Gas or Charcoal?
What’s Greener: Gas or Charcoal? Nothing says summer like a barbeque! Relaxing outdoors, sipping cool drinks, lounging by a pool or lake, all while enjoying the wafting smell of dinner on the grill. There are multiple arguments regarding the difference in taste and convenience between charcoal and gas but what about the environmental effects? Is one greener than the other? Fill us in on what you know on how to throw the greenest BBQ possible and then be sure to check back for more sizzling details from the Live Earth Green Team. It’s summer! And that means it’s grillin’ season! Yum! But wait, now that we’re all paying attention to our carbon producing habits, is there a preferred method for outdoor cooking? What’s greener? Gas or charcoal? As is often the case in the Land of Green, each option has pros and cons and your choice may be based on personal preference or available resources. So let’s take a look-see. Charcoal Bad! According to the Sierra Club, "Grilling with charcoal, the traditionalist's choice, gives off more health-harming carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and soot than other methods" and contributes more to ground level ozone, especially when combined with lighter fluid. Then there’s the toxic chemical issue, as most conventional charcoal is filled with gnarly additives like lighter fluid, coal, borax, and sodium nitrate for quicker ignition. Definitely sounds bad. But wait! Charcoal Good! The flipside of this is that you can use lump charcoal, made from wood that’s coming from sustainable timber operations overseen by the Forest Stewardship Council. The trees used to make these briquettes are replaced by new trees which continue to absorb the carbon created by the stuff cooking your organic, free range, locally grown meal and THAT creates a carbon neutral situation. Another plus to this better charcoal is that there are generally less terrible additives in it so it burns cleaner and doesn’t poison your food. Then There’s Gas. Which is uh…Gas. So yes, that’s bad because we’re talking about non-renewable fuel being used to cook your food. But the truth is that the carbon emissions from a gas grill are about half of what is produced by charcoal and there are none of the disposal issues associated with used charcoal, which basically has to be thrown away. Most gas grills are either connected to your home gas hookup or use propane from a metal canister, which can be refilled repeatedly. It seems pretty obvious that gas makes more sense from a carbon perspective but one common complaint that people have with gas grills is the lack of "smoky" flavor. This is easy to remedy by adding a few natural wood chips or chunks to the smoker box of your gas grill and voila, smoky flavor is now added to your smaller, carbon footprint. Here’s the other common complaint: gas grills are expensive. And the bigger ones require a lot of space. So if you’re not able to take the gas grill plunge at this time, we thought we’d include some general greener guidelines for charcoal grilling to keep your summer festive and tasty and as carbon-lite as possible: Use Better Charcoal Some good brands include: Wicked Good's briquettes, Nature’s Own Chunk Charwood, and Lazzari brand. All are made from selectively harvested wood and contain no or minimal toxic ingredients. Fire It Up With a Chimney Starter This inexpensive metal canister does away with the need for lighter fluid and can be used for years. All you need is some old newspaper, a few briquettes and a match to get your grill on. Skip The Disposable Stuff No paper, plastic or Styrofoam please, if you can help it. If you’re worried about possible breakage, you could try compostable plates, cups and utencils or better yet, invest in reusable "poolside" plastic plates and cups in cheerful colors to make your BBQing even more festive. Cook Better Food Here’s where you want to spend a little more money to make your grilling greener. If you’re going to cook meat, be sure its grass fed, free range, organic and the same for your veggies. Local is best and if it’s fish you’re flaming, check out the Seafood Selector on the Environmental Defense Fund website for the list on what’s best for you and the planet. Happy BBQ!