• The warm weather is calling us to gather and celebrate the holiday weekend outdoors! In addition to celebrating dad this Father’s Day, let’s celebrate the environment and make sure our Father’s Day celebrations are as environmentally friendly as possible.

Check out these five tips on how to make your Father’s Day barbecue mother nature approved:

1. Eat Less Beef

The beef industry is not pretty. The beef industry is a large contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and it’s resource-intensive to raise beef cattle to produce meat. The amount of land, water, labor, and other resources needed to feed and raise beef cattle is astronomical compared to the amount of resources needed just to produce crops which can be consumed by humans.

The beef industry has a very serious impact on our atmosphere. According to the USDA, the meat industry–including growing livestock feed–accounts for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The beef industry also contributes to deforestation, being the largest contributor to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. According to the Rainforest Partnership, the beef industry was responsible for “65 to 70 percent of all deforestation in the [Amazon] from 2000 to 2005”. Deforestation such as this occurs to make space for livestock feed crops and to host the livestock.

In addition, the amount of resources required to grow livestock feed crops far outweighs the caloric value of the meat products produced. According to recent research only “1 percent of the feed cattle consume is converted to calories that people consume from eating beef”. So when we grow crops to feed cattle, we effectively lose 99% of the crop’s energy or calories. That is a lot of wasted resources on a food product that is not great for your health and has negative impact on the environment.

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Now, I’m going to tell you something many vegetarians and vegans already know–cutting down on meat consumption has loads of health benefits. Since meat is so integral to many people’s diets, it is often challenging for people to step outside their comfort zones and consume more plant-based foods. But never fear! Making small changes to your diet here and there is a lot less scary than making major changes all of a sudden. Start slow and simple by reducing meat consumption in addition to eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains!

And yes, you can totally get enough protein from plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes.

2. Cut Down on Plastic Waste

One area to cut down on plastic waste is to avoid using plastic straws. In the United States we use and throw away over 500 million plastic straws per day! These straws never fully biodegrade and often aren’t recycled. If you’ve ever waited tables in a bar or restaurant, you may have first-hand experience with how many straws get thrown into the garbage each day.

So if you really love to use straws or need to use them, what can you do? You can purchase reusable or compostable straws. Most paper straws can be composted along with any food waste! Reusable straws, such as stainless steel or glass straws, can be washed out and used time and time again.

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3. Reduce Food Waste

First of all, it is important to know why reducing food waste is so crucial to preserving the environment. When organic material (food waste, yard debris, etc.) is thrown away and taken with other garbage to a landfill, it releases methane gas (CH4) as it decomposes. Methane gas is one of the major greenhouse gases that contributes to the greenhouse effect that depletes our ozone layer and warms our atmosphere. Methane is 35 times as potent as carbon dioxide (CO2), which also contributes to the greenhouse effect.

So what do we do about food waste? The first goal is to prevent food waste in the first place! Preventing food waste can be as simple as serving smaller portions. Often times the easiest way to do this is to use smaller plates! Start with small portions, take your time eating, and enjoy your meal.

So maybe you overestimated how hungry your guests would be and now you have more food than you know what to do with. Remedy this by sending your guests home with leftovers! Before the event, ask all your guests to bring one reusable container. The chances are good that your friends and family will be more than happy to take all that delicious food off your hands if you’ve made too much!

If you find yourself with food waste that you were unable to reduce, compost it instead of throwing it away. Composting will keep the food waste from ending up in a landfill and can be used as fertilizer for your garden! If you don’t have a garden, you can check with your city to see if they offer organics recycling bins along with your garbage and recycling collection bins. If that isn’t an option for you either, check with your local community center to see if they host an organics composting site.

4. Eat Local Foods

Eating foods from local sources is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Not only does buying local foods reduce CO2 emissions by reducing food miles, buying local foods also supports local businesses and farmers.

When we buy foods imported from other countries or shipped across the nation, we are purchasing food with a lot of food miles. By purchasing local foods, we cut down on the transportation needed to bring us those foods. This helps to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation vehicles such as planes, trucks, and boats.

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We can also think about food miles in terms of food waste. If we reduce food waste and compost the waste we produce locally, that is less greenhouse gas emissions entering our atmosphere!

Buying local is a wonderful way to support your local community! Check out your local farmer’s markets for fresh produce, homemade canned goods, jams and jellies, and so much more. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable grocery bag! Many vendors at farmer’s markets often don’t provide packaging or bags for you to take home.

Since most produce at supermarkets need to travel a long distances before they hit the shelves, the produce is generally picked before it’s ripe. When you eat local, you are also eating fresher foods! And the more fresh your produce is, the better it will taste.

5. Drink Responsibly

Six packs and cases of beer generate a fair amount of waste–albeit recyclable waste–but why not support your local brewery and pick up a growler instead? They are reusable and a great way to support your local businesses and community!

And when you’re not using them for beer, glass growlers can also be used as storage containers. They’re great for storing dry goods and liquids! I often use my small growlers to make cold brew coffee.

As always, please be sure to plan a sober ride home!

What are your favorite ways to be environmentally friendly? Let us know in the comments and have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend!