by: Aimee Jo Davis-Varela
One of the many benefits of living in the Ojai Valley is the ability to enjoy outdoor living any month of the year. Cooking outdoors is an important part of this, and most of us look forward to hosting family barbecues or grilling with our friends when the weekend rolls around. While grilling is an eco-friendlier cooking method than indoor cooking in most cases, dowsing charcoal with lighter fluid and charring meats until they are barely recognizable are not that great for the planet or your family’s health.
The smoke from burning charcoal or wood is filled with carcinogens and unhealthy compounds that increase environmental pollution and can accumulate in our bodies, increasing our risk for a variety of ailments. When you use lighter fluid, you are also filling the air with harmful petrochemicals that are bad for you, your family and the planet. Top that off with some chemical-laden pest control products to keep your guests comfortable, disposable plates and cups that end up in a landfill, and even more chemicals being released into the air with every bit of fat that drops from your meat onto the grill, and you can see how conventional grilling may be a lot of fun but is not the healthiest activity.
Fortunately, all you need to do is take a few simple steps to green your grilling routine and make your next al fresco dinner party an earth-conscious affair. The first step, of course, is choosing the right barbecue. Propane is better than charcoal, natural gas and electric grills are better than propane, and solar-powered grills, hydrogen-powered grills and corn-burning grills are even better. Of course, if you don’t want to part with your beloved charcoal barbecue, you can go greener with your grilling by switching to lump charcoal, natural charcoal or plant-based ethanol discs.
Once you’ve found your perfect barbecue grill and are ready for your first cookout, try these simple tips to lower your carbon footprint and enjoy healthier, eco-friendlier grilling:
1. If you have to light your cooking fuel, use an electric starter or charcoal chimney, and skip the lighter fluid.
2. Avoid excess smoke by keeping your grill clean. Avoid chemical cleaners and use a paste made from baking soda and water instead.
3. Purchase local meats and produce to avoid the energy and pollution of transporting foods.
4. Purchase organic foods to avoid feeding your family and friends chemical-laden products and to help keep those chemicals out of the air, water supply and soil.
5. Make the most of your fire by preparing the entire meal on the grill and making enough for leftovers.
6. If you do not want to use your indoor dinnerware outdoors, purchase cloth napkins and tablecloths, reusable plates and glasses, and other reusable party supplies for your grill-based gatherings.
7. Use natural pest control methods, such as citronella oil candles, bay leaves tucked under chairs, rosemary or sage tossed into the fire, or marigolds, sage, mint or rosemary planted around your outdoor living areas.
The Davis Group
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