Greener Grilling for Dad
It must be encoded in their DNA. Men never feel quite so manly as when they're charring a big slab of meat over a fire. And the scent of a grill is downright American, as patriotic as the red, white and blue. The thing is, in many ways the backyard grill isn't very green.
For starters, burning wood or charcoal produces particles that nestle into the lungs, exacerbating asthma and causing respiratory problems. What's more, it releases carcinogens such as benzene, and even produces toxic chemicals in the food itself if it's cooked too much. And, of course, it creates smog.
But that can change. You can help Dad make his favorite meal one that's not only easier on the planet, but easier on his heart and waistline. And that's a Father's Day gift worth giving.
Try a greener grill
Chuck the wood and go for natural gas, propane or electric grills, which burn cleaner and more efficiently. Electric grills produce 99 percent less carbon monoxide and 90 percent less carbon dioxide than charcoal.
True grill-masters might want to invest in a hybrid version, which offer the cleaner burn of electric or gas, but allow a short burn of charcoal or wood to create that beloved smoky flavor.
If Dad just won't give up his wood or charcoal grill, at least make sure he steers clear of toxin-soaked briquettes in favor of eco-friendly charcoal. (Look for the Forest Stewardship Certification of FSC or Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program.)
Make better grilling choices
While it may not be considered masculine to pass up a big slab of beef for a veggie burger, meat is tough on the planet. There are ways, however, for Dad to still savor his sirloin and go easier on Mother Nature.
Consider organic and grass-fed beef, which is not only better for the planet, but more nutrient-rich and lower in saturated fat. Organic isn't necessarily grass-fed and vice versa, though the two often overlap. Check out local farmers' offerings, which maybe raised organically.
If Dad's willing, give meat a pass, at least some of the time, which also gives the planet a break. Meat production is harder on the environment than all forms of transportation combined, meaning that going meatless reduces your carbon footprint to baby size. Besides, just about anything tastes good off the grill!
To add to your meal, visit your local farmers market, which should be going strong this time of year, to stock up on fresh toppings and salad ingredients. By purchasing local, you're contributing to your local economy and putting the brakes on food miles — 1,500 of them — associated with the average American meal.
Leslie Garrett is an award-winning journalist and author of The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World (and one our kids will thank us for!).