How to have a sustainable summer barbecue

How to have a sustainable summer barbecue
BBQ corn on the cob
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Who doesn’t love the 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. 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.


It’s very tempting to go straight to the supermarket for your barbecue food. Not least, because the cost is potentially 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?

You could try something veggie – Tofu is vegetarian and vegan friendly and 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.

Tofu in a salad

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 (they’re re-useable) 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? There might even be a nearby brewery, like Salcombe Brewery, which produces the ‘Seahorse’ beer and gives a 5p donation to The Seahorse Trust for every bottle of Seahorse sold (ABV 4.4%, 9g cask, 500ml bottles).

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We’ve all been there – going into the shed after a long winter only to find the garden furniture is rusty or mouldy. Our usual reaction would be to head straight to the nearest shop to replace it, but hold up! Can it be cleaned, mended and spruced up?

If it really can’t then you could try looking for something second hand – rather than buying ‘one summer use only’ furniture. Try Facebook marketplace and Ebay for second-hand bargains, as well as Gumtree.

If you are buying new, think sustainable materials, rather than plastic, too. For example, Envirobuild is a sustainable garden furniture company who produce 100% 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.

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Barbecue fuel

It’s so 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 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 3 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.

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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 £4.99 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, offers oval zinc baths for keeping those summer drinks cool. At £60, 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.

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Words: Jenny Stallard

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