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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Green Summer: Charcoal Barbecue

by Susan Melgren, Web Editor

Tags: green summer, green barbecue, barbecue, natural charcoal, natural lump charcoal, charcoal barbecue, barbeque,

Meat doesn’t rate high on my list of favorite foods, but I make an exception for barbecue. There’s something pleasant and a little nostalgic about gathering together good friends on a humid summer evening and lighting up the grill. Barbecuing is a staple of summer, but like many of our favorite activities, it could stand to be greened.

Fueling the flames

Although there’s something rustic and appealing about using a charcoal barbecue grill, propane will burn cleaner than coals. Charcoal releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air when burned, emitting 100 times more CO2 than propane. Lighter fluids will worsen the effect of burning charcoal and can contribute to smog. If you already have a charcoal barbecue griller, however, save some green (cash that is) and invest in eco-friendly coals.

Wicked Good Charcoal makes 100 percent natural charcoal barbecue briquettes from five types of FSC-certified Brazilian wood that are held together with cornstarch. They produce less ash than normal charcoal barbecue briquettes and you can reuse them.

Cowboy Charcoal’s natural lump charcoal is made from wood-mill scraps in an environmentally compatible, non-polluting wood-retort plant. Cowboy Charcoal is available at Lowe’s and Whole Foods.

Greenlink offers two types of charcoal barbecue briquettes: one made from waste coconut shells and one from natural wood. Both types of charcoal barbecue briquettes use a natural food grade binder. Greenlink’s charcoals come in the traditional “pillow” coals as well as charcoal barbecue logs.

Gather some friends together this summer for an eco-friendly barbecue. Photo By gomattolson/Courtesy Flickr 

Other eco-friendly charcoal barbecue briquette options include Kamado lump charcoal and coconut briquettes, Lazarri Fuel Company mesquite lump charcoal and Nature’s Own chunk charwood.

During the meal

Whether you choose to use a charcoal barbecue or a propane barbecue, it’s going to be messy, so you’re going to want napkins – and a lot of them. Instead of going for the cheap paper napkins that will shred and end up in the trash, use cloth napkins or set out damp dishcloths for guest to wipe their hands. As always, eat off of reusable plates and silverware instead of using disposable ones.


After you’re done grilling, use natural products to clean your grill. SoyClean BBQ Grill Cleaner and Eco-Green Oven, Grill and Barbeque Cleaner are safe options for removing char, grease and burnt-on barbecue residue.

It’s always best to make only as much food as needed, but if you do have leftovers, divvy them up between guests so they won’t go to waste.