Chuck the Charcoal. Or, At Least, the Lighter Fluid.

I really don’t know where to start with this one: how to green your grilling! I don’t know about you, but during the summer, give me anything cooked on the grill – hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, steaks – you name it. It’s just the American thing to do! I admit that I never thought about the risks, the pollution, nor ways to change yet another life long habit of simply “doing” (it’s in our DNA) to one of living more consciously AND making it fun.

I knew I was in the danger zone of complacency when I received a press release from my friend Beth Gorman from Pima County Department of Environmental Quality prior to the 4th of July holiday. The press release reads: “Firing up the BBQ by using propane, natural gas, electric, solar instead of charcoal briquettes reduces air pollution when barbecuing. If charcoal is your choice, eliminate the use of charcoal lighter fluid. Charcoal lighter fluid emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through evaporation and as the fluid-soaked charcoal burns. These VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone when they mix with other air pollutants in the presence of sunlight. Lighter fluid costs money each time you purchase it and may also leave a residue of toxic chemicals on the grilled food. The best alternative to lighter fluid is a charcoal chimney, which works very effectively, lasts for years, and emits no VOCs into the air. In addition, charcoal chimneys eliminate the need for buying lighter fluid and storing a hazardous material like flammable lighter fluid at home.” So far I was okay because we have a gas grill. And besides, I always thought charcoal soaked in lighter fluid made the food taste just like the fluid!

With hardly any effort at all, a little more digging led me to The Daily Green’s advice on green grilling. They report: “Electric grills are the cleanest, since they release 99% less carbon monoxide and 91% less carbon dioxide than charcoal. Next best would be propane, followed by natural gas-fired, which burn cleaner.” So I am still feeling pretty good because ours is natural gas and third place kind of makes the cut. It was when they rolled out the HYBRID GRILL that I started to lose it a little bit – a hybrid grill? Are you kidding me right now? Here’s the scoop – there is Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet hybrid grill that gives you the choice of cooking with gas, wood or charcoal, in varying combinations. The gas burners easily light the charcoal or wood and can then be turned off, or used as the primary heat source. Then all you have to do is add a handful of wood or charcoal to get that smoky, delicious BBQ flavor – the reason we all love to BBQ in the first place! Maybe I can convince Chapman to open a Hybrid BBQ store as part of their going green commitment. If not, I might try to talk my friend Marshall into getting one after he puts in his wall of fire!

Now back to my friend Beth from DEQ. Her press release also included the part I love most about writing this newsletter – what you can do to move in a greener direction AND have fun AND save money – The Green Trifecta!
Here tis verbatim and thanks Beth! There’s lots of wisdom in these words!

Reduce waste. Set your picnic table with reusable dishware, silverware, and washable cloth napkins and tablecloths. A one-time purchase of $50 or so, will save time and money by avoiding multiple purchases of disposable products and will last for years. If that’s not feasible, look for biodegradable or recycled-paper dinnerware, unbleached paper cups, and recycled-paper napkins.

Reduce hazardous fumes. Clean your barbecue grill with a wire barbecue brush and a paste made of baking soda and water. Baking soda is very inexpensive and will eliminate the need to purchase and use spray oven cleaners that emit hazardous fumes into the air. You will spend nickels for the amount of baking soda you will need, as opposed to over $5 dollars for a can of oven cleaner.

Reduce lighter fluid. Use a charcoal chimney to light your charcoal without the need for lighter fluid. Charcoal lighter fluid is made from toxic petroleum distillates, which produce volatile organic compounds that are an ingredient in ground-level ozone air pollution and can leave a residue on your food. Charcoal chimneys cost around $15, as opposed to $4 for a bottle of lighter fluid, but will last for many years.

And if you haven’t figured out the fun part, it’s having friends over to try all this out and share with them your noble deeds!