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Published on August 23rd, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


Eco Barbecue Basics

The scent of barbecue is synonymous with the smell of summer. Grilling is a great way to spend some quality time outdoors, and following a few simple guidelines helps to ensure that the earth, friends, and family all have a great time.

So gather some friends, grab your gear, and get grilling!

Summer Grilling at the Park


If you’re new to the barbecue scene, consider testing out a grill at your local park rather than buying one that you may only use occasionally. By using community property, an infrequent griller creates less pollution than that created by buying even the greenest equipment.

The type of grill you use impacts the food, and the environment, in different ways:

  • Propane produces fewer noxious fumes than traditional charcoal and begins cooking immediately, whereas a charcoal grill takes about a half hour to be ready for cooking.
  • Although often favored for the smoky flavor it imparts to food, the effects of charcoal- and wood-burning grills on the environment are heavily contended. Some argue that the carbon dioxide (CO2) released during burning is merely completing the carbon cycle, while others point to the fact that charcoal and wood burn “dirty” by producing tiny particles that can get into your lungs.
  • Electric grills are more efficient than charcoal-powered grills, and have the added benefit of no actual flame, thereby preventing accidents that can cause fires.
  • Solar ovens use only the sun to cook a variety of foods. Best used during the hottest parts of the day, these lightweight devices are especially handy for camping. They function much like a crockpot: simply place the food in the oven, leave for an extended amount of time, and a hot meal is ready upon your return.


Every type of fuel used to power your grill will have its own unique combination of efficiency and environmental impact. Follow these guidelines to ensure that the fuel you choose limits the harmful effects:

  • Perform occasional tests to ensure complete combustion of propane and make sure your tank is refillable.
  • For those who can’t give up that smoky flavor, keep in mind that specific products vary greatly. In general, lump coal is better than briquettes, but choosing recycled wood or anything harvested from sustainably managed forests (such as Nature’s Grilling Products) is a step in the right direction.
  • Try burning eco-friendly briquettes made from alternative materials such as coconut shells (found at
  • Instead of wasting lighter fluid, use a chimney starter. Remember to cut off the air supply to the charcoal immediately after use, ensuring that you can reuse it.


Food is the focus of the barbecue, and some careful pre-planning can greatly help your grill-out be more sustainable.

  • Get an accurate count of attendees and their eating habits. It is fine to grill up a couple of extra brats, but you can greatly reduce waste by simply making the proper amount of food.
  • For one-stop shopping, visit your local farmer’s market or search Local Harvest for organic food hotspots in your community. Consider cooking mostly vegetables or meat substitutes, as the meat industry involves a very intensive process.
  • Save or distribute the leftovers and compost the food scraps.

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