Summer is coming up and you may be thinking… barbecue! There are cons of grilling of course. In fact, Sierra Club + the U.S. Department of Energy notes that grilling done on JUST July 4th each year can burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest and releases 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Think about the entire summer. Yikes. Yeah, you need a greener grill.
Grilling can have pros. Grilling food outside during the summer (if you get the right grill) is actually more earth-friendly than cooking in your kitchen. Many grills cook very fast compared to say oven roasting. Grilling keeps your kitchen cool and thus energy use (and bill) low and beyond this grilling has a smaller impact than many other things we do (think leaving the TV on, driving, etc.).
That said, you should still choose the greenest grill option possible.
There are various options when it comes to grills. You’ve got gas grills (propane or natural gas), charcoal grills, wood fire grills or just cooking over an open fire, solar cookers and electric grills.
Solar cooking is hands down the most eco-friendly outdoor cooking choice but a solar cooker won’t really grill food as grillish as you might expect your typical barbecue food to be, but they get the job done and have a low footprint. You can even easily make your own solar cooker.
A natural gas grill is the second best option in terms of good-for-the-planet due to it being closer to greenhouse gas (GHG) neutrality. Gas grills give off far less smoke than other grill options making it safer for your family and the earth. Natural gas obviously has its own issues because you’re fueling it with petroleum or natural gas, both non-renewable fossil fuels. However, gas grills fire up fast and require less clean-up than other grills. If you choose a gas grill buy a newer efficient model (learn about gas use for grills) and make sure the gas tanks can be re-filled. See an excellent gas grill buying guide.
Charcoal and wood grills are far less safe than gas grills in terms of human health and ozone health. The EPA cites charcoal grills as a direct contributor to ground-level ozone issues and the typical charcoal grill can release double the carbon into the area as a gas grill. The upside is that lump charcoal is made from renewable resources. If you choose a charcoal grill use natural lump charcoal not charcoal briquettes which contain additives, and make sure you use a charcoal chimney not lighter fluid, a choice that saves money and the ozone.
Most experts agree that electric grills create the highest emissions both in terms of grill production and cooking energy. Really, the only good green way to grill electric is if you get green power to do so and that’s still rare for most homes in America.
Other ways to get an eco-friendly grill:
- Choose a well constructed model. Check consumer ratings before buying because you want a long life.
- Along with the above check out the reputation of the grill maker.
- Don’t buy more grill then you need and don’t upgrade needlessly. Honestly, I’d like a little natural gas grill, but right now we have a tiny charcoal grill. It’s super small and old as sin, but you can cook enough on it for about five people and why should we buy new stuff? Basically if you’ve got something that works, consider NOT buying a new grill. The energy and materials it takes to make a new one are considerable. We’ll use ours for a few more years. If you do go new don’t buy a monster grill unless you honestly cook for a crowd often.
- Share with a neighbor or family member. If you don’t grill all year long, having your very own grill is kind of a waste. Why not go in on a grill with someone. Especially if you tend to celebrate special events with that person.
- Want another interesting alternative? Try a corn grill.
Decent grill suggestions: I checked around (Consumer Reports, etc) and found some of the highest rated gas grills for 2010 in various price ranges, but I’m not really in the market right now, so I didn’t research these like mad. Make sure you read up before you buy.
- Outdoor Great Room Cook Number Series Electric Grills
- Weber 3757001 Genesis E-320 Propane Grill, Green
- Broil-Mate Gas Grill (13024)
- Broil King 988744 Sovereign XLS LP Gas Grill with Side Burner and Rear Rotisserie
- Weber 4411001 Spirit E-210 Propane Grill, Black
Something I noticed from all my searches is that gas grills cost a lot! I thought a little gas grill would be fairly inexpensive, but from all the reviews I’ve read it seems like you want to aim to spend at least $250, but $500 would be better. Most of the grills priced lower were reviewed as failing apart fast – not a green option. It’s better to spend some more cash now and get a decent product. Just an FYI in case you’re setting aside money for a summer grill.
Are you buying a new grill this summer?