Summer is here! It is the perfect time of the year to go for a hike, have a family picnic, hang out at the beach, and of course, host a barbecue. Friends and family gather in parks, community centers, or backyards, with drinks chilling in the cooler and music in the background, ready to enjoy a great outdoor party.
But does your next summer cookout have to happen at the expense of the environment?
43% of all food waste occurs at home, so check out some eco-friendly tips that can help you host the summer cookout that is easy to follow and affordable. After all, barbeques and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Get ready for the summer cookout you have been dreaming about that will keep our planet green!
1. Use an Eco-Friendly Grill
The main drawback to grilling outdoors is that it is not the best for our environment. Among the four main grill types (electric, gas, pellet, and charcoal), surprisingly, electric grills are considered the worst for the environment. Electric grills put out 15 pounds of carbon per hour and are not as efficient as charcoal or gas. While charcoal grills might be less expensive, they release less carbon than an electric grill, at 11 pounds per hour, and produce particles that create air pollution. However, this does not mean you have to give up grilling together!
Gas grills release the lowest amount of carbon, at 5.6 pounds per hour, they are the best grills for the environment and the most efficient.
To reduce your carbon footprint, even more, switch to a gas grill designed to use natural gas, a cleaner alternative, instead of propane. There are ways to convert the grill you have now from propane to natural gas. Another option would be a pellet grill, only if it uses dry and high-quality wood scraps. It is important that the pellet grill is clean from carbon buildup and grease in order to produce clean smoke.
Gas and pellet grills are the best options to grill for your next cookout while being as environmentally friendly as possible!
2. Use Reusable or Compostable Dishes and Utensils
One of the main parts of waste at cookouts is disposable plates and cups. Unfortunately, people tend to lean towards disposable plates, cups, and utensils for parties because it makes for easier cleanup.
While disposables may be easier, use reusable silverware for a better and environmentally safe experience, which can be found in your own kitchen! Although it will take some cleaning after your next cookout, it is economically beneficial and helps reduce your carbon footprint.
Even though they are still technically single-use, compostable dishes and utensils are another great option! Compostable dishes and utensils biodegrade instead of composting in a landfill, making them an ideal eco-friendly option for people that live in areas with industrial composting facilities that accept them.
Note: some compostable plates won’t break down in regular home-scale compost bin because they need to be exposed to extremely high temperatures.
Bonus Tip: to save water, only lightly rinse your plates and silverware; let the dishwasher do the work.
3. Switch to Better Meat Alternatives
For most, there is no cookout without your favorite meat, whether cooking ribs, chicken wings, pork chops, or burgers. Unfortunately, beef production creates drastically higher emissions than those from chicken, fish, and vegetables.
The amount of resources and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions used and created is higher for beef, lamb, and other red meats. Choosing a low-impact food like chicken, fish or veggies will reduce your emission footprint at your next cookout. Check out this protein scoreboard to see the environmental impact of what’s on your plate, and consider purchasing certified grass-fed beef or go green with a red-meat-free cookout.
Here are some ideas: check to see if you have any leftover veggies in the fridge to add to a kabob. Grilled Shrimp, scallop, and vegetable kabobs or marinated grilled chicken breasts are great options for your next cookout – tasty and eco-friendly!
4. Avoid Food Waste
In the United States, about 35% of all food produced will go to waste. So before your next backyard barbecue, note how many people are coming and what they prefer to eat. This way, you will better understand what food items will be the most popular and what to cook less of.
Instead of piling up your burger with all toppings beforehand, consider having a build-your-own theme for your next cookout! This helps ensure that only food that’s going to be eaten is placed on plates. This also helps prevent your leftovers from becoming unusable.
Also, to make sure the food is safe to eat later on, only put out the toppings right before the meal is served and clean up shortly after everyone is done to limit the time everything is out of the fridge or exposed to the sun.
Speaking of leftovers, don’t forget to let your guests take home leftovers in reusable containers! Learn more about reusing food waste, scraps, and leftovers here!
5. Green Your Beverages
Beverages are super important when ensuring guests have a good time and stay hydrated at your next cookout. Don’t be afraid to make your own homemade alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for everyone to enjoy!
If you’re making fruit cocktails, using the fruit you already have will help save money and avoid food waste!
As for a beer option, look for beers and beer brands that are environmentally friendly. Corona (Mexico), Baykeeper IPA (California), New Belgium Brewing Fat Tire (Colorado) and Ninkasi Brewing Company Cold Fermented Lager (Oregon) are all good options for environmentally friendly beers. Corona is changing the beverage industry through its sustainable initiative with Parley. Parley AIR Strategy is working with Corona to transform the beverage industry and protect paradise from marine plastic pollution.
New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire beer is invocating to fight climate change and reduce emissions. New Belgium Brewing’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030 and focus on sustainable packaging.
If you prefer a soft drink, opt for Karma Cola, a beverage company striving to connect the people who drink their drinks with those who grow the ingredients while doing good for the planet.
P.S. straws are unnecessary waste. Plastic straws are among the top 10 contributors to plastic marine debris across the globe. To help reduce the future of plastic debris worldwide, offer compostable straws or reusable glass and metal straws you might have in your kitchen!
6. Sustainable Sides
Snacks and dips are just as crucial as the food on the grill. It can be tempting to purchase plastic-packaged snacks at your local store. Nearly half of the plastic produced is for single-use.
Homemade dips not only taste better, but they are plastic-free! You can make dips from basic pantry ingredients that you might already have or shop for ingredients locally! By shopping locally, not only are you supporting local farmers, but you are enjoying the freshest ingredients for your menu items!
Don’t forget about the leftover chicken you have sitting in your fridge from last night’s dinner. You can make an easy 5-ingredient buffalo chicken dip. Take your leftover chicken, shred it and add some hot sauce, ranch dressing, cream cheese, and shredded cheese, mix, heat, then eat!
7. Make Recycling Easy for Guests
It is essential to have clearly labeled recycling bins for your guests to recognize once they finish eating and drinking! Create a sign to remind your guests what items are recyclable and what items should be thrown out instead.
For example, steel cans, plastic bottles, aluminum, and glass bottles could be recycled after your next summer party. Be sure to check the back or bottom of disposable plates and cups for the recycling symbol to see if they are recyclable.
Be sure to compost your food scraps. You only need a bin or pit in your backyard to pile the leftover fruit, veggies, and compostable plates. Check out this guide to see what you can and cannot compost. Composting is a great way to recycle and enrich your soil!
Don’t want to compost at home? To find a free composting resource, check out this state-by-state guide that provides locations near you!
Summer is about having fun; if done correctly, so is having an eco-friendly cookout! There are a lot of resources out there where you can learn more about food waste, composting, and recycling. Check out our blog on composting and reducing food waste at home!
Want to find out more ways to reduce food waste and fight hunger? Check out our Take Action page!