The weather’s hotting up and so are the coals. But will your BBQ pass the green test?
Who doesn’t love barbecue season? From the social aspect to the joy of outdoor cooking, it’s a fun and relaxed way to eat that’s synonymous with summer.
And with the Queen's Jubilee weekend coming up this week, there's no better time to host a outdoor cook-out.
However, along with the food and fun comes a whole world of plastic, mass-produced accessories and potential for waste, with single-use barbecues and plastic wrapped food a-plenty.
Here are some simple ways you can embrace having a sustainable BBQ next time you light the coals.
Buy your food locally and go veggie
It’s tempting to go straight to the supermarket for your barbecue food. Not least, because the cost is cheaper as you can buy large packs of burgers, sausages and anything else you like.
But the provenance and packaging of your food is very important.
Firstly, if you’re a meat-eater or have guests who are, you need to find your local butcher or fishmonger.
Buying from them keeps a local business operating and they can advise you on what’s freshest and most sustainable. Could this be the year you barbecue a locally caught salmon rather than those supermarket sausages?
Or even better, you could host a vegan or veggie barbecue. Halloumi cheese is a great veggie option, or tofu works well for vegans. Tofu is made using three ingredients: water, soybeans and usually nigari, an all-natural ingredient created from seawater.
The smoked variety works really well for BBQs as well, when lightly marinated and then barbecued on skewers. Just as delicious as a piece of chicken.
Think about portions, too. It’s easy to grab loads of food ‘just in case’ but with things like salad, big bags of lettuce can end up soggy in the fridge, and the plastic isn’t recyclable.
Head to the local farmer’s market or greengrocer for your supplies. When you are cooking, consider using a barbecue mesh rather than foil (it's reusable) as well as metal skewers for kebabs, which can be used all year round in the kitchen.
And when it comes to your drinks, think about plastic bottle waste as well as provenance. Do you have a local supplier where you can get your beer and wine?
What about your garden furniture?
Try looking for something second hand – rather than buying ‘one summer use only’ furniture.
Facebook marketplace or Ebay are good for second-hand bargains, as well as Gumtree.
If you are buying new, think sustainable materials, rather than plastic. For example, Envirobuild is a sustainable garden furniture company which produces 100 per cent recycled rattan furniture.
Their entire garden furniture range is designed with the environment in mind and would provide a sustainable seating area for a summer BBQ.
What fuel should you use on your barbecue?
It’s easy to just buy a one-use disposable barbecue, especially when there are just a few of you or you’re headed to the park.
But if you want a sustainable veggie sausage, you need to cook it sustainably, too.
Find out if your local park has permanent barbecues or - if you’re cooking at home - investing in a good, metal-based barbecue is important, as it’ll stand the test of time.
Best of all, if you can build your own from bricks (make sure they’re fire retardant) then that can be a super sustainable approach as well giving you an enormous sense of pride.
Then there’s the charcoal itself. There are now sustainable charcoals on the market, such as Cocoshell Briquettes which are made from compressed coconut shells and burn for up to three times longer than standard lumpwood charcoal, which means less top-ups are required and you’ll spend less time waiting for new coals to warm up. Coco Fuel is another coconut-based alternative that’ll get your guests talking.
What about cutlery and decorations?
Plastic plates and cups, straws and cutlery – barbecues can be a single-use plastic minefield. Make this the summer you don’t use them.
Look for more sustainable options, such as wood, or ask guests to bring their own plate which you can wash up for them before they go home so you’re not buying any new crockery.
Paper straws are a must – or, better still, do you really need any? Companies like Party Pieces have plenty on offer – from around €6 for 24.
Think outside the single-use box for displaying things, too. Lifestyle brand Relish - who have a strong focus on sustainable and reclaimed homewares, offer oval zinc baths for keeping those summer drinks cool.
At around €70, they’re an investment, but if you know a better way to showcase those sustainable beers, we’d like to hear it. Fill with ice and add some a bottle of wine or beer.