When you smell sizzling burgers on your walk home from work, you know it’s finally barbecue season. And who can argue with an iced jug of mint and strawberry-spiked Pimm’s with hunks of grilled halloumi eaten in the open air? But, sad news: those smoke-tinged flavours can come with an environmental cost.
Why? There’s the charcoal thing, to start. 2015 research from conservation organisation the WWF showed that: ‘3.28 billion tonnes of timber is needed to make the amount of charcoal imported into the EU every year, roughly equivalent to 11 million hectares of forest,’ which makes the whole ‘cooking with fire’ thing feel less appealing. There’s also the single-use plastic cups and cutlery, if you take your barbie out of your garden - ‘plastic pebbles’ are polluting Cornwall’s coastline after people have thrown plastic bottles into their beach barbecues. These plastiglomerates are washing up on the shore and are being ingested by marine creatures.
So, to steer you towards the sustainable track, HuffPost UK spoke to Bianca Mularoni, founder of eco lifestyle site Zero Waste Path, about her advice for hosting an environmentally friendly barbecue this summer.
“We have the power to choose the impact we have on the world around us,” says Bianca. “We are used to thinking that one person can’t make a difference, that these issues are much bigger than us - however small actions really can mean change.”
Here’s how to grill, greener.
Try a plant-based burger.
“I’m not vegan, but I do eat a mostly plant-based diet,” Bianca says. “No Bull Burgers are amazing store-bought burgers packed with sundried tomatoes and spinach (even though they aren’t completely plastic-free). For an infinite variety of low-cost burgers, you could always make them at home.”
Use gas, not charcoal.
Like we said, the wood that becomes charcoal is rife with potential environmental issues. If it’s time to buy a new barbecue, make it a gas one. 2003 research from Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy found that a: “Liquefied petroleum gas grill operated for an hour would emit 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide, while a charcoal grill would emit about 11 pounds.” So switch it up.
Use real plates and cutlery.
“Forget plastic knives and forks,” says Bianca. “If you are going to someone else’s barbecue, just bring you own. I usually take my cutlery set, lunchbox and Klean Canteen bottle so I can avoid single-use items.”
Choose glass bottles.
“Almost all aluminium drinks cans are shipped in plastic rings. Unless you need to buy a huge amount, the glass bottle versions won’t impact your wallet and usually taste better. Glass is less resource intensive than plastic or metal and it’s easily recyclable,” is Bianca’s advice.
Avoid disposable barbecues.
Single use anything is a bad idea. “Buy a small, portable barbecue that you can use every summer,” Bianca says. If this has to be charcoal-powered, get a bag of Forest Stewardship Council-approved charcoal. “Dorset Charcoal Company is a great source of British charcoal, or you might be able to find your own locally produced charcoal.”