5 Ways to Host an Eco-Friendly Cookout

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Tuohy
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Eating al fresco may feel eco-friendly, but outdoor dining can result in excessive waste if you aren’t careful. One of the keys to being green is to reduce or eliminate waste wherever possible. If you keep that in mind throughout your preparations, you’ll be off to a good start.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Follow these steps to plan a greener cookout and take less of a toll on Mother Nature:

Skip the paper invitations and use online services like Evite, Paperless Post, or Facebook events.

Keep track of what everyone is bringing ahead of time. This way you’ll avoid ending up with five different potato salads that go uneaten.

Request RSVPs so you can prepare the right amount of food and not have any go to waste.

Make it easy for guests to dispose of trash by positioning three clearly labeled bins in a central location: one for compost, one for recyclables, and one for trash.

Banish Plastic and Paper

As tempting as it may be to resort to plastic utensils, plates, and cups, don’t do it! Plastic is a leading cause of litter and isn’t easy to recycle. With less waste as the mantra for your eco-friendly cookout, plastic should only be on the table if it’s reusable.

Instead, consider some of these options for making your cookout stand out:

Use recycled jars as glasses. Mason jars work best, but jam jars, pasta sauce jars, and similar containers also work well. They’re also far less breakable than regular glasses.

Pick up some chalkboard labels or washi tape to affix to the jars so people can write their names on them, or use colored drink stirrers. If guests know which glass is theirs, they don’t need to reach for another one, which cuts down on the cleanup you’ll be doing.

Don’t buy single-serve drinks packaged in plastic, glass, or aluminum. Instead, serve up a bowl of punch and set out large jugs of freshly made lemonade or iced tea.

If you must have cans and bottles (and your guests may well bring them), make sure you have enough recycling bins in easy reach. Encourage glass bottles over aluminum—glass is easier to recycle.

Use real crockery and utensils rather than plastic. If your regular crockery is too precious to use outside, or you don’t have enough for a large gathering, visit local thrift stores and pick up a collection of funky, fun mismatched pieces for outdoor entertaining and save it for your next outing.

Use real linens. Cloth napkins and tablecloths add a touch of class and can be easily washed and reused. Again, thrift stores are a great place to find these items on a budget.

Think Globally, Shop Locally

Wherever possible, shop for local produce and goods to serve your guests. This will reduce your carbon footprint and help support your local economy.

Buy produce and meats at your local farmers market. Look for organic, but favor local over organic if you have to make a choice.

Opt for less meat on the grill. Instead, offer meat alternatives like veggie burgers, vegan hot dogs and tofu, along with lots of grilled veggies and fruit.

Try cooking a homemade pizza on the grill. It’s a great alternative to processed hot dogs for the kids. If you have a Kamado-style charcoal grill, you can serve up something close to authentic wood-fired oven pizza.

Green Up Your Grill

Although there’s a lot of debate over which grill is the greenest, in the end, the differences are quite minimal.

Gas-powered grills emit fewer VOCs into the air than charcoal-fired grills, but they’re powered by non-renewable fossil fuels.

Charcoal grills release twice as much carbon as gas grills. However, you can make your grill closer to carbon neutral by using lump charcoal. It’s made from wood and actually removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

If you go with charcoal, consider a Kamado ceramic grill. It retains heat, providing you with a longer cooking time and using fewer resources.

Avoid briquettes, which can be laden with chemicals, and choose an eco-friendly lump charcoal instead to enjoy that authentic smoky barbeque flavor guilt-free.

Use Renewable Light Sources

Last but not least, save on energy by hosting your party during the daylight hours. As the sun goes down, illuminate your party space with LED lighting and solar-powered decorations and fixtures and invest in some citronella candles and torches to help ward off insects naturally

Jennifer Tuohy is a mom of two who tries to reduce her carbon footprint with everything she does, whether she’s entertaining friends or cooking dinner on a grill. Writing for The Home Depot, she provides great tips on the types of grills that are least harmful to the environment. Click here to see the grill options that Jennifer talks about in this post.

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