How to have a sustainable barbecue

the green walnuts - nachhaltig grillen
As soon as it looks like summer, the grills are retrieved from their hibernation to celebrate legendary barbecues. At our house the well-known kettle grill is within reach throughout the year because we are having barbecues in all weathers. Actually, the grill is firmly in the hands of my boyfriend and probably his dearest “kitchen gadget”. I do what I do best: eat everything he conjures up 😉

So, that’s why I am looking for quite some time to live our passion for barbecues a little more sustainable. Because right now, it is not quite zero waste…

If you are also totally excited to hit the grill this summer, I have a few alternatives for a sustainable barbecue for you to enjoy your parties without guilty conscience:



No disposable grill.


To start your barbecue properly: do not by single-use barbecues made of aluminum! You can only use them once, they do not look good and waste so much resources.

If you have to opt for a single-use grill (for whatever reason), please choose alternatives made of wood. After your barbecue you can make a little campfire out of it. However, single-use is never the best option.



Borrow a grill or use a barbecue area.


If you do not have your own grill, ask around and borrow one. Or even better: invite yourself to your friend’s barbecues 😉

It is absolutely not necessary to own a grill for one or two barbecues!

In Vienna, you can rent barbecue areas for your private parties.


the green walnuts - sustainable barbecue winter


Ecological alternative: electric or solar grill.


You might want to opt for something else than the traditional charcoal grill. As an alternative, I found solar grills or electric grills. Instead of charcoal, you will use solar energy or (hopefully green) electricity.

Gas grills use (surprise, surprise) gas, which is not a renewable resource. Therefore, it is not an eco-friendly alternative to the coal grill.


Tip: If you want to have the traditional smoky wood flavor, you can put wood chips into the grill.


I thought, it was very interesting that the choice of grill is not as important as the choice of food to grill. According to a Life Cycle Analysis conducted by TÜV Rheinland, almost 95% of greenhouse gas emissions emitted during a barbecue for eight people (including production until disposal of the grill) are due to the choice of food!



Native wood or charcoal instead of briquettes from tropical forests.


Apart from lignite briquettes, which should be avoided alone for their health implications, briquettes made of tropical wood are the worst choice. Unfortunately, the origin of the timber does not have to be declared and chances are a small portion is still lignite.

If you want to play it safe, choose charcoal briquettes that specifically declare the origin and type of wood. Ideally, you pick native species, such as beech in Europe.

Additionally, look for FSC or PEFC labels on the packaging to assure sustainable forest management.

I see more and more alternatives made of bamboo, coconut husk or olive stones. Even vine seem to be suitable. Of course, I have to mention that bamboo and coconut are not regionally grown in Europe and you might choose another option.

Tip: Don’t throw away the barbecue cinder right away. You can use it as supplement for your compost or as a jump-start for your next barbecue or open fire.


the green walnuts - sustainable barbecue chimney


Sustainable barbecue lighter.


My boyfriend swears by his chimney starter. It’s so easy and handy. After 20 minutes, you have a great heat, although you use less charcoal.

To assure the ignition is as great as the chimney, you better use sustainable barbecue lighters.

There are chemical-free alternatives, even plant-based and with FSC label.

WWF recommends simple fireplace lighter, which are wood fibers soaked in wax and therefore made of renewable resources. Add split wood and brown cardboard and you have your eco-friendly firelighter.

If you want to make your own, you are in good hands over at Smarticular, where you will find not only one, but two DIY guides. (If you take the second option, please don’t use candles with aluminum shell.


the green walnuts - sustainable barbecue grill


Reusable barbecue utensils.


As soon as the grill is hot enough, the most important thing is: what will you put on it? If you don’t want to put the food directly on the grillage, you better take reusable barbecue utensil for a good Life Cycle Analysis. And stainless steel trays or skewers, cooking stones, stone slabs or wooden boards look so much better.

A long lifetime of these reusable utensils can reduce considerably the negative impacts of their production. My boyfriend is thrilled by his Weber grill and uses all the additional gadgets with endless enthusiasm. He not only owns reusable trays for indirect heat and stainless steel barbecues, but also special cleaning utensils. This combination of passion and quality makes his things last foreeeeever. (No, this is not a sponsored post 😛).


Tip: You don’t have to buy new utensils for every occasion. Have a look into your kitchen! You may have something you can use instead or you can always ask someone to borrow it.

Avoid aluminum trays and foil wherever you can. The production process is very resource-intense and aluminum should not be considered as a disposable product. As an alternative, you could use cabbage or rhubarb leaves.


the green walnuts - sustainable barbecue side dish


More vegetables, less meat. 


As mentioned above, the choice of food is responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions of a barbecue event.

According to TÜV Rheinland, a barbecue evening for eight people emits as much CO2-equivalents as a 120 km car drive.

You might have guessed it, but this is in particular due to beef and cheese. More vegetables will improve the sustainability rating of your barbecue evening in no time. If it has to be meat than choose pork or sausages, but simply less meat will go a far way.

Pay attention to the origin of the meat and prefer organic production. Native fish species such as salmon trout or char taste incredible on the grill.

Especially during summer, you can buy almost everything on local farmer’s markets package-free. Take advantage of this opportunity and make your grocery shopping into a nice adventure 🙂

Tip: Season your meat and vegetables yourself instead of buying prefabricated goods. It doesn’t only taste better, you also know exactly what is in it and you avoid additional production steps.


the greenwalnuts - sustainable barbecue


Real plates and cutlery.


Obviously, real plates need to be part of a waste-less barbecue. As well as cloth napkins or at least napkins made of recycled paper. Cutlery does not have to be single use plastic, neither do cups.

Tip: Consider trade-offs if you have barbecues in remote locations. If you can’t bring real plates for all your guests, ask them to bring their own. You don’t want to tow everything along? Choose the next best eco-friendly alternative and call it a day.


the green walnuts - sustainable barbecue salad


Side dishes and dessert.


As much I look forward to all the grilled good, I also fancy delicious side dishes. And you can make everything yourself!

Salad, sauces, bread – whatever you like to eat, look for package-free and seasonal alternatives 🙂

The beauty of a good barbecue is the long-lasting heat, perfect for grilled desserts such as bananas filled with chocolate. You have to try this!


the green walnuts - sustainable barbecue dessert


How excited are you for all the barbecue fun during the summer? 😛


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