Summer is almost here. With rising temperatures comes the great tradition of inviting friends and family over to gaze upon the craft of your artistically arranged foodstuffs on a grill. Your brother-in-law insists this gathering be called a “barbecue,” but you’re of the “cookout” persuasion. Lulu isn’t here to pick sides (unless it’s more mac n’ cheese or vinegar-based slaw*), but we can help you throw the best, sustainable and environmentally friendly outdoor summer party ever!
*Mayonnaise-based coleslaw is uncouth. Just don’t.
Follow these easy steps to win at life and become a more sustainable grill-master.
You’ll want to spread the word about your upcoming party. How to send those invitations? Well, traditional paper invitations delivered by the post are definitely a nice touch. However, they do have a carbon footprint. Natural resources are used in all steps from paper manufacturing to greeting card purchasing to postal delivery. According to Project 90, the average letter has a carbon footprint of 29 grams of CO2.2.
Still, being a thoughtful consumer, you weigh your options.
Digital invitations may seem like a better choice, but they too carry a less obvious but equally concerning carbon footprint. Emails require computers and those computers connect to servers and those servers require power from energy sources with varying emission levels. It has been reported that an email with an attachment can generate a carbon footprint of 50 grams of CO2 emissions, similar to driving 650 feet.
For a detailed energy-use map, check out this infographic from climatecare.org.
Messenger pigeons, though, are a great alternative if you’re not on a time crunch and you have plenty of breadcrumbs.
In all seriousness, be mindful that print and digital BOTH have an environmental impact.
Eat Local. Eat Seasonal.
Purchasing local food cuts the distance between that food and your fork. A vine-ripened tomato picked from your backyard will likely taste better than the industrial-farmed tomato that’s endured a week of cross-country travel.
While there is a debate about what “local” means, the US Department of Agriculture says “Local food is defined as the direct or intermediated marketing of food to consumers that is produced and distributed in a limited geographic area. There is no pre-determined distance to define what consumers consider “local,” but a set number of miles from a center point or state/local boundaries is often used. More importantly, local food systems connect farms and consumers at the point of sale.”
Planes, trains, and transportation make up only a fraction of food emissions – around 11%. The greater carbon footprint comes from food production with about 88% of all food emissions.
Bring in seasonal produce. Seasonality refers to the times of the year when a produce item is either at the peak of its harvest or flavor. It’s also typically when that food item is the cheapest.
Seasonal items require less heating, lighting, pesticides, and fertilizers. For example, I can grow strawberries in a temperate climate to harvest in winter but it will take way more energy to produce a winterberry than spring-time berries.
To find local, seasonal food checks out your Community Supported Agriculture, Farmers Market, or produce stands. Here in North Carolina, we love Papa Spud’s, Eastern Carolina Organics, and the North Carolina State Farmers Market!
Now Serving Sustainably
If your guest list outgrows your ceramic dinnerware set, you’ll probably reach for a set of disposable plates and cutlery. Before you grab a pack of Styrofoam anything (a product that can take over 500 years to breakdown), consider compostable or recyclable products.
Sustainable disposables make for easy clean-up and by diverting waste from landfills, they help minimize methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas linked to climate change.
Eco-Products offer a wide variety of compostable, single-use foodservice products. We use their hot and cold cups at the Lulu office!
After you divvy up the leftovers, you’ll likely have food scraps. At this point, your dog may submit a formalized proposal about the necessity of expanding their diet, a bullet-point list highlighting their scrap removal skillset, and reasons the garbage disposal needs a break.
And we agree! Give the disposal the night off and compost those scraps. Sorry, pup.
Composting is great. It diverts waste from landfills and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When your food scraps and other trash end up in the landfill, they become a soupy, anaerobic methane-emitting mess. Composting, on the other hand, is a beneficial bacteria and fungi party! These two really know how to break it down. They turn organic matter to humus; a super nutritious material that can be used to fertilize plants and retain soil moisture.
Here are some composting tips from the Environmental Protection Agency!
No one likes swatting mosquitos while juggling a plate of hamburgers. And only swamp monsters enjoy slathering themselves in DEET. That’s where our friends at Murphy’s Naturals come in. Their natural bug repellent products will protect your guests from bug bites without disrupting the ambiance. No harsh chemical smells!
Drink for Good
Depending on the size of your party, you may want to opt for a keg. Doing so is not only more cost-effective, but it also helps cut down on excessive packaging.
If a keg isn’t an option for you, consider beverages in aluminum cans instead of glass or plastic bottles. Aluminum recycling is more efficient than both glass and plastic. It is estimated that creating one aluminum can out of recycled materials requires only 5 percent as much energy as creating a brand new can. Plus, cans are able to be endlessly recycled.
Help your guests avoid the awkward “what do we do with our hands?!” problem and give them something to hold on to AND quench their thirst all while maintaining a positive social and environmental impact. These beverages are excellent summer accessories:
Mother Earth Beer – Made with love in Kinston, NC their “Park Day” Bohemian Pilsner is a crowd-pleaser. Mother Earth achieved gold certification in the LEED® program. They also donate spent grain to local farms to feed their animals!
Larry’s Coffee – Stay awake with Organic, Shade-Grown, Fair Trade Certified coffee from a fellow B Corp and North Carolina favorite. The Cold Brew is crucial to surviving summer.
Boro Beverage Kombucha – Boro Beverage is a woman-owned, fermented beverages company that is dedicated to using locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. The “Pollinator Punch” kombucha with blueberries and lavender will delight your taste buds.
Sheridan is Lulu’s Coordinator of Sustainability and Outreach. She is an author advocate, B Corp Champion, friend to all cats everywhere, and a clog aficionado.