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Grilling Green with Charcoal Grills


Everyone enjoys the rich, smoky taste of meat grilled to perfection on a charcoal grill, but recent studies have found that charcoal grills can actually lead to increased air pollution. Each time you light up your grill, you emit gases and particles that harm the environment and increase pollution levels in your area.

I'm sure you're skeptical how much of an impact barbecue grills, and especially charcoal grills, can really have on the environment. Keep reading to learn more about the true impact your grill has on the environment and ways you can reduce your carbon footprint so you enjoy your steak with a clear conscience!

What's actually in your charcoal briquettes?

As often as barbecue lovers light up their charcoal grills, very few take the time to ask what's actually in their charcoal. With most types of charcoal, manufactures include additives to the charcoal to make it easier to light, burn longer or get that iconic white ashy look that we all associate with the charcoal grills and backyard barbecues from our childhood. Some common additives include:

  • Sawdust
  • Corn starch
  • Lighter fluid
  • Binder
  • Borax
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Limestone
  • Paraffin
  • Petroleum solvents

While the additives in charcoal offer many benefits, it also causes charcoal grills to emit far more pollution than propane or natural gas grills. In the Huffington Post article "Charcoal vs. Gas Grill: Which is Better for the Environment?" it stated that the mixture of ingredients in charcoal that's commonly used in charcoal grills can product 105 times more carbon monoxide than propane. Carbon monoxide is one of the most common greenhouse gases that are leading to global warming and increased pollution. In addition to carbon monoxide, charcoal grills also emit:

  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Ozone
  • Chlorofluorocarbons

Each of these greenhouse gases pollutes the environment you live in by creating smog and other unpleasant effects. This is especially true when grills are used by in significant numbers. But it's also important to keep in mind that even though we're focusing on charcoal grills, all types of grills generates small amounts of pollution that end up in our air.

How much pollution do charcoal grills really generate?

Realistically, charcoal grills are responsible for a microscopic amount of green house gases that contribute to globalcarbonfootprint warming. This is especially true when you compare the amount of carbon generated by charcoal grills to the amount of carbon generated by operating a passenger vehicle.

Clearly, the amount of pollution created by isn't going to persuade a hardcore grilling enthusiast like yourself to stop using your charcoal grill. But here are a few helpful hints that will allow you to grill green with your charcoal grill minimize your carbon footprint.

  • Don't leave your grill running for long periods of time
  • Pour water over the coals to put the fire out - By doing this you can reuse the same coals the next time you barbecue with your charcoal grill!
  • Avoid using chemical lighter fluid - instead use an electric charcoal starter
  • Instead of using charcoal briquettes, use chunk charcoal - It allows you to get that great smoky flavor, but doesn't emit as many pollutants!
  • If you don't like chunk charcoal, use additive free charcoal
  • Use a grill that can be controlled by vents - this allows for more control over your food preparation and enables you to easily shut off your grill

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