The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 60 million Americans get together with their friends and families barbecues on the Fourth of July. Good times, for sure, but to what impact on the environment?
These millions of grills release some 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest, and consume the same amount of energy as the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, uses in a whole year.
Big consequences. So what to do? The Nature Conservancy is offering 10 tips for eco-friendly celebrations, so you can have yourself a green barbecue this Fourth of July and all summer long!
Top 10 Ways to Green Your BBQ Party (in no particular order):
1. Use reusable or biodegradable plates and utensils. If you can’t find those, at least go for products made from 100 percent recycled materials. Remember that your biodegradable plates will need to be cleaned before going in the compost bin— ketchup, hamburger grease and other-non-veggie food matter doesn’t compost.
2. Fill up pitchers of water, homemade lemonade and iced tea instead of buying huge quantities of personal-sized beverage containers.
3. If you take heed of tip #2, you’ll need to provide cups. If you use plastic or paper cups, provide markers at the drink counter so people can write their names on their cups— and therefore not use more than one.
4. And even if you follow tip #2, you’re likely to have beer and other individual-sized beverages in a cooler. Encourage recycling by putting out easily identifiable bins— you’ll find fewer bottles and cans smeared with ketchup in the garbage.
5. Grill locally grown fruits and vegetables. While local doesn’t necessarily mean organic, small farms are often more likely to be more sustainable and pesticide-free.
6. Going vegetarian can be better for the planet than eating meat. But if you do eat meat — or your guests do, invest in organic, local or sustainably raised dogs, burgers and chicken.
7. Encourage walking, biking or carpooling to your party.
8. Make sure mosquitoes don’t drive your guests away. Before the party, take a look at prime mosquito breeding grounds — clean out rain gutters, check other spots with standing water and mow your grass (with a reel mower, of course). Even better, help the mosquito-problem year round without resorting to chemicals by installing a bat house in your yard.
9. If you’re throwing a big bash, chose e-vites over mailed invitations. Sending invitations electronically will save both money and trees. Bonus for going the electronic route: You'll save on the fuel used to deliver the cards.
10. Don’t forget the little things. Choosing organic condiments, reusable napkins instead of paper ones, homemade decorations and fresh flowers over disposable party products and other details will help round off the finishing touches of your green BBQ.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.