7 top tips to host an eco-friendly BBQ

26 May 2021 | Celia Topping

BBQ season is just around the corner – and we can almost taste those aromas as they waft over garden fences across the nation! But much as we love our (slightly charred) sausages, this classic summer event can have a significant impact on the environment – particularly if it’s rushed. 

With around 60 million1 BBQs sparking up all over the country this summer, it’s important to keep the environment in mind. Make your grilling as green as possible this year, by following our 7 simple guidelines for a sustainable BBQ season. 

1. Choose the right fuel and grill

The sun’s out, the temperature’s high and all we want to do is grill some tasty food, and share a glass or 2 with friends and family. But in a rush to make the most of the sunshine, 2019 saw wildfires spread rapidly across several moors in the north of England. The fires took weeks to extinguish, and caused devastating damage to the environment. All because of careless use of disposable BBQs. 

Is charcoal or gas more environmentally friendly?

So, lesson learned. Single-use BBQs are out. These small, aluminium blocks of toxic charcoal are harmful on so many safety and environmental levels. Steer clear! But what is the best fuel for a BBQ – gas or charcoal? Charcoal may give your food that BBQ flavour, but it also generates 3 times the amount of greenhouse gases2. It’s common for charcoal to not be sustainably sourced, and it’s been linked to deforestation in developing countries. 

Gas grills are not exactly carbon emission-free – but by using natural gas, keeping the lid closed and moderating your use, you can keep emissions down. 

If you’re determined to stick with charcoal, then swap those chemical-laden briquettes for natural lumpwood, which comes from 100% sustainable woodland in the UK. 

The type of grill you use is important, too. More energy-efficient brands like Big Green Egg may be eye-wateringly expensive, but they retain heat better, release fewer emissions in their production, and come with a lifetime warranty. For BBQ aficionados, this is the grill you need! 

Other options include electric grills, which are sustainable if you’re using electricity from renewable sources. OVO supplies 100% green electricity to our members, so an electric grill could be your best bet.  

Or what about a solar-powered grill? Yes, they can cook food even when the sun isn’t shining – which is important in the UK! Without the need for cables,  canisters or coal, some models are much more portable than other grills – so they’re a good choice for camping trips, as well as home-use.   

And last but not least – step away from the lighter fuel! Eco-friendly firelighters are made from wood shavings, and dipped in kerosene-free wax. For the BBQ un-savvy, these are a sure-fire (sorry for the pun) way to get the party started.

2. Eco-friendly BBQ food

Is a BBQ really a BBQ without meat? Whichever side of the fence you land on, you may have a few disgruntled guests if you don’t offer at least one meaty dish. To make it as sustainable as possible, simply buy better, organic meat, sourced locally. And you could try making a blended burger, which mixes up minced meat with chopped veg for a good half-way house option!

There are loads of great plant-based alternatives, all perfect for throwing on the barbie. Like carrot dogs (yes really!), veggie burgers and veggie shish kebabs. Add a selection of salads, breads, dips and nuts on the side, and no one will be going hungry. Plus, remember, no one ever got ill from an undercooked mushroom! Finally, if you can manage to buy the supplies with no packaging, all the better.

For some more veggie food ideas, read about how one of our staff members  went veggie for a week with her 2 ham butty-loving sons in the first of OVO’s “Going Green” challenge  – a blog series in which members of the OVO team try an eco-friendly lifestyle change for one week. 

3.Greenify your drinks

Making a refreshing bowl of punch will not only impress your guests, but it also cuts down on plastic and glass waste. And if you can use ethically sourced ingredients, such as England’s first carbon-negative gin from Yorkshire’s Cooper King distillery, or award-winning carbon-negative rum from Two Drifters distillery in Devon, you’re reducing your BBQ’s footprint even more. 

Continue the green theme by only buying beer and wine from local breweries and vineyards. Or try out Toast’s, lager and ale, made from the end slices of bread discarded by the sandwich industry, to cut down on food waste. And for a non-alcoholic refresher, what about a home-made elderflower cordial – made with flowers foraged from your local wood, of course! 

4. Cut the single-use plastics

It’s high time single-use items were a thing of the past. They’re the scourge of our oceans and the environment, because they take thousands of years to break down. Choose compostable plates instead of paper, or simply buy a few second-hand china ones from your local charity shop. 

Before you start thinking about how to recycle everything from your BBQ, read our complete recycling guide, and find out what you can and can’t recycle. 

5. Lay waste to food waste

You may have heard of BYO, but what about BYOT? Bring your own Tupperware! Ask your guests to bring a sealable container, so you don’t have a tonne of leftover food going to waste, and they have a tasty lunch the next day. 

For more tips on how to tackle food waste at home, read our handy guide. You’ll find delicious ideas to make the most of your leftovers, as well as phone apps to help you waste not, want not. 

After all, tackling climate change begins at home.  

6. Help your guests recycle

We all start off with good intentions – but after a few punch cocktails, guests may become a little less focused on where they’re putting their rubbish! Make it super-easy for everyone to recycle, and stick large labels on bags or bins, so they know what’s organic waste, which one’s for recycling and which ones are general rubbish. And if you have a garden compost bin, this is its moment to shine! 

7. And the rest…

If you’re throwing a proper party, rather than just a few burgers for you and a couple of mates, it’s worth thinking about the decor. Try using wild flowers or reusable bunting instead of balloons and paper streamers. There’s something so quintessentially British about bunting, and it always looks so cheerful! And remember to stock up on non-toxic, biodegradable sunscreen and bug repellent, to make sure your guests leave with nothing more than a full tummy and joyous summer memories.  

For more ideas on reducing your carbon footprint in everyday ways, join OVO today. We offer:

  • 100% renewable electricity as standard3
  • A tree planted in your name every single year you are with us4
  • 3-5% interest for every year your account has a positive balance5
  • Access to the OVO Greenlight tool, featuring free energy-saving tips
  • An award-winning smart meter experience (Uswitch 2020)
  • A £50 gift card every time you introduce a friend to us
  • A 5-Star TrustPilot rating by 30,000 members

Sources and references: 



3.  The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.

4. Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.

5. Interest Rewards are paid on credit balances of customers paying by monthly Direct Debit. It is calculated at 3% in your first year, 4% in your second year and 5% in your third year (and every year thereafter) if you pay by Direct Debit. Interest Rewards are paid monthly based on the number of days you have a positive balance and the amount left in your account after you’ve paid your bill. Full terms apply

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