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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Greening Your Grill: 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Charcoal and Gas

Summertime is upon us full-force and 4th of July celebrations are just around the corner - it's time for backyard barbecues but the traditional cookout is not so eco-friendly.  In fact, the estimated 60 million cookouts that will take place this weekend will "consume enough energy to power 20,000 households for a year" according to the Sierra Club. 
The Best Fuel for Eco Grilling
Between the traditional standards, what is the healthiest choice for your family as well as the environment?
  • Charcoal - For many outdoor chefs, charcoal is the only way to grill.  For ecoists and those concerned with health, however, charcoal is the absolute worst choice.  Charcoal emits double the emissions of propane and gas fuels, while also producing cancer-causing toxins that are left with your grilled meats.  Lighter fluid used to fire up the charcoal is also dangerous.
  • Wood - Like charcoal, wood usually burns dirty and produces a great deal of pollutants.  Many products designed for wood grilling contain 'extra' materials that can contaminate the foods you're getting ready to enjoy and fire starters or lighter fluid are also required.
  • Propane and Natural Gas - Gas grilling is a much cleaner and healthier way to cook outdoors, but still raises potential environmental concerns.  Gas is a nonrenewable resource that poses extreme fire hazards - many apartment and condo communities have banned the use of grills because of these hazards.
  • Electric - An electric grill is generally considered the best option for safety, as well as the environment.  Electric grilling lowers the risk of fire and is typically safe enough for indoor or outdoor use - but, unless your home is powered by renewable energy, your outdoor celebrations are still using up valuable resources that can't be replaced. 
Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Charcoal, Gas, and Wood
There are an assortment of eco-friendly grills available, including solar cookers and even hydrogen-powered grills, but there are also plenty of ways to make your existing grill a bit greener for this summer's outdoor cooking.   
Rather than forego the fun (and good eating) this holiday, check out these eco-friendly alternatives and enjoy your grilled favorites without the guilt:
Created by uGO, the FlameDisk is designed to fit neatly within a traditional charcoal grill but also works with gas grill models.  An ideal alternative to charcoal or nonrenewable propane, the FlameDisk uses ethanol biofuels and can be recycled after use.  The disk is ready for grilling within minutes and cools quickly for easy cleanup.  It's also affordable - $14.99 for 3 or $19.99 for 5 plus shipping.
Big Green Egg
From natural lump charcoal to chemical-free wood chips, the Big Green Egg has an assortment of eco-friendly grilling accessories to make your backyard BBQ greener.  Besides their popular ceramic grills, you'll find eco-friendly fire starters made of paraffin and sawdust - a great alternative to chemical-laden lighter fluids.  All-natural fire starters and natural charcoal provide a safe outdoor cooking experience without sacrificing the taste of flame-grilled food.
Coconut Shell Charcoal
Greenlink Charcoal also offers a variety of natural alternatives to traditional charcoal, including briquettes made from coconut shells.  The Thailand-based company produces a variety of shapes and uses food grade binders for a healthy and chemical-free grilling option.  Coconut shell charcoal is made from waste shells, so there is no disruption to food supply.
Instant Light Natural Charcoal
The Original Charcoal Company has a quick and easy method of grilling - natural charcoal that requires no fire starter.  Simply place the bag in the grill, light, and wait for the coals to get hot.  Their products are made from 100% hardwood with no fillers or petroleum, for a safe and natural barbecue.  Besides the convenient Instant Light, you'll also find natural lump, briquettes, and wood chips - all chemical free.
Baja BBQ Firepack
Designed by Lazzari and available in gourmet supermarkets, the Baja BBQ firepack is an eco-friendly grilling solution that is portable, clean, and minimizes waste.  The package is biodegradable and chemical-free, containing 2 pounds of natural lump charcoal.  Simply light the box, wait for the coals to get hot, and you're ready to grill!
Top image by nutmeg via Flickr

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Blogger Yona Williams said...

These are really great suggestions. I seriously learned a lot reading this post...I am especially intrigued with the coconut shell alternative. I would have never thought that could be used.

7/01/2009 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Planet Playground said...

Great post! I love to BBQ but I always feel guilty about what it does to the environment. Thanks for the suggestions. Will be checking them out!

7/07/2009 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger FlameDisk said...

Thanks for featuring the FlameDisk. We’re really trying to spread the word online about the green and convenience advantages to using ethanol for grilling.

You can check out for more details or feel free to contact me via twitter at if you have any questions.


Mark M

7/07/2009 11:00:00 AM  

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