Food and Drink

How to Keep Sustainability in Mind for Your Next Barbecue

Tips for an eco-conscious get-together.

Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist
Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist
Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist

There’s nothing like a summer barbecue. It’s a chance for everyone to come together and make the most of the season. And it doesn’t take much for it to be a party: Throw some burgers on the grill and beers in the cooler, top it off with a little music, and you’re in business.

But our favorite way to get together in the summer can also be filled with waste. From the food you serve to the plates you serve them on, there are small, environmentally-conscious changes you can implement that will make all the difference to your guests and the planet. Below are some tips to help you reduce your barbecue’s environmental footprint.

Grill with intention

It’s hard to imagine a barbecue without steaks, burgers, or kabobs. But do we have to give up beef to be environmentally conscious? Tryon Wickersham, an associate professor of animal nutrition at Texas A&M University, says no. “Beef producers are continuously working to reduce the environmental impact of beef production,” he says.

Right now, there are partnerships in place between environmental organizations and the cattle industry to enhance natural ecosystems and wildlife habitats. “Since efficiency is more important than ever,” Wickersham says, “U.S. cattle producers have embraced technologies and practices that can help reduce their environmental impact.” The cattle industry has made other great strides, too: According to the U.N. State of Food and Agriculture Report, the U.S. has had the lowest beef greenhouse gas emissions intensity in the world since 1996, and between 1961 and 2019, the U.S. beef industry has reduced emissions per pound of beef by more than 40% while also producing more than 60% more beef per animal.

“Additionally, grazing cattle preserves and protects open space that might otherwise be developed and much of the land used to graze cattle isn’t suitable for growing crops,” Wickersham explains. “Cattle are also able to upcycle grass and certain plants that humans can’t eat and turn them into something that we can – high-quality beef.” What does all this mean? Just like you, the cattle industry is working to reduce its carbon footprint. So go on, throw a few burgers on the grill – it wouldn’t be summer without them.

But how you cook that meat matters. Make sure to keep the lid on the grill – everything will cook quicker and you’ll use less fuel. As for the grill itself, what’s the best choice to reduce your environmental impact? If you have a charcoal grill, stay away from self-igniting logs that are soaked in chemicals, and opt for sustainably-sourced charcoal that’s carbon-neutral. As for gas and propane grills, they don’t emit as much as charcoal does, but they do burn fossil fuels. (And remember, carbon dioxide accounts for 79% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and can take up to 1,000 years to break down in the atmosphere, while methane produced from cattle is recycled back into the soil in about 10-12 years.) The best bet, if you’re looking to buy a new grill, is to invest in an electric grill. While they can be expensive, you’ll never have to worry about paying for propane or running out of charcoal.

Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist
Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist
Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist

Be thoughtful about food waste

Throwing a party comes with a lot of waste: we’re not just talking about the plastic and packaging the food comes in, but the food itself. A simple way for all of us to reduce our emissions is to be smarter with the food we serve and to actually eat our leftovers. After all, according to the EPA, one-third of all of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten. And not only does that food end up in landfills to produce methane, but all of the energy and labour that went into making that food and shipping it to your local grocery store goes to waste, too.

To cut down on your barbecue’s food waste, use an estimator to help you plan exactly how much food you’ll need for the number of guests before going shopping for the party. Then, once the barbecue starts, put out half as much food as you think you’ll need – and once that’s gone, refill the empty trays with food from the fridge. This way all of the food isn’t sitting out in the sun for hours, and any leftovers will still be food-safe, making you less inclined to throw them out. Instruct guests to bring a reusable container so they can take extra food home, and if there’s just too much to go around, see if there’s a local community fridge or shelter that would be willing to take it. You can also try composting at home: it’s simpler than you think! There are also composting facilities where you can drop food off – just make sure to have a designated area for compostable waste at your party, so everything isn’t being tossed in the same bin.

Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist
Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist
Photo: Getty Images; Design: Samantha Shin/Thrillist

Ditch single-use serveware

It can seem so much easier to buy single-use plastic tablecloths, paper napkins, paper plates, and plastic utensils – that way, you don’t have to worry about cleanup. But collecting everything at the end of the night and throwing it into the dishwasher or washing machine isn’t that big of a lift, and it makes all the difference environmentally. (You can even ask your guests to help you.) For a more sustainable choice, use real napkins and linens – and extra points if they’re made from actual linen, which is derived from flax and is one of the most sustainable fabrics out there.

Likewise, use real plates, flatware, and glassware. There are plenty of recycled and reusable glassware and plastic brands out there, or better yet, go to a local thrift store and head to their home goods section. Not only will you save yourself some money, but you’ll also be able to reuse what other people don’t need anymore. If you need to go with single-use cups, there are also now compostable plastic brands -just have guests throw them into the compost pile when they’re done. Lastly, we’ve all heard how bad plastic straws are for the environment. Opt for paper or metal straws for drinks, or do without straws altogether. It’s always better to reduce our consumption than to buy new things we don’t need.

Crowdsource the party games

We’ve made a lot of strides environmentally when it comes to electronics – now you can buy solar-powered speakersfairy lights, and even phone chargers that you can break out again and again for backyard barbecues. As for lawn games, enlist your crew. Ask guests to bring one game each, so you don’t have to buy new ones, or ask a neighbourhood Buy Nothing group on social media to borrow or even gift things that will bring a bit of fun to the party, like cornhole, a kiddie pool, frisbees, or a volleyball net. People are more generous than you think – and who knows, you may meet a new friend to invite to the party.

Just a few small changes at your next barbecue can help you be a better steward of our planet, and you don’t even have to give up the things you love (like a perfectly cooked steak or juicy cheeseburger) in order to do it.

Food and Drink

Red Rooster Is Serving Free Chicken and Piping Hot Cash This Christmas in July

Get your early dose of festive cheer.

Red Rooster Christmas in July
Instagram / @redrooster_au

The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.

From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.

Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.

Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.

Terms and conditions apply. Visit Red Rooster’s Christmas in July to see all the deals.

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