Sustainable Living: Green Grilling

Sustainable Living: Green Grilling

Spending time with family and friends while sharing a flavorful meal prepared on an outdoor grill is a popular summer activity. How popular? About 86 percent of U.S. households own a grill, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. More than half of grill owners use them year-round.

Grilling outdoors is no picnic for the environment

Grilling pollutes the air and disperses other harmful materials into the atmosphere. A U.S. Department of Energy study estimates that cooking on a charcoal grill for one hour emits about 11 pounds of carbon dioxide, and many popular brands are treated with chemicals that can harm the environment. In addition, the lighter fluid that is used along with the charcoal emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to ground-level ozone.

A propane grill, by comparison, only gives off 6 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour, but propane is not a renewable energy source.

Don't pack up your grill just yet!

There are a number of things you can do to make your backyard barbecue more environmentally friendly:

  • Put as much food on the grill as possible. The more you cook at once, the more efficient you are going to be.
  • If you use a charcoal grill, choose natural or organic charcoal and avoid using lighter fluid.
  • For propane grills, minimize warm-up time and keep the lid closed as much as possible to cook more efficiently.
  • Use washable dishes, utensils and cups. It may add to your cleanup time, but you avoid dumping disposable items into your local landfill.
  • Choose grass-fed or free-range beef, chicken or pork. 
  • Grill or serve organic vegetables from your local farmer's market or food co-op. 

Safety should be your first concern when firing up the grill. By following a few simple tips, you can ensure that everyone will have a safe summer. For more information, see Grilling Fire Safety from the U.S. Fire Administration.

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