This will probably not surprise anybody in the USA: According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Association, the most popular holiday for barbecuing in the United States is July 4th.

Interested in greener grilling for clean air’s sake?  If charcoal is your choice of fuel, try barbecuing without lighter fluid. Mixed with sunshine and other pollutants, the chemicals in lighter fluid create a pollutant called ground-level ozone. On a very personal note, I think lighter fluid is awful & I can always taste it on my food.  A good reason why you don’t want to use it?  Charcoal lighter fluid, a petroleum distillate, can be hazardous if ingested. But aren’t we ingesting it on our food if we use it?

So what’s a green griller to do?  Here are some simple tips from the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality  (because they care about air quality.)

1. If you plan to use charcoal for your barbecue,  use a charcoal chimney and crumpled paper instead of lighter fluid (which costs about $4 a can) to light your barbecue fire. After you light the paper and start the fire, the coals will be ready for grilling in about 17 minutes.

2. Invest in  a charcoal chimney. It’s a metal cylinder about seven inches across with a handle and a grate in the bottom that holds the charcoal. A charcoal chimney costs about $15 and lasts for years. (Save some green!)

3. Grill with propane gas, natural gas or solar energy to reduce air pollution.

Why should you care about green grilling? Because when ozone measures above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s ground-level ozone standard, it can cause health problems for some people. Elevated levels of ground-level ozone can affect children, the elderly and people with lung or heart disease, including asthma and congestive heart failure. Makes me care. Who wants to hurt old people and kids?

And if you want to make it a Great Green 4th?  Use REAL  plates, napkins, and forks and knives. I don’t know about you but I can’t stand to be the one with the soggy paper plate and the fork that breaks when I am trying to cut something.  You will save money,  save natural resources and reduce waste.

How to green clean your grill?  Try an inexpensive paste made of baking soda and water and a wire brush. It costs pennies and is completely non-toxic. Aerosol oven cleaners release toxic fumes and again; they are awful!  All small changes, all can save you money and all improve the environment.  Makes you want to set off a firecracker – right?  Not sure how green firecrackers are but they are fun & we all can use fun in our lives.

Speaking of fun – if you want to know more about air-quality, treat yourself to listening to this podcast from two experts who care deeply about the air we breathe, Sue Cotty from Pima Association of Governments  & Beth Gorman from Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.   It’s all about green & sustainable talk radio!

Make it a great green 4th of July.