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How to Host an Eco-Friendly Summer Cookout

Whether you are hosting a couple of people for burgers on the grill or have decided to invite the entire neighborhood over for an evening of summer fun, creating a safe and healthy environment is the key to your cookout success.
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Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the summer outdoor party season and is the perfect time to throw your own eco-friendly backyard bash. As the founder and CEO of a New York City eco-cleaning company, I have become an expert in creating environments that are safe and healthy--and that includes your outdoor space. Whether you are hosting a couple of people for burgers on the grill or have decided to invite the entire neighborhood over for an evening of summer fun, creating a safe and healthy environment is the key to your cookout success.

Set the Stage

Clear your deck or patio of weeds and winter debris and make sure you have enough seating to accommodate your guests. You can use common household products such as vinegar and baking soda to wash down your space as well as your furniture. Upgrade the atmosphere by adding a few colorful pillows, some bright container plants and lanterns or mason jars filled with solar-powered lights--a great way to not only light up tabletops, but they can be placed along pathways and steps. You can find great outdoor summer accessories at places such as Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Bring on the Gas

As in grill. Gas grills emit less pollution than charcoal and also cook your food more evenly--so go with gas over charcoal if you can. But, before you even think of flipping that first burger, make sure your grill is clean and ready to go. A simple, green way to clean your grill from
  • Grab a stiff wire brush, a spatula, tongs, an old t-shirt or cloth and vegetable oil.
  • Preheat the grill for 15 minutes and turn the grill off.
  • While the grill is still warm, scrape the grill with the wire brush.
  • Grab the cloth with the tongs and dampen it with the vegetable oil.
  • Use the tongs to rub the oily cloth over the grill gate.

In addition to cleaning the grill, the vegetable oil will help prevent food from sticking, preventing additional build up throughout the grilling season.

Reuse and Recycle

Purchase reusable plastic utensils, cups and plates as well as serving trays and bowls. This will alleviate worries about things breaking on your patio and will keep you from filling up the trash with Styrofoam products. If you must go with disposable products, opt for those that are biodegradable and make sure you have bins placed around the yard that are clearly marked for recycling--and composting if you want to add to your compost pile! Don't have your own compost pile? See if your city has an organized composting service or, if you are in the Washington D.C. area, checkout Compost Cab--they will visit your home weekly to haul away your kitchen scraps.

Eat Your Greens

While organic is always good, shopping local for organic is even better. Shop at your local farmer's market for fresh fruits and vegetables and use grass-fed beef if possible--grass-fed beef uses less energy and resources than conventionally raised cattle. Head to the Eat Wild website for a comprehensive list of where you can find grass-fed meat and dairy products near you.

Green Your Cocktails

Organic beer, wine and liquor options are always a great Memorial Day party addition. Checkout brands such as Parducci for wine and TRU Organic for vodka or gin, or head over to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's for great organic and gluten-free alcohol options. In addition to your drink choices, green up the rest of your bar by offering fresh mixers and garnishes such as squeezed lemon juice or farmer's market herbs, use sustainable products like bamboo coasters or stainless steel straws and keep the bar area clean by using a reusable rag instead of paper towels.

Take Care of the Elements

Two things we can never seem to control during our outdoor parties: the weather and the bugs. Make sure your guests can battle the elements in eco-friendly style by providing baskets filled with non-toxic and biodegradable sunblock and bug repellent and even consider tossing in a few rain ponchos made from organic materials in case those blue skies turn a sudden gray.

You tell us: What did you do to celebrate summer this Memorial Day Weekend?

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