your Grill Time
While it takes less than 10 minutes for a gas grill to heat, charcoal can take twice as long. Rather than leaving the grill on for longer than needed (wasting energy and creating additional smoke), make a cooking game plan in advance so you can grill more efficiently. After you're done cooking, immediately clean your grill while it's still hot.
Rethink Your Meat
If it's just not a barbecue without hot dogs and ribs, opt for the most sustainably-minded meat you can find. Check out your local farmers' market or natural grocer for more ethical and earth-friendly products than most supermarkets. Regeneratively raised meats are another option. This ecological farming process is a step beyond sustainability, since it not only improves soil quality and adds nutrients to the vegetation, but also results in more nutritious meat from the animals that graze in these areas.
Serve it Sustainably
Plastic cups and paper plates may seem like a stress-free way to serve your guests, but the result is bags full of garbage. Use reusable or compostable plates, cups, and utensils instead. A few minutes washing dishes or separating the compost pile is better than creating a stack of paper plates and plastic forks destined for a landfill.
Batch Your Drinks
Think of it as an opportunity to show off your creative mixology skills or cool themed glassware. Rather than relying on single-serve bottles and cans, reduce waste by making pitchers of lemonade, signature cocktails, and cold water. Serve them in reusable glasses instead of throwaway cups and plastic bottles, and you’ll have less to sort and recycle.