Green is no longer just a color, today it’s a state of mind
Donna Myers -- Casual Living, November 1, 2007
Americans are increasingly aware that “being green” is beneficial for the future of the planet, their health and their wallets. Although there are conflicting opinions about specific eco-sustainable issues and products, everyone – from corporate executives to policy makers and politicians up for re-election – recognizes it is not only politically correct to think and act green, but that it is ultimately good business.
A chimney, like this Grill Pro Chimney Style Charcoal Starter, shaves about 15 minutes off the time it takes to have charcoal ready for grilling without the use of a fluid chemical lighter.
While it is important that each of us take responsibility for protecting the environment, it is equally important to be realistic.
Concerns about improving the environment and controlling air pollution are not new for the barbecue industry. More than 25 years ago, the government air quality watchdogs in California came after backyard barbecuing as a major contributor to the state’s smog and air pollution problems. Automobiles, of course, accounted for more than 90% of the smog, but the officials recognized that Californians were not going to give up driving their cars, thus the barbecue industry was an easier target.
The barbecue pollution in question boiled down to the use of lighter fluid and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were being released in one minute of waiting time from when the lighter fluid was squirted on the charcoal briquettes until they were lit. Among the more serious arguments employed by the industry to defeat the proposed regulation, which would virtually bar charcoal grilling, was the somewhat more practical question – did California really intend to have Barbecue Police peeking into backyards to monitor charcoal and lighter fluid use? It became apparent the entire matter was totally impractical and, ultimately, lighter fluid was reformulated, directions for using it eliminated the one minute waiting time for absorption into the briquettes, and the matter was put to rest.
Today there are many Green Guidelines for the increasing number of consumers who are passionate about the environment to help make their homes more eco-friendly. If they are concerned that their backyard barbecue is adding to the global warming, and wondering what they can do to make burger flipping more environmentally sound, whether you’re a retailer or manufacturer you need to respond to their concerns.
• Set a good example. If you’re trying to capitalize on how green your products are, are you working in an energy-efficient plant, office space or retail showroom? At its most basic, that can include using long-lasting, low-energy light bulbs, keeping the temperature comfortable – neither extremely cold nor hot – having low-flow toilets and water faucets and practicing recycling.
• How eco-friendly is the packaging on the products you carry? If the packaging does not indicate it is made from recycled paper, let the manufacturers know your customers consider this important. Sometimes it is just a matter of communicating more effectively to educate customers about the benefits of products they choose.
• For charcoal aficionados, suggest that purchasing a chimney starter eliminates the need for a chemical lighter and it will have the coals ready to cook on in just 10 or 15 minutes, reducing the overall burn time. An electric starter will accomplish the same.
The fuel-efficient Big Green Egg is fueled with natural lump charcoal which produces minimal ash. Unused charcoal can be saved for the next cookout by closing the top and bottom vents. And the ceramic EGG is a lifetime purchase, reducing the number of grills going into the waste stream.
• Carry natural lump charcoal and let your customers know the advantages. Made strictly by burning wood in the near-absence of air to create char means lump charcoal is a natural product with no additives. It lights easily, burns hotter than briquettes for a great sear and produces less ash that requires disposal. Since supermarkets and big box stores often do not carry this product, it is ideal for the specialty retailer and keeps customers coming back to your store.
• If you carry ceramic kamado cookers, they are designed to last a lifetime. Many of the premium stainless steel grills also have long or even lifetime warranties. Most popular-priced metal grills need to be replaced every three or four years, putting large numbers of them into the waste stream.
• Carry a line of natural cleaning products that have no chemicals, offering an environmentally better alternative to cleaners with harsh chemicals.
• If you’re really seeking to have a “green” image, there are several lines of disposable biodegradable plates and bowls available today. Consider adding them to your product offerings. They can be composted or will decompose in a landfill where they will take up 70% less space that most disposable dishware.
• If you carry outdoor furniture and decorative accessories, there are tables available made from reclaimed wood, carpeting that is partially made of corn-based fibers, wood products made from teak, mahogany and ipé that emanate from managed, sustainable forests.
Before you worry about your role in preserving the environment, Jay Gulledge, senior research fellow at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, counsels that the carbon footprint of backyard grilling is not that significant compared to what people do in their everyday lives. Lights, TVs and cars are much more significant than grilling.