Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 10am


Flip burgers with Mother Nature: Going green at the grill

Photo Elliott Burr/Town CrierThe smell of burning charcoal and meat cooking on the grill is a sign of spring as Allyson Saca barbecues in Los Altos great for the tummy but not so great for ground-level ozone.




Each spring, millions of outdoor cooking enthusiasts dust off the grill in anticipation of another fun-filled summer of backyard barbecues. But at what cost to the environment? According to Sierra magazine, the estimated 60 million barbecues held on the Fourth of July in the United States consume enough energy – in the forms of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas and electricity – to power 20,000 households for a year.

If this statistic has your grilling outlook going from sunny to overcast, don’t panic. It’s quite easy to minimize your environmental impact while grilling by taking a few simple steps that won’t diminish your experience. Yes, you too can grill green, and these simple tips will help get your grill on while keeping Mother Earth on your good side. After all, charcoal has been in use since the days of Henry Ford – but you’re not still driving a Model T, are you?

One of the biggest factors in grilling green is the fuel source used to grill. All grilling fuels use natural resources and emit pollutants into the environment, but some do so at a much higher rate than others. Charcoal grills and lighter fluids contribute more to ground-level ozone, produced when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic chemicals combine in hot-weather conditions. In addition, charcoal produces more carbon monoxide and particulates than other grilling options.

Though gas grills offer one of the quickest ways to barbecue, gas grills are expensive. Liquid propane gas is a nonrenewable fossil fuel and many a barbecue has been put on hold due to empty propane-tank syndrome. But charcoal and gas aren’t the only fuel sources to consider when grilling. Recent innovations in the industry have opened the door to a greener grilling experience.

One such innovation is the FlameDisk – a charcoal alternative made from solid ethanol, a renewable biofuel. Food grilled on the FlameDisk tastes as if it were grilled over charcoal, but this eco-friendly grill fuel emits 99 percent less carbon monoxide and 91 percent fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than grilling with charcoal. Plus, the byproducts created when ethanol is burned include only water and a modest amount of carbon dioxide. Unlike lighter fluid and propane gas, the FlameDisk is not derived from nonrenewable petroleum.

Wood is another green fuel option, but like charcoal it burns dirty, producing tiny soot particles that pollute the air and can cause health problems. However, ash from wood can be disposed of in the garden, and is a greener option when obtained from a sustainable source like hickory or mesquite – charcoal ashes aren’t garden friendly disposables.

Your selection of grilling accessories determines how much impact your grilling experience has on the environment. Using real plates and silverware adds some class to a cookout, and you’ll be reducing your waste by avoiding paper and plastic.

Many highly biodegradable disposable options have recently become available on the market. If you’re wrapping food in aluminum foil, consider using 100-percent recycled aluminum.

Cleanup can be both easy and green when you use natural cleaners, many of which you can make safely and affordably in your own kitchen using common ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and water.

While charcoal reigned supreme in the days of Henry Ford, there’s no reason the modern-day barbecue can’t save the earth – one burger or tofu dog at a time. Nobody expects you to cook your next turkey in a solar oven, but it’s good sense to consider grilling green as an eco-friendly barbecue option in the 21st century. It may not be as green as switching to a hybrid car, but reducing our carbon footprints can make a difference over time.

For more information, visit www.FlameDisk.com.

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