Monday, 27 June 2016

Five Ways You Can Make Barbecuing A Little Greener This Summer

Serving up better burgers and a brighter future: green barbecuing tips for the summer
It's officially summer. The weather is hot; the Canada Day long weekend is a few days away and barbecue season is in full effect. There are probably lots of areas in your life where you're reminded- or at least aware- of the more environmentally conscious available to you, and probably barbecuing isn't one of them. It's a unique facet of summer life, though, and its potential impacts, positive and negative, shouldn't be underrated. Here are five ways you can make barbecuing a little greener this summer.

1. Make your sauces and seasonings. Instead of shelling out for expensive store-bought barbecue sauces and seasonings, make your own from home or locally-grown herbs and other ingredients. By buying or growing local, you'll cut down on packaging and preservatives and reduce the energy costs associated with storage and transport, not to mention that your food will taste fresher and will be healthier.

2. Shop local. Ok, to be fair this is a bit of a repetition/extension of the first tip, but it's important enough that it bears repeating. When shopping for raw ingredients for your barbecue, think local. Butchers, family-owned grocers, and farmers markets will have fresh meat and seasonal produce that will taste much better on your barbecue than packaged meats and week-old produce you'll find at the big chains. Again, you'll cut down on storage and transport energy costs, and your raw ingredients will be less likely to be covered in pesticides, full of antibiotics, or blanketed with other chemicals.

3. Consider switching to a natural gas or propane grill. This one isn't an option for everyone right now- barbecues are expensive, I know that- and asking someone to make the switch is a lot to ask. Natural gas and propane grills are much cleaner than charcoal briquettes from an emissions standpoint, especially those that use barbecue fluid on top of the charcoal. Barbecues have natural lifespans- they should be replaced every couple of seasons. Natural gas and propane grills can be cheaper than their dirtier counterparts and their comparative environmental benefits can't be understated, so next time you need to replace your grill, weigh the alternatives and think long and hard about going greener.

4. Avoid disposable plates and utensils. Barbecuing begets barbecues, and at a large event, disposable gear is the norm. It shouldn't be, though, given how much unnecessary waste it produces. If you can, use washable plastic or ceramic plates and cutlery from your kitchen. If you can't go due to numbers or logistics, pick out recycled or biodegradable disposables from the grocery store. The slightly increased monetary cost you may have to pay is more than outweighed by the environmental cost regular disposables incur.

5. Compost food scraps and charcoal. It's easy to leave out a big catch-all "garbage" bag at a barbecue for food scraps, plates, cans, bottles, and everything in-between, but you really shouldn't. In today's day and age, many municipalities offer a centralized composting program; if yours does, take advantage. If it doesn't, compost your biowaste. A compost bin is a relatively inexpensive purchase and yields excellent, free, fresh fertilizer for your lawn and garden. Just set out a separate bin or bag at the barbecue for compostables (and recyclables for that matter) and if you have any, add your used charcoal to it at the end.

Like you, I plan on firing up my grill this weekend and much more to come this summer. When you do, make the same green choices I do; make a difference.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Incorporating Greener Practices into your Lawn and Garden Maintenance

Going green may seem daunting and for good reason. Organic produce, electric vehicles, and renewable energy are all traditionally more expensive than their less environmentally friendly counterparts. Consistently seeing green choices that are more expensive than the status quo colours one's perception. Contrary to popular belief, going green doesn't always require more time or money, though, and this is the case when it comes to lawn and garden care practices. Making your backyard greener can benefit your budget as much as it does the environment, and with that in mind, here are five "green" changes that will make your lawn and garden care more environmentally conscious this summer and won't break the bank.

If your current lawn mower is reaching the end of its lifespan, make the switch and try an electric or push mower. Both are consistently less expensive than their gas-guzzling counterparts; you won't have to spend money on fossil fuels to keep them powered, and they'll reduce the amount of emissions reaching our atmosphere.

Simultaneously, you can switch to organic pesticides and fertilizers for use on your lawn and in your garden. It is one area where you will pay a slight premium out of pocket. That increase in cost is nothing when compared to the huge ecological cost incurred by fat-soluble pesticides which build up as they move up the food chain, harming creatures at the top (like us) and by nitrogen-based fertilizers which cause algae blooms in our waterways, choking out fish and other organisms.

High ecological cost or not, for some of us, the increased cost of buying organic pesticides and fertilizer is too much to fit into a household budget. If that's the case with you, fear not, there are other ways you can help. You can leave your grass clippings on the lawn to replenish nutrients in the soil and serve as an alternative to or supplement for fertilizer. Compost yard and kitchen waste for use as fertilizer in your garden- organic waste was being used on crops for centuries before the invention of modern chemical alternatives, and it's every bit as effective now as it was then.

Leaving grass longer can also help you cut down on your need for pesticides. Longer grass stands a much better chance of out-competing weeds, reducing their access to valuable, water, and nutrients. That doesn't mean that you should let your lawn grow unkempt, that's not what I'm saying at all. Keeping it trim is fine, just raise your lawn mower's blades a little higher off of the ground and you'll reap monetary and environmental rewards.

I'd also recommend looking into purchasing a rain barrel. Rain barrels are relatively inexpensive, provide a free alternative to tap water, and have none of the energy costs incurred by the transport and treatment of that tap water.

Like I said, going green doesn't have to be time, energy, or cost-intensive. A few small changes can make your life easier, reduce strain on your budget, and diminish your environmental footprint in one fell swoop. Why not make those changes today?