Backyard cooking usually invokes a cloud of smoke hovering over both barbeque and cooker, hardly presenting an image of eco-friendly earth practices. But The Guardian reports barbeques can in fact help flight climate change with just a few simple steps. Recently, climate change expert Durwood Zaelke pointed out that bbqs can be rigged to generate rather than consume energy, all through the use of biochar.

Biochar is an extremely stable type of charcoal that is made from heating crop wastes, wood or other biomasses. It creates energy instead of consuming it, as it releases more combustible gases than needed to produce heat. In some parts of the world, a special stove creates biochar, turning it into a charcoal that can be mixed into soils to boost crops. This process allows the captured carbon in the biochar to “sequester” for thousands of years in the soil. In the meantime, it boosts crop productivity. Biochar contains microscopic pores great for housing helpful bacteria and fungi for soil nutrients.

Zaelke, who is president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, believes that these outdoor ovens could be applied on a large scale throughout the westernized world. As he told the Guardian, “Done on a wide scale, this could help people of all political persuasions to painlessly do their bit to tackle climate change, at the same time as adding to the productivity of their gardens.”

Zaelke focuses his efforts on reducing the quick-warming chemicals that go into our air. Black carbon, methane tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorcarbons all warm the planet much as carbon dioxide does. But unlike carbon dioxide, which is warming the planet over a thousand years, they do so in short bursts and then cool down. As Zaelke points out, cutting them out from the atmosphere may promote cooler temperatures more quickly.

Further, using a biochar barbeque would in fact help suck CO2 out of the air and return it to the soil, where it could enhance crops. While it would be on a smaller scale, experts believe that if sufficient amounts of biochar were produced, the planet could reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. In the meantime, crops would be enhanced to the point of increased food production. And as Zaelke points out to the Guardian with a wink, "It would help make sure my environmental friends don't criticize me when I'm grilling my steak.”

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