The long, golden days of summer are here at last.
Basking in the sun, picnicking with friends and family, exploring the bounties of nature: these are the joys of summer that are arriving north of the equator this month.
It’s a season that some wish would stay all year (and with climate change, that may happen in some regions of the world). With winter snows melting and spring rains subsiding, now is the perfect time to get outside for a potluck, picnic, or a summer cookout and make as sustainable as possible.
Here’s Global Citizen’s guide to throwing most sustainable cookout this summer.
Fill Your Plate With Veggies
Veganism can save the world, seriously. Our first recommendation is to make your summer cookout meals vegan — or at least veggie-heavy.
Switching from red meat to a plant-based diet even for one meal can save 1,800 gallons of water that would have been used to produce one pound of beef. Try this nifty vegan calculator for a glimpse at the impact changing to a vegan diet can have on the planet.
Or you can make a meal out of “side dishes” like grilled garlic-herb roasted corn on the cob, crunchy walnut coleslaw, vegan potato salad, and almond grilled peaches with maple coconut ice cream.
Splurge on Ethically Sourced Protein (If You Do Eat Meat)
We get it: for many people, a BBQ isn’t a BBQ without burgers and hot dogs (at the very least). But if you are going to give in to carnivorous temptations, at least serve ethically-sourced meat and fish.
Can’t make it to the beach? Bring the ocean to you by grilling up some ethically sourced oysters. If you’re one of many bacon-obsessed Americans, products like Niman Ranch are more ethical, hormone-free, vegetarian fed, and “raised with care.” Check out some of their recipes here.
Ethically-raised meats are a huge step up from the poor conditions of factory-farmed animal agriculture that can affect both workers and meat quality.
Serve a Smaller Menu, Tailored to Your Guests
It may seem counterintuitive to buy less food for a gathering, but hear us out. Instead of scrambling to find guests who can take leftovers home, serving less food means less food waste, which ends up in landfills, emits greenhouse gases and accelerates climate change.
You can do this by taking a survey of your guests’ dietary preferences and any allergy concerns to make sure the food you purchase matches up with what your guests will actually eat.
Bread, milk, potatoes, cheese, and apples are the most commonly tossed foods that end up in landfills. Most of these are thrown away out of households, but keeping this in mind before planning for a cookout is important, too. Try a recipe like this bread pudding with leftovers if you do have uneaten food.
The Guardian suggests using this guide instead of serving sizes recommended on packaging, which can be inflated to help sell more food, according to economics expert Brian Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating.”
Opt For an Eco-Friendly Beverage
No cookout would be complete without chilled summer beverages. Check out Toast Ale — a beer that uses excess bread in the brew process. It’s currently available online and in the UK, and is coming to stores in New York this summer.
Outdoor clothing company Patagonia also partnered with HopWorks Urban Brewery to bring Global Citizens this eco-friendly beer that helps fight climate change. The hops in the beer come from Kernza, a grain that’s engineered not to cause soil erosion.
And here are five additional tips on how to drink responsibly for the planet.
Avoid Bottled Water
Don’t buy bottled water. Just don’t do it.
Bottled water sales overtook soft drinks for the first time last year. From a health perspective, it’s good that people are opting for water over sugary soda, but individual bottles still use an alarming amount of plastic. It takes more water to produce a bottle of water than to simply drink that amount from a tap source.
Instead, you can encourage others to bring water bottles. Or make a fun refreshing drink, like this green apple mocktail, from some misshapen foods. You’ll be saving landfills from food waste and plastic with one swift recipe.
Cut Plastic Out of Cutlery
Remember how you’re not supposed to buy plastic water bottles? The same goes with utensils.
There are so many sustainable, ethical alternatives to plastic knives, forks, and spoons. Here are seven eco-cutlery alternatives to plastic, including chopsticks and water bottles — some of them are even edible.
Donate to Parks You Love to Secure Future Summer Cookout Locations
To make sure you have places in the great outdoors, or clean beaches, to enjoy summer cookouts, why not donate to your favorite national and local parks departments?
Better yet, take action to support and preserve these ecological treasures.
Strike Up a Conversation on Global Issues You Care About
This might be best followed before your uncles get into the case of Toast Ales. But take advantage of the luscious summer weather during a cookout to discuss global global health, education, the massive famine in East Africa, or the 783 million people who need access to clean water.
Every problem that has ever been solved has started with an idea, so see what your friends and family members have going on in their noggins. It’s ok if you’re not an expert in socio-political issues — just make sure your local officials take action.
It’s amazing how the simplest of items can solve complex problems, like these blue drums helping women in Sub-Saharan Africa collect water, these breezy summer shoes made from recycled ocean plastics, or these refugee shelters made from water bottles.
Donate Leftovers & Compost Food Scraps
If you do have leftovers from a summer cookout, look up the nearest food bank for any canned leftovers, like beans, or condiments such as mustard and ketchup. Tortillas and bread are also great for donating to food banks. And some will take fruits and veggies as well.
For food scraps: local composting locations, like community gardens, are a great place to take leftovers that have been partially eaten. Check out this guide to what you can and cannot compost.
Pro tip: composting can cut down on methane, a greenhouse gas that is 26 times more potent in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, released as food rots. It’s another form of recycling and can enrich the soil in your own home garden.
And Finally, Do Your Part to Reduce Food Waste
When shopping for food, take note of your stock and then make a list after checking what you have in your pantry, refrigerator, and especially the depths of the freezer. One summer night you could even thaw out a whole dinner from frozen leftovers.
This tip is great for everyday shopping too, not just for parties. By shopping for individual meals instead of buying in bulk, we can cut down on the 40% of food produced for humans that gets thrown out.
While you’re in the supermarket, don’t be afraid to give those ugly fruits and veggies some love. They’re just as nutritious as the cosmetically “perfect” ones and you’ll save them from a doomed fate in the landfill.