Get Your Green Grill on This Labor Day

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Three days of fun, sun and lots of food and drink. Labor Day weekend is the last hurrah before the three month span to holiday season. Impress your friends, co-workers and family members by organizing a clean, green party machine this weekend. Think eco-friendly is out of your budget? You are incorrect my friend. Going green  for your Labor Day barbecue will help you save money, and possibly the headache of clean up (usually during your hangover the next morning).

Potluck Party!

Nothing makes a shindig easier than having your party members chip in. You can kill two birds with one stone by asking them to contribute a dish, and bring their dishes. Organizing a potluck-style BBQ also gives you more control in steering the party into an eco-friendly direction. For example, if you offer to provide the meat, you will then be able to purchase “happy meat” and control the portion amounts being served. Your guests can then contribute veggies, side dishes, desert, and (of course) libations.

Party Tip: Make life easy for larger gatherings by organizing “what to bring” by last names. For example: assign “sweet” dishes for last names A-L, and “savory” dishes for M-Z, including an accompanying beverage to share for 3-4 people.

Customized Serving Ware

No matter if you are organizing Labor Day festivities for a backyard party, or for a little beach action - having people “BYOB” for food and serving ware (including glasses) is a no-brainer for clean-up. When party guests are responsible only for their own eating ware, that frees you from the kitchen detail, and they just simply bring their dishware back home post-party. If you absolutely want to bring something more “portable,” World Market offers a great deal on attractive bamboo dishes, which you can pick up at your local store. And don’t forget the cloth napkins!

Entertaining Tip: Have an old tablecloth that you never use because of the huge red wine stain in the middle? Cut the tablecloth into 13” squares (use the stain part for clean ups around the house), iron edges .5” with “no sew” fusible webbing (if sewing isn’t an option) for reusable cloth napkins.

Happy Meat is Tasty Meat

Upgrade in consciousness and taste with free-range, organically fed meats. For a few dollars more, you will be supporting the sustainable organic farming community. Not to mention happy meat tastes better. When cattle, poultry, pig and lamb are organically fed (sans hormones; cattle should be grass fed), and then allowed to exercise in a field outside with lots of sunshine and fresh air…well, who wouldn’t taste better? Nationwide stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes offer many (well-marked) variations of our favorite grilling meats. Local farmer markets, and butchers are also still a great resource for buying locally.

Budget tip: think quality, not quantity. Veggies are cheaper, healthier and should be consumed in a much larger quantity than meat. You will limit your exposure to undercooking and will be less likely to be infected with bacteria.

Flame Up “Au Natural”

Gas grills come out on top for clean grilling since propane and natural gas are the most energy efficient clean burners, that leaving less waste behind. Charcoal grills are the dirtiest with burned briquettes containing carbon monoxide and other harsh chemicals. So save your stomach, taste buds and the environment by going gas, or eco-friendly charcoal. Eco-friendly coal includes lump charcoal harvested from sustainably managed forests or pillow-shaped briquettes made without coal dust or unhealthy additives. Brands such as Lazzari Fuel Company (mesquite lump charcoal), Cowboy Charcoal (natural lump charcoal), and Wicked Good (natural hardwood briquettes) can be found at local garden supply stores, Whole Foods and some grocery stores (if they have a well-stocked organic food section).

Great Grilling Tip: Grill with the lid down, it’s more energy efficient, and helps distribute heat thoroughly. Big grills take a while to heat up - expending more energy, so know your headcount beforehand and buy an appropriate amount of food.

Make Clean Up a Cinch

A little pre-party preparation will help you enjoy the end of your soiree just as much as your guests. The trick is to have a well-planned “exit” strategy that includes strong communication with your guests, and a few little tasks throughout the party.

  • Before the party starts, put out accessible recycle bins (separate glass, plastic, and metal recyclable containers) and let your guests know you want them to recycle all cans, bottles, and recyclable paper ware.
  • Start cleaning your grill while it’s still hot, with baking soda and a wire brush.
  • Box up your leftovers in reusable storage containers.
  • Gather the compostables and bring them to a compost heap or bin—you can compost natural charcoal remnants too.

Seriously, eco-friendly party planning does not have to complicated, or expensive. Just as all things eco-minded, it takes a little thought, some elbow grease, and a willingness to try a new approach in life. Sharing this event with your friends and family will help them see a new way to “party” as well!

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About the Author: Sunny Shakula

Sunny Shakula is a copywriter, seasoned freelance journalist, and marketing professional with 10 years of industry experience under her belt. She holds B.A.s in Journalism and English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as training in graphic and interior design. Today, Sunny focuses on eco-friendly life and money management advice; her passion for design and eco-commerce extends to her own business, inside, whose motto is "Re-Purpose with a Purpose." Her forthcoming book, Cheap.Fun.Delicious, dishes on everything from eco-friendly cocktails to DIY interior design.

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