Now that we’ve actually been able to enjoy some real summer weather, people all over the country have been flocking to the shops to buy stuff for their barbeque. Meat, salads, charcoal, fire lighters, dousing liquids, throw-away one-time-use barbeques and more. A year ago I would have been amongst them and wouldn’t have given a thought to the environmental impact.
I love a good barbie as much as the next person, especially as I spent so long in a country where BBQ-ing is almost a summer sport, but this time I’ve stopped and given some thought to what I’m doing (it's amazing how often I've done that since starting to train my brain to actually think first!).
For one, I don’t have an outdoor grill and as I can’t afford a decent one at the moment, I thought I’d just buy a couple of throw-away ones so that we could at least have a taste of outdoor cooking this year. But hold on…. Stop there, Sharon! Throw-away? You don’t do ‘throw away’ anymore! Forget that one. Right, off I went in search of a cheap ‘proper’ grill. I found one for around 12 quid but on closer inspection of the box, discovered that it was made somewhere in Asia. Hmm… loads of carbon miles and no doubt made available to us through exploitating cheap labour. No thanks, I'll just put that one back. Further perusal of the aisles of several shops turned up one that was produced in Germany and selling at around £50 but that, I’m afraid, was well outside of my budget. Oh well… I’ll just have to wait until next year. I'll survive.
It doesn’t stop there though. While browsing the many barbeques on offer, I wondered why so many people are still buying the gas fired types. Haven’t they read the newspapers? Don’t they know that gas isn’t going to last forever and that a charcoal grill has to be a better alternative? Or is it, I wondered.
Apparently, using charcoal isn’t as great as it sounds either, because a whopping 97 percent of the grilling charcoal consumed in Britain comes from NON-sustainable forests, a lot of which is from our rain forests and is contributing to the deforestation problem. Not good. Not good at all.
On top of that, briquettes, which are the most popular form of grilling charcoal, are often doused in petroleum solvents. I know that probably won’t make a humungous difference to the oil problem but it certainly isn’t good for us to be breathing in the fumes. When I think back at how many times I’ve sat coughing because of the smoke I’ve breathed in, smoke that tastes of petrol! Not only is it bad for our respiratory system, it also irritates the eyes and can apparently cause some long term damage to them. And if the briquettes aren’t ready doused, people buy petroleum based firelighters or squirt lighter fluid all over them instead.
So what’s a girl to do? Am I doomed to never enjoy a BBQ again?
The best solution, it seems, is to buy a grill that’s been manufactured in a country as close to the UK as possible and then use only British charcoal that’s made from properly managed native woodland doused in as little lighter fluid as possible. Eco charcoal may well cost a bit more than the cheap and nasty stuff, but frugality and simplicity aren’t about cutting costs at all costs, they’re about cutting costs where we can and should. This is one area where we shouldn’t.
Eco-charcoal’s available at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, B&Q and some Co-Op stores. You may well find it elsewhere and there may be some branches of the above that don’t carry it, but at least that gives you something to be working on.
Next year I shall have my BBQ ready in spring because it’s going to be a beautiful summer. I can feel it in my water. Please don’t disillusion me… dreams are important :)