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Eco-Friendly Barbecues

By Kim Robson:

This is the perfect time of year for throwing a backyard barbecue with plenty of food, drinks, music, and games with friends and loved ones. The weather is perfect for hanging around in nature and firing up the ole grill. But how to do it with zero waste? Instead of relying on lots of prepackaged food and plastic plates, glasses and cutlery that’ll just end up in the landfill, consider these tips.

Invest in Shatterproof Reusable Dishes

You could use your own ceramic plates and glassware, but why worry about breakage? Nobody wants to deal with broken glass around the lawn or pool. Instead of one-use paper plates, plastic solo cups and utensils, these lightweight, colorful and shatterproof melamine platesare perfect for the backyard or the beach.

Consider using alternative cutlery. Woodensets are disposable, biodegradable, and compostable; and bamboosets are reusable and dishwasher safe. There are lots of realistic and attractive alternatives to glassware that are shatterproof and dishwasher safe, like thesewine glassesor these all-purpose tumblers. Also, opt for real cloth napkins. Your guests will love the touch of elegance, too.

Cleanup actually can be a breeze. Just make sure your dishwasher is empty and ready to go, and if you don’t have a dishwasher, enlist your guests’ help for a mini-dishwashing party! Toss all the napkins and/or tablecloths into the laundry hamper, and you’re done.

Easy, Recyclable Drinks

Wine, beer and sodas are no-brainers, and luckily, they already come in easily-recyclable containers. Add one signature cocktail, made in big batches and served in pitchers or a punch bowl. Try a refreshing sangriapacked with fresh fruit, or a sweet, fruity rum punch with a decorative ice ring floating in the middle. Use a Bundt pan to make the ice ring and pack it with pretty berries and herbs.

Decorate with Nature

Instead of buying single-use paper streamers or plastic bunting, decorate your party by working with the seasons. Fill rustic tin pots or mason jars with wildflowers and sprays of branches and leaves. Incorporate backyard finds or pretty produce from the grocery, such as …

  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Twigs and bark
  • Pine cones
  • Live moss
  • Gorgeous in-season fruits
  • Gourds
  • Artichokes
  • Dried chilis
  • Pomegranates
  • Dramatic stalks of Brussels sprouts

Then add a few candles — your table or buffet will look stunning. When the party’s over, your decorations can be returned to nature, composted or eaten.

Fun & Games

Resist the temptation to let the men filter inside to watch football or the kids to play video games. Instead, put on the stereo for some lively music, and get everyone outside to play some active yard games like croquet, horseshoes or cornhole. Each is easy to set up and stow away, and can be used again and again. 

Be a Zero-Waste Guest

You’re likely to be invited to at least one barbecue this summer. If you go, bring your own set of plates, cups and utensils. And a summer barbecue can never have too much ice, so bring some even if the host doesn’t ask. Finally, here are a few ideas for zero-waste host gifts:

  • Olive Oil and Vinegar— Barons Market has olive oil and vinegar bars. You can use little bits of bread to sample a variety of flavored vinegars and extra-virgin olive oils. Decant your selections into provided bottles for a personalized gift. Find a location near you here.
  • Wine— Always welcome, and bottles are recyclable.
  • Flowers— Ditch the plastic wrapper and use old newspaper instead — zero waste and looks rustic-chic.
  • Crusty Bread— While you’re at the market, pick up a loaf of freshly baked rustic bread and wrap it in a clean, reusable tea towel.
  • Live Plants— The natural gift that keeps on giving, the plastic pot from the nursery is recyclable.

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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