Seventy-five percent of Americans own an outdoor grill or smoker, and summer is the ultimate season for firing it up and having a cookout. Whether you’re throwing burgers and dogs on for your family or hosting an all-out BBQ, summer happens around the grill.
It may feel more eco-friendly to pop on the grill rather than cook in the house on the stove or oven, and in some ways it is. Cooking outdoors means your AC isn’t working as hard since you’re not heating up your kitchen. If you have a propane grill, you’re also not using any electricity to run it, saving on that all-important utility.
However, you can always take grilling further to make it greener. Here’s how.
Consider swapping out coal for gas
Gas grills are more energy efficient and release fewer pollutants into the air than coal. Overall, they’re the greener choice. If you have to use coal, because you need that traditional BBQ taste, try to find all-natural lump varieties and avoid using petroleum-based lighter fluids as starters. Especially avoid self-lighting charcoal. You can use natural lighter fluid or an electric charcoal starter instead.
The issue is what these items put out into the air. Both petroleum-based lighter fluids and self-lighting briquettes release petrochemicals into the atmosphere. Regular coal, when burning, also releases carbon monoxide. These are all harmful chemicals the air could do without.
Once you’ve used your grill a few times, you’ll get a good idea of how long it really takes to preheat. Although it will maintain that temperature until you’re ready to cook, leaving your grill on in wait just produces waste. This is especially true for gas grills, and propane isn’t cheap.
If you can, preheat your grill by working backward from the exact time you want to start cooking. That way it’s ready the moment you are and not before.
Use reusable dishes
You’d never use a disposable grill brush or tongs to cook your amazing grilled feast, so why do it when it comes to serving? It can seem easier to put out paper plates and plastic silverware to serve your food on but if you can, use your own dishes. You can even buy a set of reusable plastic dishes and silverware for outdoor use only.
Even running a full dishwasher, compliments of your BBQ, creates less waste than the bags of trash you’d need to throw out if everything is disposed of after one use.
The only time to opt for disposable products is when your BBQ is too big for the plates you have. In that case, it’s okay to use paper plates so everyone can eat, but try to look for brands that are biodegradable.
Go green to clean
After the grilling is over, and it’s time to clean your grill, the products that you use can also be a green choice. Most grill cleaners are full of toxic substances claiming they’re the only thing strong enough to get that grill clean. This isn’t the case, and you can actually make cleaning your grill relatively easy if you strike while it’s hot.
Running a grill brush over a hot grill before you cook, easily scrapes away leftover food and debris. Remembering to do this could mean no additional cleaning and no cleaning products, but you must do it every time to stay on top of buildup.
If a deep clean becomes necessary, look to your pantry for supplies instead of buying a harmful product. All you need is baking soda and some aluminum foil to get those grates clean.
Add in some beneficial greenery
The last thing to think about, when making your outdoor grill area more human-friendly, is what to do about the bugs. They can smell what you’re cooking, and want in, but nobody likes flies buzzing by or mosquitos chowing down while you’re trying to eat an outdoor meal.
The most environmentally friendly way to deal with these pests is by being deliberate with your greenery. Grab a few pots and invest in insect-repelling plants like mint, sage, and rosemary. Not only will you add some natural decor to your patio, but those herbs taste great when added to any grilling marinade.
Keep it green when you’re not the grill master
Even when you’re not the one doing the grilling, but the one being invited to partake in a BBQ, you can make some greener choices. If you’re bringing a side, deliver it in a reusable container with a lid (just don’t forget to take it back home). If you’re bringing the drinks, ask if the host recycles glass or just aluminum and buy cans and/or bottles accordingly.
While en route, even the gas you put into your car can make for a greener experience. By filling up at SpeedyQ, you can reduce the impact of your car’s tailpipe emissions. Through the SpeedyQ Drive™ program, up to 30 percent of your car’s harmful emissions are offset every time you fuel up.
So, this summer, as you fire up the grill, think green. It’s easier than you’d expect. And, enjoy those burgers.