Red, white, blue ... and green!

Nothing quite says summer like a Fourth of July barbecue. The word alone can drum up nostalgic smells of summer — charcoal smoke wafting through the air, grilled hot dogs and burgers with perfect seared lines. According to the Sierra Club, 60 million people will be barbecuing on the Fourth, consuming enough energy to power 20,000 homes for a whole year.

For those who want to make sure they are celebrating red, white and blue while being as green as possible, one of the most important things they can do is pick the right kind of grill. Experts agree that the most energy efficient kind of grill is gas, followed by electric.

For those that can’t resist the charcoal flavor, there are many options out there — one that might offer a slightly different, woodsy taste, in the form of natural hardwood lump charcoal that allows food to cook at lower temperatures than the commercial charcoals that have potential cancer-causing chemicals.

Or, using traditional charcoal, but instead of lighter fluid that can release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many people are opting for chimney starters. Chimney starters resemble chimneys in that they are metal cylinders that have a separate top and bottom. Newspaper is placed in the bottom and lit, and the charcoal at the bottom lights first and works its way up — as it does in traditional home chimneys.

Philip Cappa, who uses a chimney starter because he doesn’t like the taste lighter fluids can give food on the grill, says an added bonus to the chimney starter is it is something that can be used for camping or other outdoor activities.

“What’s nice about it is you don’t need any kind of electricity or gas or anything,” he said. He also mentioned hardwood briquettes as an alternative to charcoal — something a neighbor told him can be bought at natural food stores, but he hasn’t yet tried them out himself.

There are many simple things can be done to reduce a backyard chef’s footprint this Independence Day — not only with their grill, but with their grub. They could keep it vegetarian by just grilling locally grown veggies, including local corn that is now available — or grill organic free-range beef or chicken from a local source.

Other ways to minimize the waste often seen at parties and, therefore, the party’s footprint, would be to get a head count before hand; to wash dishes instead of using paper plates; and to serve sodas and juices in large containers, with reusable cups, instead of in individual cans or bottles.

While it may be hard to give up the nostalgic smells that a summer barbecue can bring, it’s nice to know you don’t have to. Going with a barbecue for the red, white and blue doesn’t mean that things can’t be a little greener this holiday.

For more information on green grilling this Fourth of July, visit online. For more information on local food that can be the centerpiece on your green grill, visit