With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, and summer BBQ season fast approaching, we are all excited to enjoy some food and drink in our backyards with friends and family. However, many people don't realize how environmentally unfriendly a traditional barbecue can be. Between the single use plastics, prepackaged foods, and food waste, there are many little ways we can all improve to help make a big positive impact for our planet.
Living an eco conscious lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to give up your summer barbecues, but making a few small changes can dramatically boost your eco-credentials and help protect our planet!
At Surfrider Central LI, we are focusing on ditching single use plastics and consciously choosing more sustainable and reusable items that have as little impact on the environment as possible. That’s why we’ve put together some tips and trade-offs to help you host the ultimate eco-friendly BBQ this summer!
Avoid plastic straws, plates, cups and cutlery
Say no to plastic! It’s tempting to serve your food on plastic plates and drinks in plastic cups with plastic straws, but you’ll be doing the environment a huge favor if you opt for a more sustainable alternative. If the thought of washing up dishes and cups after a summer gathering is too much, then we advise you to get some bamboo and other alternatives that can be recycled or will easily break down after use.
We are all about reusables here at Surfrider, and a great way to provide cups for your guests is by putting out mason jars, recycled collected jars, or ask them to bring their own! If you provide the glasses, put a sharpie next to them so your guest can draw a unique design or simply write their name so they can distinguish their cup from others. This can also be a little parting gift from your soirée! And if they BYOcup they will definitely know which one is theirs and can take it home with them to clean!
Another great option is to serve finger foods that do not require utensils! You can serve tacos, BBQ chicken or caprese skewers, premade sandwiches, crostinis, dips and chips, fried Mac and cheese balls, and so much more!
We have collected some eco friendly service ware alternatives that will arrive in time for the holiday weekend here:
- 100% Compostable 9 Inch Paper Plates [125-Pack] Heavy-Dut, Natural Disposable Bagasse Plate, Eco-Friendly Made of Sugarcane Fibers - Natural Unbleached Brown 9" Biodegradable Plate by Stack Man
- DII Melamine Reusable 9" Round Party or Picnic Plate, Set of 12, White
- Disposable Wood Serving Boats Plates Trays, 5.5" x 3.2",100 Pack,Sturdier Than Bamboo, Biodegradable and Compostable Bowls,Perfect for Party, Restaurants, Caterers, and Food Trucks(100, 5 INCH)
- Weemium Disposable Wooden Cutlery Set - 300 Count (100 Forks, 100 Knives, 100 Spoons) – Plastic-free Packaging - Biodegradable Silverware and Splinter-free Compostable Utensils for Parties
- 100% Bamboo Heavy Duty Disposable Cutlery [100PK:40 Fork 40 Spoon 20 Knife] Eco Friendly Natural Compostable Biodegradable Utensils | Premium Sustainable Organic alternate to Plastic & Wooden Flatware
- Comfy Package [100 Pack] 12 oz. Kraft Paper Hot Coffee Cups- Unbleached
- Turbo Bee 400 Pack 8oz Paper Cups,Disposable Paper Coffee Cups,Hot/Cold Beverage Drinking Cups for Water, Paper Water Cups 8oz,Suitable for Party, Picnic, Travel, and Events
- Yellow Bamboo Drinking Paper Straws To Replace Plastic Straws, 100 Count 100% Organic Environmentally Friendly Bamboo Straws
Look for Sustainable Meat and Seafood Options
If you're planning on serving up meat at your barbecue, opt for the most sustainable and ethical options. We recommend looking for trustworthy labels (like "Certified Humane" or "Animal Welfare Approved") that tell you exactly which type of environment the animal was raised in.
Also, be sure to check out your local farmers' market or natural grocer. Sometimes those meat options are more ethical and planet-friendly than what you'll find in traditional supermarkets, as they come from local and small family-run farms. We have gathered a list of some local ones below.
Past research has found the water footprint of meat and other animal products is much higher than plants. For example, while it takes to 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, a salad with tomato, lettuce, and cucumbers only requires 21 gallons (Source).
Some farmers markets in our area:
- Long Beach Farmers Market
- 9 Long Island Farmers Markets Not to Be Missed
- Long Island Growers Market
- Long Island Farmers Markets
Incorporate More Plant-Based Foods
Ultimately, research shows that the best thing to do for the environment is to eat more plants, with a 2020 study published in Nature showing a widespread shift to a plant-based diet by 2050 could remove over 16 years of CO2 emissions (Source).
Barbecues don't need to be all about the traditional meat options like burgers and hot dogs. There are plenty of delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes that are absolutely delicious! Some great options are veggie skewers, veggie burgers, veggie tacos, jackfruit pulled pork, and a simple crudités platter.
This year, try to go lighter on the meat and focus on having plenty of plant-focused foods. Not only are they often healthier, they can be bought at the farmers market, and are so much better for the planet.
Provide clearly labeled cans for disposables and food
Sometimes at a party it’s not clear where to recycle, where the garbage goes, and where your guests can dispose of their food scraps and other compostable items. Make it easy for them! Clearly label different cans for exactly what they are there for. This will make your cleanup easier and help get your cans and bottles to the recycling bin and your food scraps and compostable cutlery to the compost bin without cross contamination of landfill bound garbage.
We hope you have found these resources helpful and that you are motivated to think about hosting a more eco conscious BBQ! Please share with your friends and family so we can remind everyone that it is our responsibility to do better for our planet, ourselves, and our future generations!