Guest Blog: Mervyn Bowden – The humble barbecue

I hate to be a killjoy but as I was sitting in front of my external cooking device, otherwise known as a BBQ, looking at the rash of flames dancing […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

I hate to be a killjoy but as I was sitting in front of my external cooking device, otherwise known as a BBQ, looking at the rash of flames dancing in the base of the barbie, it struck me the carbon footprint associated with it was anything but carbon-friendly.

Little danger of singeing my fringe, that went long ago, but making things far worse when the “instant lighting” charcoal is a damp squib which takes an age to get going, compelling you to add an accelerant in the form of some methylated spirits.

It’s not only the method of cooking itself but what we endeavor to cook – burgers and sausages come with their own immense carbon footprint via those cattle and pigs out there with much more emissions to consider!

This is where vegetarians and vegans are without doubt helping cut greenhouse gas emissions while the carnivores are stoking it up. No problems with simple veg like onions, mushrooms and peppers – as long as they’re locally grown of course.

These impromptu thoughts of – and concerns around – carbon footprints sparked me to do a little research and lo! Most of the papers on the web emanate from the good old US.

Gas vs Charcoal BBQ

The findings were quite stark in that the footprint of a charcoal barbecue will be around three times that of a propane gas-fired event. Stating the obvious, the gas BBQ has no warm-up time and doesn’t need any accelerants whereas the charcoal one will last much longer and incinerate large quantities of fat during the cooking process, releasing not only CO2 but particulates into the atmosphere.

On the plus side, charcoal, which has to be manufactured and transported, may be more environmentally-friendly if produced from farmed timber while propane is a fossil fuel. A tad cautionary on the figures – they were again from the US where it’s more likely a whole cow/pig will have been on the spit…

The UK electric cooker

By comparison, using a standard, boring UK electric cooker grill would actually only produce around a third of the emissions compared to the gas-fired outdoor cook so it is by far the most carbon-efficient method of cooking of the three types mentioned.

When the effects of my summer domestic cooking habits are multiplied by the apparent 60 million other BBQs held in the UK each year (more as the climate warms), they can be seen to be a major cause of extra emissions. And with all the packaging, paper plates and one-use tissues, etc., a barbecue has to be seen as a pretty environmentally-unfriendly practice.

I’m surprised we don’t hear more on the damage the humble BBQ causes. Could it be because those in the environmental lobby actually enjoy BBQs themselves?

Surely there’s a copper-bottomed case for the Government to set up a quango to produce inane Nanny-state guidelines on how we can improve this situation?

It’s more likely to probably exist and we haven’t even noticed – but will it be heading for the bonfire?

Mervyn Bowden is the Managing Director of Intuitive Energy Solutions Ltd.