3 tips for a sustainable barbecue

3 tips for a sustainable barbecue

Grill on, pop open a bottle of bubbly, and enjoy the last rays of sunshine still shining in the backyard: delightful! However, you also know that a barbecue is not the most environmentally friendly option for a cozy dinner party with friends. But, don't panic: with these tips, you can organize a sustainable BBQ this year that everyone will talk about for weeks!


You may wonder what's so bad for the environment when you fire up that barbecue. And admittedly, we didn't have all the answers to that right away either. That's why we delved into the data this week to get the facts about barbecuing and its environmental impact. Turns out, not only are the harmful substances released during a barbecue bad for the environment and your health, but the fuel and the menu you serve also have a big impact on the environment.


Climate organization HIER investigated how much charcoal Dutch people use per year. It's estimated to be around 13 million kilograms of charcoal. Approximately 80% of this is produced in an environmentally unfriendly manner in South America and Africa. Illegally logged wood is burned on a large scale in the open air, releasing CO₂ and harmful smoke. It takes about 10 kilograms of wood to produce 1 kilogram of charcoal, and in the Netherlands, 13 million kilograms of charcoal are sold annually! So, there's still a lot of room for improvement. And that brings us directly to the first tip:


Fortunately, there are sustainable alternatives to the bags of charcoal or briquettes you buy at the supermarket or gas station. Think, for example, of charcoal with an FSC label. According to WWF and other environmental organizations, this label guarantees that the charcoal comes from responsibly managed forests and that the safety of workers is considered. This charcoal is also almost always a mix of European wood from hardwood trees such as oak, hornbeam, ash, alder, and lime. Another alternative: coconut briquettes, made from coconut shell. However, check the packaging for this: there are coconut briquettes from Indonesia to which fossil fuels such as paraffin have been added. These are not as environmentally friendly!


Barbecuing with charcoal or briquettes also releases harmful substances, including particulate matter. Not good for the planet, but certainly not for your health! The smoke can cause health problems, especially in people with respiratory conditions such as asthma. To prevent smoke development and reduce the release of harmful substances, there are fortunately also alternatives to the old-fashioned charcoal barbecue. That brings us to the second tip:


It may take some getting used to, but barbecuing with gas or electricity is healthier and causes less nuisance. These barbecues don't require charcoal or briquettes. This means you don't have to worry about whether the fuel for your barbecue is sustainable, and no harmful substances are released. Smoke may still be released if some fat drips onto the barbecue, but you can solve this by placing a fat-catching plate underneath.


For many people, barbecuing means meat. Lots of meat. But did you know that the meat industry has a huge ecological impact? Figures from RIVM show that beef products cause the most CO2 emissions. Chicken performs much better, but a meat substitute, vegetables, or potatoes are even less burdensome on the environment. Per kilogram of beef steak, over 30 kilograms of CO2 are emitted, while for chicken, it's 9.6 kilograms of CO2. A kilogram of salmon causes almost 7 kilograms of emissions, and a kilogram of zucchini nearly 3. Let that sink in. Moreover, eating a lot of meat is not good for your health. So it's high time to adjust the standard barbecue menu! Which brings us to the third tip:


No worries, a sustainable barbecue doesn't immediately mean a vegetarian barbecue. It does mean a conscious barbecue. So if you want meat on the grill, you can reduce the environmental impact by eating less meat during the barbecue. It's also a good idea to (if you put meat on the barbecue) choose responsible fish and meat types with a low environmental impact. Complement the menu with vegetables, meat substitutes, fresh salads, and fruit. And finally: an environmentally friendly menu also means a menu with normal portions. Don't make excessively large amounts of food, because everything you don't eat ends up in the trash. Prevent food waste by not buying too much, and put everything that's left over in containers in the refrigerator so you can eat it the next day.


A sustainable barbecue also means you don't have to buy a new barbecue every year. You'll keep your barbecue longer if you keep it clean. And we all know it becomes a hassle if you only clean the barbecue a day later, so go ahead: put that drink aside after eating to soak the grill in soapy water. Make a solution of All-purpose cleaner and lukewarm water and spread it on the grill using a sponge. Then, leave the grill grate overnight on the grass. Since the grass is often moist, you can easily brush or rub off the dirt the next morning. If you don't have grass nearby, leave the grill grate in the soapy water.


Give the host of the dinner party (even if it's you) a Dinner Package as a gift! For all those plates you've just enjoyed eating from, the glasses that shouldn't go in the dishwasher, the stains on the tablecloth, the many trips to the toilet, the dirty hands after secretly picking the leftovers from the pan: Marcel's Dinner Package offers a solution. Cleaning up after a fun dinner becomes almost a party. And you're also doing the environment a favor!
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