4 Tips for Planning a Toxin-Free Summer Barbecue


With Memorial Day Weekend approaching, grilling season is officially upon us. Distant splashes and adolescent laughter can be heard from nearby pools, while tantalizing aromas from firing grills fill the air. It’s that time of year to channel your inner child as the sun calls us outside to socialize, play and revel in the splendid weather.

For many of us, summer soirees include barbecues in the backyard, at the pool, in a park or at a nearby sandy beach. But, before you slip into your flip-flops, slather on toxic sunscreen and douse your taste buds in toxic chemicals, you’ll want to be equipped with a few eco-friendly barbecue must-haves to ensure safe and healthy summer celebrations.

Cheers to a healthy barbecue.

1. Grill Mats and Greener Cleaners

I must admit, I’m in a bit of shock at the current greenwashing tactics being used to sell the so-called nontoxic grill mats marketed ubiquitously these days. When I first discovered these miracle mats, I was all ears. But, upon further investigation, I discovered these brands are unanimously touting themselves as PFOA-free (that stands for perfluorooctanoic acid). Instead, they’re coated with a synthetic polymer, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. According to the scientists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG):

Toxic fumes released from [nonstick] pots and pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms (called “Teflon Flu” or, as scientists describe it, “Polymer fume fever”).

Grill Mats

So, no. I would not call these PTFE-coated grill mats nontoxic since, at low temperatures, PTFE off-gases particulate matter, which is composed of small molecules of PTFE, according to the EWG. In addition, some brands even advertise that they’re BPA-free (Bisphenol-A). Sounds healthy, right? Except that it’s an irrelevant statement. Bisphenol-A is a chemical used to harden polycarbonate plastics, so it would never be required in a soft, flexible grill mat. The verdict? Grill greenwashing: guilty as charged.

So, what’s a healthy-grill-seeking guy or gal to do? Opt instead for good old-fashioned grilling with aluminum foil or safe stainless steel baskets.

Grill Cleaners

But the toxic buck doesn’t stop there. Most name-brand grill cleaners (including one uber-popular green brand) are loaded with harmful substances. See the complete dirty list with their accompanying toxicity ratings at the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Solution? Let robots do the work. If you haven’t heard of the Grillbot, run, don’t walk, to snag one of these cool gadgets. They’ll do all the greasy work for you with the push of a button, powered by a rechargeable battery. If that’s too high-tech for you, clean the grill before and after with half a white onion. You’ll need a long grill fork tool. Be sure to keep the grill hot while you rub the onion along the grills to remove dirt and food debris. For a deeper cleaning, you can make a mixture of baking soda with a few drops of natural dish soap for a more thorough cleaning with a brush and rinse. Find more DIY nontoxic cleaning recipes here.

2. Toxic-Free Mosquito Control

Pesky. There’s really no other word to describe annoying mosquitoes. But don’t resort to toxic sprays. Instead, try geraniol, a naturally derived ingredient extracted from geranium oil contained in BugBand that is DEET-free. BugBand has been shown in studies to repel mosquitoes, house flies, stable flies, horn flies, fire ants, fleas, gnats, dog ticks, lone star ticks and no-see-ums. It’s not only making me happy that I have geraniums on my outdoor patio, but BugBand is made with all-natural ingredients and is available in wristbands, towelettes and a spray lotion that’s safe for pets and people. BugBand will also repel ticks when applied to the skin.

The wristband works up to 120 hours and can be stored in the reusable plastic “pod” sealed to preserve the active ingredients when not in use. You can even attach a band to your dog’s collar. It’s available in a glow-in-the-dark option, which is great for nighttime barbecues or to find your wandering kiddos in the evening.

3. Compostable Napkins

Photo: The Napkins

Just because you’re dining under the sun doesn’t mean you have to pass on the class at your next BBQ. You can keep it luxurious and green by using eco-friendly, disposable napkins that are also compostable! This line from The Napkins will turn your drab to fab by creating an elegant, entertaining tablescape. These eco-chic fiber napkins offer the luxurious appeal of cloth napkins, without water waste and washing headaches. They come in beautiful colors and designs made from bamboo fibers that are 100 percent biodegradable. Choose from natural white or patterns of Lexi, Diamond and Hemstitch.

Check out their Pure Bamboo Entertaining Pack for larger gatherings to create a silky smooth and sustainable soiree this summer.

4. Reusable Glassware

Chin up! There’s no need to cry over spilled wine — at least not with the gorgeously colorful and reusable cups from Bendiware. Whether you’re clumsy or crafting conscious cocktails and sipping rosé outdoors, these silicone-made wine glasses are flexible, BPA-free (which makes sense in this case!), dishwasher safe and freezable. Create a colorful bash with pops of summer colors, including pink, purple, orange, blue or white, and enjoy an unbreakable backyard BBQ.

Fill those barbecue days with everything from onions and wristbands to bamboo and bendables for a toxic-free summer to remember! Got a favorite tip for an eco-friendly barbecue? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
Celebrate Memorial Day the Green Way
Green Road Trip Tips for the Summer
Simply Sunscreen: Avoid Summer Sunburn Natually

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Lisa Beres
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Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home expert, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."
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