We're kind of a low-tech family (in oh-so-many ways) and we're still grilling on a good old Weber grill that's at least 10 years old. So, I have to say I was a little distressed when I learned that charcoal grilling is LESS environmentally friendly than a gas barbeque. Turns out, charcoal briquettes contain coal dust and sodium nitrate and emit more carbon monoxide and soot than a gas grill.
Fortunately there are a couple things you can do to make charcoal grilling a little bit more eco-friendly:
- Use hardwood lump charcoal instead of briquettes. Lump charcoal still comes from a tree (using virgin wood) but you can find products that use wood from sustainably managed forests (like Whole Foods 365 Brand). Natural hardwood charcoal burns cleaner than briquettes.
- Start your fire with a chimney starter instead of lighter fluid. They are SO easy...we've been using one forever. Just crumble up newspaper in the bottom, put the lump charcoal in the top and light the paper. It's way better than lighter fluid which is awful to breathe (high VOC's) and THE SMELL...Yuck-O!
- Cook leaner cuts of meat to avoid carcinogenic hydrocarbons from getting into your food. (this happens when the fat drips onto the coals)
Who knows, we might 'trade-up' to a gas grill eventually, but for now we're going to keep doing it the old fashioned way...and try to make it as eco-friendly as possible. Now, if it would just warm up around here, we could get grilling season started!