Six Tips to Hosting an Eco-Friendly Backyard Barbecue

The month of May not only represents National Barbecue Month, but also the kickoff to an entire season that starts before Memorial Day and runs right on through the fall with backyard barbecues and tailgate parties. While your central focus may be on perfecting your beef brisket or crafting the most heavenly rack of ribs, Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful would like to propose the following six tips that will help ensure your backyard barbecue minimizes your carbon footprint while maximizing your outdoor joy.

  1. Invest in a “Green Grill”: The hottest thing to hit backyards in eons is the advent of the pellet grill. With a firepot and heating rod at their base, these grills feature a delivery system that feeds the fire with renewable biomass fuel – aka pellets. The pellets are made from recycled hardwood sawdust. You can choose which kind of hardwood pellet you’d like to use to add a specific slow-smoked flavor to whatever you’re grilling, like hickory or pecan. You can find pellet grills just about anywhere made by such recognizable brands as Weber, Traeger, Pit Boss and more. It’s a lot like a contained campfire and a far better eco-friendly alternative to charcoal or gas grills. Gas grills use a non-renewable liquified petroleum gas – commonly known as propane – and charcoal grills use charcoal briquettes that are often soaked in an accelerant, releasing carbon and particulate matter into the air. 
  2. Use the “Good China”: While paper plates are often thought to be recyclable, the truth is, that the moment you add food to them, you render them “contaminated.” The grease from that juicy burger seeps down into the paper fibers and any food residue on the surface can further contaminate the recycling stream. And don’t even get us started on plastic utensils and cups! If you’re hosting a gathering in your backyard, break out the reusable plates and silverware. Not only will it elevate your gathering, but it will go a long way in keeping all those plastic forks and dirty paper plates out of our landfills. If you feel you MUST use paper plates, consider a biodegradable, 100% compostable variety.
  3. Shop for Ingredients at your Local Farmers Market: As the name might suggest, farmers markets represent a gathering of local farmers, selling their fresh produce. Many farmers markets are also seeing an influx of grass-fed meats, antibiotic-free chicken and fresh eggs. You can find virtually everything you need to create a delicious farm-to-table menu to delight your guests, while supporting your local farmers. This article from our friends at Explore Gwinnett takes a closer look at some of the area’s finest farmers markets.
  4. Take Advantage of the Opportunity to Foster a Love of the Outdoors in your Children: Perhaps one of the best things about a great backyard barbecue is the opportunity to be in the Great Outdoors and share the experience with your family and friends. While you man the grill and entertain the grown-ups, make sure you have some fun activities planned for the kiddos that will make them want to stay outside, rather than fall victim to the allure of video games indoors. From potato sack races to the limbo to an outdoor scavenger hunt, fostering a love of the natural world in your little ones might just inspire them to become environmental stewards as they grow up.
  5. Pay Attention to Burn Warnings: Because fire is at the heart of any backyard barbecue – from the tiki torches set about to ward off mosquitoes to the flames fueling your grill – it’s important to pay attention to burn warnings in your area. While burn bans are typically limited to the outdoor burning of debris, they do tend to signal things like a drought which could cause grasses to burn more quickly or high winds that will fan the flames and cause a fire to spread more rapidly. Burn ban or not, be sure to have a safety plan in place if your grill fire gets out of control – from flour to quell a grease fire, to a bucket of water to halt a grass fire, to a fire extinguisher in the event of a larger emergency.
  6. Compost the Leftovers and Scraps: Once your bellies are full and the guests have all gone home, package up any leftovers to enjoy later. In the event that you don’t manage to eat those leftovers within a reasonable amount of time, instead of throwing them in the trash or down the disposal, put them in your composting pile. You can do the same with your food scraps on the day of your backyard barbecue. If you don’t have a compost pile, this spring or summer may be the ideal time to start one! As the ultimate form of recycling, the art of composting has been in practice the world over for centuries. In the most basic terms, composting involves the transformation of organic matter – such as grass clippings and food scraps – into a mineral-rich, soil-like material called compost. You can then use that compost as mineral-rich fertilizer in your garden – it’s a win-win!!

Happy Grilling, Gwinnett!

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