6 Steps to Green Your Tailgate

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Tailgating has been called “the last great American neighborhood…where no one locks their doors, everyone is happy to see you and are all together sharing fun, food and football!”

As November kicks off, football season is in full swing as NFL stadiums average nearly 100,000 fans at each game. While that’s a lot of hot dog buns and foam fingers, it also adds up to a lot of waste. And although more stadiums offer recycling, most of us don’t bring our party waste into the game for disposal.


So, let’s pull down the truck tailgate, fire up the grill, play our fight song and keep an eco-conscious head on our shoulders. Here are six ways to green your tailgate without skipping out on the fun:

Photo: Flickr/James Wilamor

In the NFL's 2008 regular season, 17,056,941 tickets were sold, representing the third highest paid attendance record in history. Photo: Flickr/James Wilamor

1. Don’t Dwell on Disposable

The truth is, you’re probably not going to bring a complete china set to your tailgate. While disposable seems inevitable, you can make smarter purchases.

Preserve tableware is made from a thicker resin of plastic that allows multiple uses. Also, Preserve’s products are made from 100 percent recycled polypropylene (plastic #5 or PP).

Plastic #5 is a plastic that is not as widely accepted in curbside recycling programs as other resins like PET (plastic #1), so it’s a great use of a hard-to-recycle plastic.


Solo Cup Company has a line of products made of post-consumer recycled PET. Bare by Solo cups are made from about 20 percent recycled PET, providing a market for the billions of pounds of plastic bottles that Americans recycle annually.

2. Get Crafty With Tablecloths and T-shirts

How many T-shirts do you own with your team’s logo splashed across the front? Now think about how many of these you actually wear. Chances are there are a few stuffed in the back of the drawer, victims of your dryer’s infamous shrinking abilities. But don’t throw away these little gems. After all, you probably have great memories wearing them.

Create a funky tablecloth for your next tailgate using your old T-shirts and clothing with your team’s colors. You will need a sewing machine (or a love for hand-sewing) for this one. Up the ante even more by adding in other sports teams for different seasons (we’re talking to you Jets/Mets fans!).

Don’t have a sewing machine? Cut up your clothes to make cool, reusable napkins for your tailgate. All you’ll need is a pair of scissors.

3. The Great Debate Solved: Charcoal vs. Propane Grills


Before diving into this one, we want to point out that we are not trying to step on any grillmaster’s toes. The debate between charcoal and propane is a tough one: Which one produces more flavor? Which is cheaper, faster? And most importantly, which is more eco-friendly?

We consulted a recent study by Environment Impact Assessment Review to answer this one. Drum roll, please…

According to the study, “the overwhelming factors are that as a fuel, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production and considerably more efficient in cooking.” The two grilling methods were defined by their overall footprint, with charcoal using 998 kg of CO2, almost three times more than propane, which weighed in at 349 kg.

ScienceDaily reports that as fuel, LPG is “dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production.” When purchasing a propane tank, make sure there is a trade-in option. Most retailers will let you bring in an empty tank in exchange for a decent discount on your next tank.

4. Go Loco for Local, Obsess Over Organic


You can’t have a proper tailgate without the perfect game day snacks. This is a great opportunity to use your favorite organic recipes and seasonal fruits and veggies.

SPOLIER ALERT! Research found that propane grills are more eco-friendly than charcoal grilling. Photo: Flickr/Another Pint Please

SPOLIER ALERT! Research found that propane grills are more eco-friendly than charcoal grilling. Photo: Flickr/Another Pint Please

Fresh out of quick and easy organic ideas? We really like Whole Foods’ recipes, which currently features some fall favorites. You can also check out Local Harvest for the latest information on seasonal foods in your area.

But organic goes beyond your plate. Fill your cup with some fancy schmancy organic beer at your next tailgate. Brewed with organically harvested barley and hops, organic beer is said to be tastier and better for the bod. For the extra ambitious, try brewing your own beer.

We sometimes associate going local or organic with higher costs. Don’t stress the added expense. Share cool recipes with your tailgating friends and have a potluck party. Not only will you spread the healthy, eco-friendly vibe, but you will also save some serious dough…and time!

5. Use the Sun to Blast Your Tunes


What’s a tailgate without music or memorable game replays? Don’t waste your car battery by using its radio. We’ve found a cool solar-powered portable outlet. This is perfect for that iPod sound system or throwback boombox.

For hardcore fans that tailgate in the snow (hey Green Bay lovers!), sometimes a sweatshirt and blanket just isn’t enough for those all-day outdoor tailgates. While most heaters consume a lot of energy, solar-powered generators supply renewable energy and have a much lower footprint.

But be prepared to shell out up to $1,000 for one of these little guys. If that’s just not feasible for your budget, you can create your own solar-powered generator using parts you can buy at the local hardware store or online.

6. Don’t Bail on Recycling

It’s a no-brainer. One of the easiest ways to go green is to recycle your waste. So don’t leave your recycling smarts at home and be sure to put  a clearly marked bin out at your tailgate. The U.S. EPA estimates that 75 percent of our waste is recyclable, so there’s a good chance someone will have a plastic bottle or cardboard box to toss in the bin. For even more eco-cred, bring along a separate bin for composting. Check out our easy-to-use cheat sheet to get the process started.

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