Don’t Grill the Planet on the Fourth

This Independence Day make a cooler cookout

Paul Greenberg

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“Charcoal grill fire” by warriorwoman531 is licensed with CC BY-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The time has come for Americans to light a blazing inferno and throw pounds of carbon belching beef on the grill. Make no mistake, our annual 4th of July cooking event is a climate event. An all-beef, charcoal-cooked barbecue for 12 people is going to cost the planet about 160 pounds of emissions. Multiply that out by the population of the US and we’re talking 4.3 billion pounds of emissions for our annual national meal. For comparison’s sake that’s nearly double the yearly emissions of the nation of Burundi.

You can have an enjoyable, satisfying cookout and cut your holiday emissions drastically

It doesn’t have to be this way. In the process of researching and writing The Climate Diet I spent a year looking into the carbon footprint of cooking and eating. But, full confession here, July 4th is my birthday and I don’t like to skimp when this day comes around. What I’ve found is that you can have an enjoyable, satisfying cookout and cut your holiday emissions drastically. This is how I’m planning my cookout this year to have the greatest satisfaction with the smallest footprint.

1. Change Your Heat. Grilling on charcoal costs about 11 pounds of emissions per grill session. That’s because when you grill on coals, only about a quarter of the heat energy gets to your food. Grilling on gas is better, with about 90% of the heat energy reaching your meal. But even better is to switch your electricity source to a renewable provider (very easy to do) and then grilling on electric. If you’re grilling on renewable electricity, you’ve swapped out that 11 pounds of charcoal emissions in a way that brings you pretty close to zero.

2. Swap Sockeye Salmon for Steak. Wild sockeye salmon has a surprisingly small carbon footprint —by some estimates less than 2 pounds of emissions per pound of food on the grill (beef by comparison is more than 13 pounds of emissions per pound of food). Wild sockeye is so much lower because a) it’s wild and no fuel effort has to go into growing feed to make it grow and b) sockeye is generally caught using gear that doesn’t drag the bottom thus saving a lot of fuel. An added bonus: salmon from the world’s largest…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org