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For most American families, the 4th of July is synonymous with grilling, swimming, and lots of fun in the sun. Unfortunately, outdoor cooking and summer parties can also produce a lot of unnecessary waste.
If you want to plan a more eco-friendly 4th of July party, there are a few simple changes you can make to your usual backyard BBQ routine. Ditch the charcoal, plastic products, and single-serve items and aim for a zero-waste celebration with these party planning tips.
1. Cook with a gas grill instead of charcoal.
Sorry, charcoal grill lovers: Those briquettes are bad for the environment and your health. According to Organic Authority, charcoal produces 105 times more carbon dioxide than propane, and releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may cause cancer and other diseases. If you’re in the market for a new grill, go with a cleaner-burning propane or gas model. If you have to use your charcoal grill, you might opt for a more eco-friendly alternative like wood pellets or even coconut shells.
2. Serve up a vegetarian option.
It wouldn’t be a barbecue without meat -- would it? You don’t have to go totally meatless for your 4th of July party, but if you want to create less waste, cut back on the beef and serve a vegetarian dish. Meat processing is notoriously bad for the environment, and even small reductions in consumption can make a difference. With tasty vegetarian BBQ recipes like black bean burgers, grilled veggies, and panzanella salad, you won’t even miss those extra burgers and hot dogs!
3. Commit to reusable serveware.
Many people opt for disposable items like plastic cutlery and paper plates at barbeques to make clean-up easier. While washing dishes after a party might be a chore, it’s a much less wasteful alternative than filling up a trash bag with items that will end up in a landfill. If your guests are bringing appetizers, side dishes, or desserts, don’t be afraid to ask them to pitch in by transporting their food in reusable containers.
4. Buy bulk items instead of single-serve.
Instead of a case of individual water bottles and six-packs of beer, fill up a water jug and pick up growlers from your local brewery and let your guests pour their own drinks (into reusable cups, of course!). For snacks, skip the variety packs of individual bags and get a couple family-size bags of chips to pour out into a bowl. Buying in bulk is often less expensive, and you’ll be doing the environment a favor by cutting down on product package waste.
5. Replace toothpicks and wooden skewers with metal.
Metal cocktail picks and skewers are a reusable alternative to the wooden varieties you often see at barbecues. As a bonus, if you’re cooking skewered dishes on the grill, you won’t have to waste time (and water) pre-soaking metal skewers.
6. Recycle and compost everything you can.
No matter how conscientious you are, you will always have some garbage after a party. However, you can significantly reduce the environment impact of your post-BBQ waste by composting any food scraps and recycling as many items as you possibly can. This guide on Better Homes and Gardens explains how to start your very own compost pile at home.
As for recycling, always read the labels on any packages you buy -- if the packaging is recyclable, it will tell you! Make sure you put recycling bins where your guests can see them so they can do their part, too.Need a little help with your 4th of July party menu? Place an order with The Cookie Cups and let us do the cooking for you! Visit our catering page for more details.