Nothing quite says summer like hanging out with friends and family, enjoying a meal cooked on the grill. And yes, maybe a fruity cocktail or two

Not to put a damper on the excitement, but BBQ season can also wreak havoc on the environment. The US Department of Energy estimated that the Fourth of July season released nearly 225,000 metric tons of toxins into the air—from BBQs alone!

Here’s how to enjoy the grilling season without contributing negatively to climate change. And we promise, there are no compromises on fun.

1. Choose a more sustainable grill 

Being more eco-friendly with your barbecuing starts with what you’re using to grill with. If you are still grilling with charcoal briquettes, use this as your excuse to ditch the old school grill and get something greener. Charcoal grills contribute the most carbon dioxide emissions of any option. Your most eco-friendly choices are going to something electric powered or natural gas.

And yes, while propane and natural gas are nonrenewable petro-products, they are much cleaner than using charcoal. Charcoal emits about 11 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour—about twice as much as a gas burner (5.6 pounds per hour), according to a study from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.veggies on grillPhoto by Samuel Bryngelsson on Unsplash

2. Don’t make meat the star of the show

While many people associate summer barbecues with a large steak searing on the grill, beef in particular is the worst offender when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions. Lamb also scores high on the carbon emission scale. If you insist on having either of these red meats at the party, buy local, so at least you’re avoiding the CO2 output from the transportation it takes to reach you.

If you can, cut down or eliminate the amount of meat on your grill. Instead of whole breasts of chicken, opt for marinating some pieces and using them with veggies to make some killer kabobs. Try something new by opting for sausages and other proteins made from plant-based options. Beyond Meat and Beyond Burger make fantastic alternatives in sausage and patty form that we guarantee will turn even the biggest carnivores into believers!  And think outside the box when it comes to what goes on the grill. Use your pizza stone to grill up some fantastic rustic style ‘za, or stuff portobello mushrooms with tomatoes and feta for a Mediterranean-inspired celebration.

3. Shop locally 

Hit up your farmers' market for your produce and shop seasonally to cut down on the carbon emissions associated with transporting food long distances to where they are sold. Use our farmer’s market guide to find the best of what’s in season this month in your region. By shopping locally you’ll not only support local farmers but also get to enjoy the very freshest ingredients for your menu. In some cases, the fruits and vegetables you buy at your city’s farmers' market will have come out of the ground that very day, if not the day before, and you can’t get any fresher than that!

4. Say sayonara to plastics

Don’t let your backyard hangout end with trash bags full of single use plastics that will end up in the landfill. Cut down on waste by saying no to plastic forks and other utensils, single-serve plastic plates and tablecloths. If you do want to use single serving serveware and other items, open for ones made from post consumer goods, like recycled paper or wood. These will degrade over time and, depending on your municipality, can be put into your green waste bin to be composted. Go with the very chic boho look for party decor by picking up some vintage tablecloths and doilies to jazz up your tabletop, instead of a disposable plastic covering.cocktailsPhoto by Jordan Nix on Unsplash

5. Make your own drinks

There are so many “convenience” alcoholic beverages on the market. And yes, while portable bevvies are definitely easier to tote around, most come in cans or plastic bottles and thus have a much larger carbon footprint. This BBQ season, choose to make your own drinks. Try making your own infused simple syrups for cocktail mix using plants from the garden, like lavender and hibiscus. Use mint from the garden to make a killer mojito and fire up the Sodastream to make fizzy water instead of reaching for a two litre bottle. Blend those local raspberries and strawberries from the farmers’ market with ice and tequila to make a killer margarita. Bonus: You’ll save money and impress your guests too.