It's that time of year again. There's a blush of color in the trees, the air is getting crisp, and football season is in full swing. The perfect time for tailgating.
Before going much further: a reality check. There's not much green about the idea of transporting thousands of people to a football arena, jetting teams around the country, and cleaning up tons of trash after the final down. If you want a truly eco-friendly tailgating party, skip the stadium. Watch the game on TV and invite a few friends over for barbecue in the driveway.
But greener living doesn't always have to mean doing without. It's about doing better. So if you've got your heart set on a traditional pregame party with alumni, fans, and family, here are a few ideas to green-up your party and demonstrate that almost anything can be made a bit more sustainable.
The Green Barbecue
Forget the charcoal starter and opt for natural briquettes
Your lowest-impact grilling option is propane. Sure, propane is a fossil fuel - but it burns a lot cleaner than charcoal or wood fires. Propane also leaves behind less waste, and is particularly convenient when you're cooking away from home.
If you're going the charcoal route, consider something like Greenlink's All Natural Briquettes. They're made from environmentally friendly wood sources and renewable plant wastes such as coconut husks. Unlike conventional briquettes, Greenlink doesn't use clay or anthracite fillers.
Forget the charcoal starter: it's rich in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which you don't want in your food or in the air. Use an electric starter. If that's not practical, a good-quality charcoal chimney will get those coals glowing in minutes using nothing more than a sheet or two of newspaper.
Maybe you're easing back on your meat consumption for the sake of the environment. That doesn't mean you'll have to settle for trail mix at your tailgate party. Check out the Vegetarian Kitchen's tasty suggestions for veggie barbecue.
Not ready to give up on burgers and hot dogs? If you've not tried Boca's burger patties or one of the great vegetarian franks you'll find in most grocery's freezer sections, you're in for a surprise. A tip: veggie hot dogs are better boiled than grilled. You can always steam them in foil when you're ready to serve.
As for the rest of the meal, go with local, seasonal produce and plug in your favorite recipes. The great thing about tailgating season is that it coincides with the biggest selection of the year down at the farmer's market. Bon appetit.
Ditching the Disposables
It's tempting to break out the paper plates and plastic cutlery when you're eating away from home. They're certainly convenient, but most dining disposables end up in the environment or clogging local landfills, rather than finding their way into the recycling stream.
It's really not much of a hassle to bring some dishes from home. They needn't be your everyday ware: picking up a set of lightweight plastic place settings is a great outdoor investment, and you can probably find them secondhand for next to nothing at a garage sale or thrift store. Carry them home for washing in a lock-top box.
If you really need disposables that won't make a mess of Mother Nature, check out Cereplast's line of compostable cutlery. They're made from a bio-resin derived from corn and potato starch.
A little entertainment
Crank your own tunes! The Eton Emergency Radio
If you're fit enough to roll with the Tour de France, you can always follow the big game on a bicycle-powered television set.
For the less obsessive, there's the Eton FR300 Emergency Radio . You'll probably have a great-sounding car radio to turn up at the tailgate site, but the FR300 is ideal for catching the play-by-play in the stands. It can be crank-operated, which means no need for AC power and zero battery waste. The FR300 has a TV audio section and will even recharge a dead cell phone battery in a pinch. It's a smart radio to have on hand for emergencies, and a subtle way to demonstrate alternative-powered consumer devices for friends.