At a time when temperatures have been rising and almost half of the contiguous U.S. is in a drought, the notion of “firing up the grill” just does not sound the same.
Petroleum or alcohol-based lighter fluid is not only combustible; it can cause petrochemical smog and its use is regulated in some places. The mainstays of picnics for such holidays as Memorial Day — cold drinks in aluminum cans and plastic bottles, paper plates and plastic utensils — can quickly generate a small mountain of waste.
But you can green up your grilling, and your picnic, in a few simple ways.
1. Hold the Paper and the Plastic
Try to avoid using disposables. But if you must, seek out those that are compostable, biodegradable and petroleum-free and contain no bleaches or dyes. You can also find compostable cutlery (the set above is made from bamboo).
2. Keep Your Carbon Footprint in Mind
A grill powered by natural or propane gas is more energy efficient and burns cleaner. Gas grills also produce less waste than those that use charcoal. Even more, charcoal briquettes are not ideal for the planet’s or our health. They contain, among other chemicals, carbon monoxide. If you must use charcoal, seek out an eco-friendly brand.
While some will argue that that charcoal-grilled taste is worth a little pollution, keep in mind that burning charcoal or wood releases minute particles of soot into the air that get into our lungs and can add to respiratory disease.
Grilling with the lid down can help to utilize the most of the heat of your grill. If you do cook beef and meat, make absolutely sure that these are not undercooked — a friend’s young niece nearly died after getting E.coli from a hamburger eaten at a family barbecue. Cooking plenty of vegetables can help to minimize the possibility of eating anything dangerously undercooked.
Rather than heat up the house with baking, consider using your already-heated grill for making dessert. Many commercially available marshmallows are not only oozing with corn syrup and additives, but are not vegan (due to gelatin made from the hides and bones pigs). Rather than s’mores, consider grilling peaches, apples and other fruits.
4. Stay Hydrated, But Without Too Much Waste
Try to cut down on the number of containers that might pile up by making lemonade or iced tea in large batches (which also enables you to control how much sugar you put into these). If you are planning to serve alcohol, consider using local and/or organic beers in a keg.
If you must serve beverages in disposables, make sure you set out at least one designated recycle bin!
5. Clean Up Without the Chemicals
Rather than using potentially toxic products to clean your grill, get ready to use a little elbow grease. A stiff wire brush and some baking soda or another mild abrasive can help do the job. Doing so may take longer, but you’ll know that the shiny grill in your backyard is that way thank to your own good, honest efforts and residual chemicals won’t get on your food.
Photos from Thinkstock