The sun’s out, the barbecue is sizzling. That’s what the British summer is all about, right? Unfortunately, this particular staple isn’t the best thing for the planet.
What with the emissions they can produce and the ethical and environmental problems with the charcoal we often use to fuel them, one of our favourite summer pastimes comes with some red flags for the eco-conscious.
But before you give up on al fresco dining completely, take heart in the fact there are ways to make your barbecue plans more sustainable.
“Burning coal may have its attractions, but it unfortunately releases clouds of harmful particulate matter into the air” Jenny Bates, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told HuffPost UK. “this is an especially harmful pollutant that worsens heart and lung disease, and causes lung cancer.”
According to Bates, using a gas barbecue is “less harmful from an air pollution perspective, but it is unfortunately still a fossil fuel that won’t do the planet any good in the long run.”
An even better option for cleaner air would be, an outdoor electric grill. Preferably powered by renewable energy [if you can organise that with your provider], though bear in mind they do always need to be plugged in,” she added.
If you can’t be swayed from coal and charcoal, there are some things you should bear in mind, such as where you source it from.
Britain imported nearly 90,000 tonnes of charcoal last year, according to the BBC. In some cases, it is imported from tropical and subtropical parts of the world, destroying the habitat of plant and animal species.
For example, Namibia is the largest exporter of charcoal to Europe, and Friends of the Earth has flagged up a 2015 investigation that found a range of environmental and human issues with the country’s industry. Other charcoal importation hotspots include Nigeria and Paraguay, both of which are also facing huge deforestation issues.
“To reduce the harmful impact of your BBQ, try to buy charcoal produced in the UK. If this is not possible, absolutely make sure you buy charcoal certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC),” said Bates.
Try to resist going for disposable barbecues. Not only are these fuelled by coal, they’re smothered in single-use plastic, effectively a double whammy when it comes to pollution.