Eartha Steward: Guilt-free grilling for the Fourth |

Eartha Steward: Guilt-free grilling for the Fourth

Eartha Steward

I’m in the market for a new backyard grill. What type would Eartha recommend?

Matt, Copper Mountain

Great question, especially in the aftermath of the Frisco Barbecue Challenge and with the Fourth of July just around the corner. You might think the choices you make when you light your grill on the Fourth of July weekend won’t make a big impact, but when 60 million people ignite in this all-American tradition all at once, the environmental impacts really add up.

I don’t want to rain on your parade, but here are some things to think about as you spark your grill.

Nationwide, the estimated 60 million barbecues held on the 4th of July consume enough energy (in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas, and electricity) to power 20,000 households for a year. Marinade on this for a minute: That one day of fun, food, and celebration burns the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest and 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (in addition to other nasty air pollutants).

Now that we’ve sufficiently taken the fun out of another national holiday, let’s talk about what we can do.

Since you’re in the market for a new grill, it’s important to choose the right type. Opt for cleaner-burning propane or electric grills over those powered by charcoal. Charcoal grills contribute more to poor air quality because they give off chemicals and particulates. An even better choice than a propane or electric grill is a solar oven or stove. A solar oven or cooker uses sunlight as its energy source, they cost nothing to run, and they avoid emissions altogether!

Furthermore, avoid charcoal briquettes. If you have to use charcoal, be sure to buy lump charcoal rather than briquettes. Lump charcoal is unprocessed and comes from a genuine tree (rather than briquettes which are mostly scraps of sawdust from lumber mills that are bound together with unhealthy additives that pollute the air).

Now that we’ve covered the grills with the lowest environmental impact, let’s also take a look at a few other factors. Carcinogenic substances can form when meats are grilled or broiled at high temperatures. Minimize exposure to these substances by choosing to grill veggie kabobs or even fruit. If you can’t part with your protein, opt for lean meats and trim the fat before cooking.

Also, eliminate lighter fluids that contain lots of nasties, including VOCs. Try using a chimney starter, which is a much cleaner option and doesn’t leave your veggie burger tasting like hydrocarbons.

Now that you’ve decided on purchasing a solar oven and a chimney starter you can kick-back, relax, read the Declaration of Independence aloud, and enjoy some guilt free grilling!

Eartha Steward is written by Jennifer Santry and Erin Makowsky, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylish shoes. Submit questions to Eartha at or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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