When my husband and I were married nearly 15 years ago, his siblings gave us a fabulous gas grill. Since grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook, it has definitely been one of the most useful gifts we received. We use our grill all year-round: Iíve stood on the deck with an umbrella while flipping burgers in the rain and cleared snow off the grill to cook a winter turkey breast. But itís in the summertime that I Ė like many people Ė really give the kitchen a break, turning to the grill nearly every day, sometimes for all three meals.
Whether you are a devoted griller like me, or simply fire up the barbecue for the many traditions of the summer season, there are three simple steps we can all take to make these outdoor meals friendlier to the planet (as well as our wallets and waistlines). Keep these tips in mind as you plan your Labor Day celebrations.
Tip 1:† Rethink your meat.
When it comes to barbecues, the biggest environmental impact is not from the grill, but what you put on it. Meat Ė especially beef Ė takes a major toll, not only on our waistlines, but on the planetís natural resources. It is not widely recognized, but cattle ranching is the number-one cause of deforestation in the Amazon. And as the trees disappear, so does the earthís natural method of absorbing climate-changing carbon dioxide. The livestock sector actually generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet. Even if your beef doesnít come from the Amazon (in the U.S. it typically doesnít), the environmental footprint it carries is high. Because of all the grain that animals eat, it takes 10 times more water to produce a hamburger than a soy burger.
Even if you donít stop eating meat entirely, you can try eating less of it, and possibly choose different types. In my household, I gave up red meat a long time ago, so we opt for chicken sausages and turkey burgers as tasty, less costly alternatives to beef or pork. Poultry takes less energy and fewer resources to raise, so itís a sustainable alternative to red meat. Instead of special-occasion steaks, we splurge on duck breasts or fish, like wild salmon, which is sustainable and hearty.
Photo by Flickr user Baha’i Views / Flitzy Phoebie (Vegetable skewers awaiting grilling. Used under a Creative Commons license.)