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Q & A: 4th of July BBQ

By Diane MacEachern |
Prepping for your big July 4th barbecue is easy if you know what to look for at the store. Here are a few suggestions to get you on your way to greener BBQ goods and foods.
UPDATED: 06/20/11 | Originally Published: 06/30/09

I'm planning to have a BBQ this July 4th. Any shopping suggestions if I want to minimize my environmental impact with the basics?

By the time the 4th of July rolls around, local farmers markets are brimming with food you can turn into the perfect barbecue. Whether you're going to a potluck, or celebrating at home with family and friends, you should be able to find all that you need for a delicious meal or dish-to-share that you can be proud of.

For example, artisanal cheeses pair perfectly with whole grain breads for a yummy appetizer or light complement to a main course. Tomatoes and cucumbers can be thinly sliced and drizzled with olive oil and herb-infused vinegar as an alternative to a full-fledged salad. A growing number of local markets are selling free-range poultry and beef if you prefer to grill chicken, steaks, or burgers. As for dessert, my market already sports strawberries and raspberries; use them to decorate a shortcake you make at home, or whip them into freshly made plain or vanilla yogurt slightly sweetened with honey from a local hive.

The advantage of farmers markets is not just that they're so close to the communities they serve — often, the foods they sell are organic, too. That often means healthier, safer fruits, vegetables, and dairy products from an enterprise dedicated to keeping the air you breathe and the water you drink free of pesticides and herbicides.

If you can't get to your farmers market, bring the farm to you. Consider joining a "CSA," a farm that participates in "community supported agriculture." You'll pay up front for a share in whatever the farm harvests, then reap the rewards throughout the summer and fall. Some CSAs deliver right to your door; others drop off at central locations that should be convenient to reach.

When people think barbecue, they often think paper plates, paper napkins, and throwaway forks and knives. But all those throwaways make for a lot of trash after an otherwise earth-friendly event. Instead, invest in durable plates, cutlery, and cloth napkins you can use over and over again. Alternatively, ask guests to bring their own reusables, and make it easy for them to rinse them off and pack them up to take back home when they leave.

What do you do to keep your BBQs green? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.

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