Barbecue Green

May 3rd, 2010 BY Jeremy Taylor | 4 Comments

Hey, barbecue fans! Spring is here. If you don’t have the grill out yet, you’re late. Keeping the oven off in the sweltering heat will help keep your kitchen cool, but make sure you’re barbecue is green, too.

This year, give your BBQ an environmental tune-up, and you’ll be able to grill all summer long with minimal impact on your planet.

Charcoal and briquettes may be your cheapest option when it comes to fuel, but they’re also the dirtiest. Every time you fire up the charcoal, you’re sending soot and carbon monoxide into the air.

Lump charcoal (made from unprocessed charred wood) is a major contributor to both deforestation and greenhouse gas; briquettes, on the other hand, though generally made from sawdust and wood scraps, can often contain a variety of chemicals from the wood’s previous life, sending carcinogenic fumes up to your food and your nostrils.

Environmentally-friendly and healthy options exist. Pick up a bag of coconut shell charcoal, which burns without smoke, odour, or harmful emissions. Or look for charcoal which is free of additives, coal, chemicals, or fillers. It’s often made from leftover furniture. Check out

Propane or natural gas are your most environmentally-friendly liquid options. They’re not perfect, but they’re generally more efficient even than your oven. Solar barbecues are starting to hit the market—check out

Finally, just because it’s BBQ doesn’t mean it has to be meat. Keep up that low-meat diet. Skewered veggies (think peppers, zucchini, red onions) with marinated tofu cubes is a great summery option. Happy grilling!

By the way, thanks to reader Carl Brown for introducing the Sinkpositive Toilet-Sink to me. Check out his great toilet-top water-saver, at

  1. Victor Anthony

    I think this is a good start. I came across some more great tips from Rick Browne and Barbecue America.

    Reduce the Carbon Footprints
    From Ordinary Barbecue Grilling

    Rick Browne, International BBQ Expert, TV Host,
    and Author of the NEW Cookbook, The Best BARBECUE on Earth,
    Shares Tips for “Doing Green BBQ” in Preparation for
    Earth Day (4/22/08), National BBQ Month (May), and Upcoming Grilling Season

    RIDGEFIELD, WA (February 2008) —The number of Americans passionate about the environment is at an all time high and many are now becoming concerned that their backyard barbecue is yet another problem contributing to global warming. For those wondering how to make grilling more environmentally sound, look no further. Rick Browne, International BBQ Expert and author of NEW cookbook, The Best BARBECUE on Earth, offers simple yet effective tips for “doing green BBQ” and shares delicious recipes that are not only good for the earth, but also good for your health.

    Rick Browne’s 10 Essential Ways to Reduce the Carbon Footprints from BBQ Grilling

    1. Cook with gas. If you can. With by far the lowest carbon footprint among fuels used to cook food in backyard barbecues, propane, or its cousin, natural gas, has many economic and environmental benefits.

    2. Do not use ordinary charcoal briquettes. The most popular brands emit 105 times more carbon monoxide than propane, release more greenhouse gases than wood, and send lots of harmful VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the air as well. Use green products like the 100% organic natural briquettes produced by Lokkii.

    3. Use Organic fire starters, chimneys, and lint. If you must use lump charcoal or briquettes DO NOT EVER use liquid starters, they are among the most toxic substances and contain harsh petrochemicals, which contribute to global warming. If you need a liquid fire starter use a brand like Lokkii’s Organic Firestarter. Or, if you wish to keep it simple use a bbq chimney.

    4. Use natural products. For the shock of your life read “Omnivores Dilemma” then you’ll never want to buy supermarket or “corn-fed beef,” or poultry from mass-production farms ever again. Find a local source (your butcher or farmer) for organic poultry and grass-fed beef. If you can find anything locally go online to Niman Ranch ( ) or Organic Valley (

    5. Shop and buy locally. Buy local products including your backyard beverages, thereby saving fossil fuels. Think of the amount of fuel and the huge carbon footprint needed to fly or truck products from other regions of the US to your hometown, or fly in products from overseas.

    6. Buy lean meat and trim off excess fat. For many years we’ve heard how barbecuing meat creates carcinogens. To be honest, grilling meat does produce two types of potentially dangerous chemicals: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). PAHs are products of imperfect combustion found in smoke and burned matter. The jury is still out on how much cancer risk is involved but to be safe, and healthy, it’s a good idea to trim all excess fat from meats, remove pockets of fat from poultry, and choose lean, Omega-3 rich and sustainable fish (either wild or raised in approved fish-farms). Slow and low barbecue cooking, at low temperatures for long cooking times, also reduces the production of the PAH and HCA compounds.

    7. Use natural cleaning products. When cleaning up the bbq pit and food preparation areas of the kitchen don’t use ordinary chemical cleaners. Clean up green with a natural cleaner like Orange Plus (made from orange oil and which is free rinsing, phosphate free, biodegradable, and penetrates hard to remove grease and grime), or products from the folks at SoyClean like their BBQ Grill Cleaner (a safe, natural, soy-based, non-toxic USDA approved product) that rinses away with water, to soften and loosen the char, grease and burnt residue on your bbq grills.

    8. No plastic bags! When you shop for those veggies, fruits, and protein entrees don’t accept plastic bags, they can take 1,000 years to biodegrade in the dump, and trillions of them are produced every year. Rather carry along your own tote bags to bring your purchases home in. One cloth or hemp bag used for one year will replace upwards of 300 plastic bags.

    9. Use biodegradable or compostable plates, bowls and utensils. When barbecuing or picnicking away from home purchase biodegradable eco-plastic utensils. A good example is the Cereplast brand which fashions its knives, forks, and spoons, out of grains and plastics – or the Bambu “All Occasion Bamboo Veneerware” plates, bowls, and utensils. Both company’s products completely decompose in 4-6 months on your compost pile.

    10. Use cloth napkins. They can be washed and reused time after time. Inexpensive kerchiefs and bandanas come in all colors. Also, use natural laundry soaps and fabric softeners and air-dry you items.

    “For those eight out of ten U.S. households owning a grill or smoker, incorporating environmentally friendly bbq products and methods is essential, “said Browne. “But still being able to enjoy delicious bbq dishes is equally important.”

    For More Information Contact:
    Lisa Miller,, 201-532-0312

    • Responses to Victor Anthony
      DC says:
      September 12

      I’m very confused about organic charcoal. All charcoal is organic! “Organic compound, a compound that contains carbon” is defined in the encyclopedia. All lump wood charcoal, briquettes and any carbonized fuel contains carbon. This is Chemistry 101, all charcoal and carbonized product contains VOC. All charcoal is organic, but this does not mean it is healthy. From past medical journals, when meat is cooked at high temperatures, amino acids react with creatine to form heterocyclic amines, which are thought to cause cancer. Using “organic” to promote and market this charcoal product as healthy is misleading consumers. I would suggest a reevaluation of the statements you are making to market or sell your charcoal products.

  2. Georgia Nicholls

    Perhaps the interpretation of the statement is that the process of ‘manufacture’ of charcoal for BBQing is a more natural one than the less than organic petro chemical , gas ‘manufacture’!?

  3. pb

    My question is in regard to what toxins or harmful chemicals get into the food itself from a propane gas BBQ.

  4. What do you have to say?