Nothing says summer like a barbecue - even if that means chomping into a burger under a rain-drenched gazebo in the garden...
DESPITE the drizzle last summer, more than 120 million barbecues were had in Britain, according to the National Barbecue Association, making the UK the barbecue capital of Europe.
What a shame then, that barbecuing can be such a ecounfriendly practice. Landfill-destined disposable BBQs, carbon-heavy charcoal briquettes and a menu full of beef burgers can raise your carbon footprint exponentially. But taking a few simple steps - such as thinking reusable and compostable over disposable cutlery, or grilling more veg instead of meat - can diminish your barbecue footprint without impacting your enjoyment of this favourite summer pastime.
There’s nothing like the spontaneity of a last-minute barbecue, with a disposable BBQ, a few sausages and some Pimms to wash them down.
But unless you take your barbie home with you to recycle, it ends up in landfill along with everyone else’s - not to mention all those beer cans and wine bottles.
Your greenest option, then, is to go for a reusable barbie, like the Whistable Bucket BBQ (£21) or Holkham BBQ (£35, both from ECOutlet.co.uk), both of which are reusable, lightweight and portable - featuring a bucket, tray to put your eco charcoal on and griddle. All you have to do is chuck your ash in the bin and take your barbie home with you once the meal’s over.
If you’re going for something more permanent than a reusable port-a-BBQ, however, you’re going to have to do some serious shopping. Most barbecues these days are full- on, rotisserie-style burners with multiple rings that require a whole lot of gas or electricity, neither of which helps your eco credentials.
Much has been said about the best - and greenest - fuels to light the barbie, with the eco-friendliest option being an liquid petroleum gas or sustainable charcoal number.
While gas is more fuel-efficient in the long run, charcoal is carbon-neutral, burning off carbon that’s been locked in the tree from which it came.
The black mark against charcoal, however, has to be the fact that most briquettes are comprised of hardwood cut from developing countries’ tropical forests and sold on to international markets. As research has found that 80% of the charcoal burnt in Britain is imported, your BBQ fuel is most likely not only helping deforestation in some of the world’s most vulnerable areas, it’s also contributing to air miles.
The good news is that some retailers, such as EthicalSuperstore.com, Homebase, Sainsbury’s and B&Q, sell an eco-friendly charcoal (BioRegional) that is both FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified and home-grown in sustainable forests here in the UK - and boasts some 85% fewer emissions than imported charcoal.
You can reduce your carbon footprint even further by avoiding self-lighting briquettes and finding bits and pieces around the house to light your charcoal instead. Waste paper such as toilet roll innards and twigs, fir cones and kindling in the garden all work a treat. You can also use the ash as a mulch in your houseplants later.
So what about that gas barbecue in your back garden? Well, as most gas barbecues use propane or butane to cook with, both of which are fossil fuels, you can wave any attempts at carbon neutrality on that one goodbye.
Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is the friendliest option of all gas-range BBQs, emitting less CO2 than electricity - and around 100 times less CO2 than the average charcoal briquette.
As for electric BBQs, unless you happen to source your electricity from an eco-friendly source such as wind or solar power, there’s really no need to go there: Taste and energy-wise, electric BBQs are an embarrassment to the summer months.
If you want to give all traditional fuels a miss altogether, then a great single-use, recyclable and eco-friendly option is the FlameDisk (£4.99 from Firebox.com), which requires no lighter fluid, charcoal or gas. Instead, they use solidified and renewable ethanol to light your BBQ, ready in a matter of seconds for up to 40 minutes at a time. FlameDisk wins extra points for its fully recyclable aluminium shell, not to mention the natural flame-grilled flavour infused in every disk.
Meat lovers should know by now that meat consumption is responsible for a large amount of the methane present in the Earth’s atmosphere - methane being one of the main contributors to global warming. So if you really want to have an eco barbie, you’ll have to invest in some veg, fish or meat-free burgers to throw on the grill.
Fish such as wild or farmed salmon and tilapia is great on the grill. Wrap it up envelopestyle in aluminium foil and let it steam while on the grill - adding a douse of white wine will spice it up, as will a few sprigs of rosemary.
If you must, must, must have a more ‘traditional’ BBQ meat on the grill, then go for lamb over beef, as lambs are grass fed and more often allowed to roam free than cattle.
Fish and veg are an eco-friendly
alternative to meat