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Mea Culpa: a better bbq

There are ways to barbecue more sustainably. Bbq’s that use gas, propane or electricity are good alternatives for the air-polluting charcoal type.

For every ten times you’ve used it, you need to plant a tree.

This is what is written in the manual of my lovely, new charcoal-based-bbq I bought last weekend. To be honest, while I was drinking wine and eating grilled chicken during my bbq-try-out-session yesterday evening, I totally forgot about the trees and I was absolutely not aware of how harmful the emissions could be.

It was only a couple of hours ago, when I was trying to clean the bbq, that I began to realize the other side of the coin. To justify my purchase, I started surfing the Net; desperately looking for alternatives and ways to make my bbq-parties more “green”.

This is what I found so far.

Tip 1: Make sure you use reusable dishes instead of plastic or Styrofoam disposables. Jazz up the food presentation by replacing paper napkins with cloth napkins, which are less likely to blow away.

Tip 2: Avoid all foods nicely labeled as ‘perfect for barbecues’, because from a sustainable point of view they are not perfect at all. Go for biological products which you can buy on a fresh market.

Tip 3: Consider the use of lump charcoal instead of briquettes. Lump charcoal comes from a genuine tree and isn’t ground up or processed in any way. The popular pillow-shaped briquettes are also made of wood, but many contain coal dust and other unhealthy additives that help them bind together or light more easily. In many developing countries, unregulated charcoal production is a major source of air pollution, as well as deforestation. Probably the biggest consideration is how your barbeque is powered.

Bbq’s that use gas, propane or electricity are good alternatives for the air-polluting charcoal type. Gas is preferable, unless you’re running your electric barbecue on wind power, because electricity will most likely come from a coal-fuelled plant, emitting more than 90kg of CO2 per gigajoule of energy produced. (Gas emits around 55 per cent).


We did use plastic dishes, I did buy “supermarket-meat” (which was the only possibility on a Sunday afternoon) and I did use (2 kg of) charcoal to light the fire.

I think I’d better go and find a place to plant “my” trees.