Do You Know the Carbon Footprint of Your BBQ?

Grilling at summer weekend. Fresh meat and vegetables preparing on grill.It’s National BBQ Week and the weather seems to be (slowly) heating up, so you may be thinking of getting the dusty old grill out of the shed. But were you aware of the carbon footprint of your outdoor cooking?

Most barbecues use either gas or charcoal to generate their heat. A study in 2009 by Eric Johnson entitled “Charcoal versus LPG grilling: A carbon-footprint comparison” found that the carbon emissions from charcoal and LPG grill systems per barbecue were around 15 lbs and 5lbs respectively. This demonstrates how from a lifecycle perspective, including production, transport and burning, charcoal releases around 3 times the emissions.

It is important, however, to consider the nature of the fuel source. LPG is produced from non-renewable sources, from natural gas or by refining petroleum. On a short timescale, it is not possible to re- lock up any of the carbon that is generated during the production/burning of the gas. Conversely, charcoal is produced from wood which is a renewable source. There is the possibility that for each tree cut down to produce charcoal, another tree could be planted to replace it. On a short time scale this will lock up carbon which can act to reduce the carbon footprint of the fuel.

Clearly, it is hard to define which is the most environmentally friendly fuel as there are so many factors to take into account. So what can you do? Gas is the cleaner, more efficient method for barbecuing but is from a non-renewable source, and although charcoal is dirtier and less efficient, it is from a renewable source and there are steps you take to make it more efficient:

  1. Source your fuel responsibly – the majority of charcoal used in the UK is imported, which generates an even larger carbon footprint. Try to source charcoal that has been produced in the UK and as locally as you can. Even better, only buy FSC certified charcoal.
  2. Use fewer chemicals – Many types of charcoal have chemicals added to them, or lighter fluid is added to get the coals burning. Chemicals can increase the carbon footprint and give a dirtier, less efficient burn. This leads on to the next point…
  3. Use a chimney starter – These are small metal devices that start charcoals burning in a more efficient way that just throwing them onto the grill.
  4. Try to reuse charcoals – If you can, shut the charcoals down by pouring water on them to cool them, then reuse that charcoal at your next barbecue.

Whichever fuel you chose to use, there are others ways you can reduce the environmental footprint:

  • Buy food locally – reduce your food miles and support local business!
  • Recycle as much of your packaging as you can. You could even compost any leftover fruit or veg, and if your charcoal is 100% wood based with no additives, you can compost the ashes that are left too.
  • You can offset the carbon emissions you generate through your outdoor cooking. Sponsoring a tree with E4environment can enable you to store as much as 48lbs of CO2 a year, totalling a tonne of CO2 by the time the tree reaches 40 years old. Think how many barbecues that can earn you! Tree sponsorship costs only £10 per tree and you will be sent a certificate to confirm your sponsorship!

For more information about our tree sponsorship, check out our page at http://www.e4environment.co.uk/sponsor-a-tree/ or please contact Emma at emma@e4environment.co.uk or call us on 01743 343403. Happy barbecuing!

E4environment is an environmental consultancy providing professional, practical advice and expertise to both the private and public sector on a wide range of environmental issues.

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