How to make your summer grilling more sustainable

Grilling season is here. Americans love their grilling classics, consuming an average of 20 billion sausage/hot dog links per year and 50 billion burgers annually. 

However, as concerns about climate change grow, we need to take a look at how our meat choices affect the environment. The meat and dairy industry as a whole constitutes 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Beef is the largest producer of greenhouse gasses, with 60 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of beef produced. This is partially due to the fact that cows produce methane as a part of their digestive process which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Cattle farming is also a large cause of deforestation as ranchers have destroyed hundreds of thousands of square miles of rainforests, a significant carbon sink. Pork, a common ingredient in hot dogs, is lower on the list, just above poultry.

This summer, try out some plant based alternatives to hamburgers and hot dogs to help reduce your carbon footprint. There are a wide array of plant based hamburgers to choose from. This guide ranked the Impossible Burger ground beef as the best option out there if you’re looking for something as close to a traditional hamburger as you can get. Check out the other 19 burgers ranked here.

Want to replace your hot dogs? In addition to carrot dogs, here are seven options from VegNews which include the Beyond Sausage and the brand Lightlife which is the original vegan hot dog company.

If you want to take things even further, consider how you are grilling as well. Burning charcoal releases carbon dioxide and if it’s not pure (which there are no regulations about in the U.S.) it can release other contaminants as many charcoals contain many additives including coal, metal, plastic, and resin. Propane and natural gas-fired grills emit less pollution than charcoal but are still burning fossil fuels. The best options would be an electric grill connected to a renewable energy source or a solar grill. 

Outdoor grilling does not make up a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, so if you’re truly looking to make an impact, focus on your food.


Written by Sarah Woodams ’24(T5)

Photo by Zac Cain on Unsplash

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