Six Steps to Greener Grilling: Throw a Better BBQ

Forget the paper plates and follows these green tips to make your summer BBQ eco-friendly.

Credit: Flickr/kelly blue

Barbeque season is upon us, but your summer party doesn’t have to be unevironmental

‘Tis that time of the year—the evenings are getting longer, warmer and drier. Nearby fields are ripening with berries and other seasonal produce. And friends and family that you haven’t seen since December are coming out of hibernation. It’s barbeque season.


But before you set the date, buy the steaks and light the coals, take a moment to consider what makes up—and what’s tossed away from—your usual fête.


If your ideal summer dinner involves a smoking, meat-laden grill and picnic tables that are strewn with bags of chips, bottles of water and disposable dishes, it’s time to wake up and smell the tofu dogs.


Grilling burgers can mean big time carbon emissions

It turns out that the BBQ, that lighthearted celebration of summer, is anything but light-footed when it comes to leaving a carbon footprint. The average charcoal grill generates 11 pounds of CO2 emissions per hour, while a propane grill emits about 6 pounds of CO2.


Do you know how much CO2 your bbq is emitting? (Flickr/Peter Taylor)


Add the plastic bottles of pop and water; the disposable dishes and cutlery; the leftovers; waste and mess; and this is one summer ritual that looks like it can use an eco-overhaul.


If you’re ready for a greener gathering, check out our eco-barbequing tips:

How to throw a greener BBQ

  1. Plan ahead, make a guest list and check it twice
    Try to choose a location that the bulk of your guests can walk, bike or take public transit to—then suggest car-pooling options for those coming from further a field. Eliminate wasted food by tallying up your guest list before you shop and be specific with your potluck suggestions (let people know the dish and amount they should bring). No one really wants to eat (or take home) endless quantities of pasta salad.
  2. Ditch the Disposables
    For beach and park gatherings we ask our friends to bring their own reusable dishes—ours come in a washable canvas bag and we clean them when we get home. If you’re hosting the party just use your own dishes, and borrow extras from friends and family. If you can’t live without disposables, look for unbleached recycled paper plates and bamboo cutlery. Consider using cloth napkins and reusable cups as well.
  3. Serve Local Food
    Take advantage of your farmers market and buy whatever produce is in season, as it will be tastier and healthier. Also look for local beer (check for places that sell by the keg or growler) and wine, or make big pitchers of homemade ice-tea and lemonade (sweetened with local honey) to eliminate all those single serving plastic bottles.
  4. Rethink the Beef
    According to a report published in New Scientist magazine, eating a kilo of meat creates the equivalent emissions of driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home. The carbon footprint of a cheeseburger is about 6.3 pounds of CO2. One option is to test out veggie burger recipes or simply grill up a pan of fresh veggies brushed with olive oil. But if you’re not ready to give up your meat you can still be greener while you grill. Consider serving less meat and for the meat you do serve, choose organic and grass-fed selections. Then bulk up your meal with tasty salads and whole grain dishes.
  5. Get Grilling
    The type of grill you use affects not only flavor, but also your eco-footprint. From a carbon standpoint, gas grills are better because they burn cleaner and leave behind less waste than charcoal grills. Charcoal may add flavour but they also emit carbon monoxide and other VOCs. If you do opt for coal look for the all-natural lump varieties, which eliminate the nasty additives contained in briquettes. When it comes time for lighting the charcoal (unless you have super girl guide fire-starting skills) you’ll likely reach for Sterno—that bright pink, just don’t contemplate what’s in it—fire starter. Skip the toxic fire starter and try lighting up with charcoal chimneys, electrical charcoal starters, or DIY fire starters.
  6. Clean-up Right
    Set up recycling stations and compost buckets at the same time you set your tables. Most people are pretty well trained when it comes to sorting garbage—so make it easy for guests to clean-up after themselves. And don’t forget to plan ahead by bringing a few reusable containers to pack leftovers into.

Don’t be that guy – pick up your trash after your picnic (Flickr/Bradley Gordon)


Do you have any other green BBQ tips to share? Or a recipe for a great veggie burger that doesn’t dissolve on contact with the grill? Add them to the comments.