How environmentally friendly is your backyard grilling party? Follow these tips and you will be about as green as it gets!
Everyone talks about global warming and other environmental issues these days. Quite rightly too - the current trend in Global Warming may well be natural, or it could be human driven. Who knows? The answer is no-one for definite but can we take the risk. If it is natural and we all reduce our carbon footprint then great, it will hopefully put itself right faster. If it is humans that are the cause, then great, if we are proactive then hopefully at some point, it will be put right and the climate will return to normal. In other words, being environmentally aware and reducing your carbon footprint leads to a win-win situation.
So how can we grillers contribute? Is it worth it? Of course it is worth it - your individual contribution is miniscule but when you think of millions making small contributions, then hey, we've got something good happening.
So, if you are a charcoal griller, the benefits are that you are using current carbon and your grilling equipment uses fewer resources to make it. So I guess that is fairly green to start with. But there are still steps you can take to reduce your impact on the environment. The charcoal has to have come from somewhere, check out your favourite brand and find its origins, use charcoal from a sustainable source, even if it costs more - saving the planet is not always about saving money! Some charcoal is made from recycled wood rather than wood that is deliberately cut for the purpose of producing it. If you are tempted to buy a disposable grill - DON'T. They are incredibly wasteful of resources.
Always use lump charcoal, other types contain chemical binders which, when burned, release polluting chemicals into the air - remember also that these will be absorbed into your food so it is healthier for you as well as healthier for the environment. When you start up your charcoal, avoid the use of lighting fluids and self lighting charcoal as these release complex petrochemical by-products into the atmosphere and your food. Light your charcoal naturally or using and electric charcoal starter.
But the gas grill is potentially less polluting overall, especially if you get one that runs of natural gas. That is the simplest fuel of all and burns the cleanest. Oh sure, it will create the dreaded carbon dioxide, the most well known of the greenhouse gases, but at least it does not produce the more complex combustion products of other grill fuels. The gas grill will also cost more, environmentally speaking, but it has the potential to last a lifetime, if you look after it and store it carefully. When you consider the exctraction and processing of the raw materials, the manufacture, transport and packaging of the components, the assembly of the unit and the subsequent packaging, transport and other peripherals such as advertising, you can see that each grill has a big impact on the planet. Oh, and then there is the disposal, transporting (hopefully) to the recycling centre, the actual recycling and subsequent re-use of the recycled materials all has a further impact. The less disposal that is done, the better it will be for the environment. So whilst a charcoal griller will generally wear out several grills in a lifetime, a gas griller will probably not need to replace it. Repair it maybe but that is much more environmentally friendly - reduces landfill and reduces the demand on the resources of the planet. So spend a bit more when you buy the grill, get the best you can afford and it will save you and the planet in the long term.
Preheat times waste fuel, the shorter the preheat time, the less fuel is wasted. So leave your grill, whether it is on gas or charcoal, for the minimum possible preheat time. Better for the environment and better for the purse!
Grease and other burnt on food residues will release un-necessary smoke so make sure that whatever your grill type, keep it clean. Cleaning it when it is still warm makes life easier, so to save re-heating it the next day, which is an unnecessary waste of fuel, clean it straight after the party, while the food residues are still soft and easier to remove. Take care of course not to burn yourself!! Even trimming off the excess fat before grilling will help, it will reduce smoke during the cooking and will reduce the amount cleaning afterwards! Great!
In the second part entitled "Environmental Considerations When Buying Food" we will look at reducing environmental impact by changing the way you buy grill food.