10 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Backyard BBQ

Jul 03 2018

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Just in time for BBQ season, these tips will help you declare independence from trash at your next cook-out.

  1. Ditch Disposables – the absolute best way to reduce waste is to replace all the typical disposable items used at BBQs with reusables. You know the biggies: napkins, plates, cups, and silverware.  Just be sure to start the party with an empty dishwasher and sink.
    • Want to label drinks? We’re right there with you – it’s definitely wasteful to have to toss a bunch of half-full glasses. There are tons of alternatives to plastic cups and sharpies. Try washable markers for glasses or drink markers of some kind. You could even just use cloth ribbons in a variety of colors – just be sure to remove them to use again.
    • More guests than plates? Opt for compostable plates (such as Chinet paper plates) and compost them in your backyard or curbside if available in your community.
      • No composting available? To reduce the volume of trash, institute “Tap & Stack”: Put a sign by the trash asking your guests to tap off their plates into the trash bin and empty their cups (in a bucket or the sink) and stack them each next to the trash.  Simply toss each stack in the trash at the end of the party.
  2. Recycle Right – Be sure to have clearly labeled recycling bins and remember, ‘wishcycling‘ is harmful to our recycling system and ultimately generates more waste.

    The typical culprits we spy invading recycling bins at BBQs: disposable plates, cups, napkins, paper towels and silverware. None of these items are recyclable no matter whether they are paper, plastic or foam. The best way to avoid this mistake? See tip #1!

  3. Use Cloth napkins and tablecloths. Don’t have enough tablecloths to use outside? Just give those tables a good scrub down with a rag ahead of time and skip the table coverings. Table still in rough shape? See if you can borrow tablecloths from a friend! For basic napkins, try an inexpensive set of paperless towels like these – they work great for a casual event.
  4. Handy Food – Avoid silverware altogether for easier clean-up. Opt for finger foods like sandwiches, chips, corn on the cob, veggies with dip, melon with the rind on, cookies and brownies – you get the idea. You can skip dessert plates, too!
  5. Stay Hydrated – Avoid a pile of empty bottles by setting out pitchers of water, homemade lemonade, or iced tea. Opt for cans of soda and beer as they are most easily – and infinitely – recycled in comparison with plastic and glass.
    • Tip: Try asking friends to borrow pitchers or dispensers. You can also often find glass pitchers and dispensers at resale shops like Goodwill. 
  6. Don’t suck – on straws that is! 99.9% of the time straws are unnecessary waste. This is easy: simply don’t provide them. You can check this off your BBQ prep-list already!
  7. Go for Gas – opt for a gas grill if you can – it’s healthier for you and the planet. Are you a dedicated charcoal griller? Choose a natural lump charcoal instead of briquettes and avoid lighter fluids – an electric fire starter or chimney starter are a healthier option. Check here for more grilling tips.
  8. Be Water Wise – When the party’s over and it’s time to empty the cooler, dump the ice and water under a tree where it can provide some hydration.

    Don’t waste all that ice and water now that the party’s over.

  9. Fight Food WasteReducing food waste is one of the single most important things you can do to reduce your environmental impact. Do your best not to overbuy, make portions reasonable (guests can always go back for seconds), and be sure to plan for leftovers. Invite guests to bring take-home containers. Save reusable take-out containers to send home with anyone that missed the memo.
  10. Compost! – After you’ve reduced food waste, be sure to compost your inedible food scraps. All you need is a basic backyard compost pile for fruit, veggies, and compostable plates. Or if your town offers curbside food scrap composting, you should be able to compost all food scraps (including animal products) but be sure to double check what they accept first. You may also be able to find services that will provide composting for events.

Take on one or all ten of these tips to this summer to celebrate your independence from waste.

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