Backyard barbecuing and Labor Day go together like Fourth of July and fireworks. But neighborhood grill-outs are traditionally not the eco-friendliest of soirees. Disposable (and potentially BPA-filled) flatware, plates and napkins, hot dogs chock-full of nitrites or hamburgers filled with hormones roasting over an open chemical flame: probably not the best way to commune with Mother Nature. Try our five eco chic Labor Day barbecue ideas to reduce your carbon footprint while still hosting a killer party.
1. Grill sustainably and efficiently: What you grill and how you grill it are both important. Vegetables have the lowest carbon footprint, but if you're serving meat, consider chicken rather than hamburgers. Chickens take less water than cattle to raise. Learn how to grill it up right, with our Organic Cooking: How to Grill Chicken tips. Especially if you use propane rather than charcoal, grill as much food at once as possible to maximize your fuel efficiency. Make a point of grilling locally raised, organic, grass-fed, hormone-free cuts of meat from reputable purveyors such as Applegate Farms, Niman Ranch, Organic Prairie, Laura's Lean Beef, etc.
If you've not yet bought a grill, select one wisely. Charcoal and wood grills release chemicals and soot particles in the air. Propane and electric grills burn cleaner and the long-term fuel price is lower. The upfront cost for electric and propane grills is higher, however.
If you already have a wood grill, use sustainably-grown hickory or mesquite wood. If your existing grill is charcoal-burning, use lump coal rather than briquettes and avoid starter fluids.
2. Use reusable dinnerware: This may seem like a no-brainer, but using reusable dinnerware and napkins is a great way to make your party more eco-friendly. Pick out some fun eco chic dinnerware at a local thrift shop to set the mood for your party. You may be able to talk your friends into a dishwashing after-party with a nice bottle of organic or biodynamic wine. And, bonus, if any of your guests break a few pieces, you don't lose any of your regular dinner sets. Use small bar towels as reusable napkins to avoid paper. If you absolutely must have disposable dinnerware, make use of biodegradable tableware products, like this set from Branch Home.
3. Evites rather than invites: If you're sending out invitations, go digital rather than sending paper invites. You'll save on paper waste, postage and time. If you need tangible invitations, consider handcrafting your invitations with recycled materials at relatively low costs. Or offset your paper usage by planting a tree in honor of your guests.
4. Natural and frugal decorations: Decorate your party area with living plants and thrift store finds. And, beyond the decorations, remember to make recycling easy for your guests. Decorate or purchase some party-themed bins for recycling and composting. Prominently place the bins near the party so your guests know not to trash their bottles, cans and food waste.
5. Use natural bug repellents: If you need to use bug repellent during your barbecue party, go with citronella plants, oil or candles rather than chemical sprays. For yourself, say "no" to DEET with our natural mosquito repellent. You can even make up cute spray bottle party favors filled with fantastic-smelling essential oil bug repellent for your guests.
And remember to try a few of our yummy, grillable recipes at your barbecue: