Memorial Day is sneaking up on me this year. I can’t believe it’s this weekend. Most people consider Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of the summer. Around my region, that means migrating to the Jersey Shore for the weekend. Those of us who don’t hit the beach head for the community pool or to backyard BBQs.

I’m not having a BBQ this weekend, but I do have plans to have a few throughout the summer. Here are some of the things that we can all do to green up our backyard BBQs.

  • If you can, use cloth tablecloths and napkins, and durable plates, utensils and cups. Sure it will take a while to wash it all, but think about all the plastic cups and utensils that will be going into landfills after your BBQ. Do you really want to add to that?
  • If you are going to use disposable, do it wisely. Find products that are made from recycled materials or that are biodegradable. Chinet makes sturdy paper plates that are made from recycled materials and are compostable in home composting. You can usually find them in the paper plate isle of your grocery store. If you want an easy, quick way to get all your more earth-friendly disposables at once, try ordering them from eco-products.
  • Using traditional plastic wear? It doesn't have to be thrown away. Put a big bowl by the trashcan with a sign on it that says, "Please put plastic utensils here." Wash them, and save them to be used again.
  • Do the plastic cup and Sharpie thing. Keep a black Sharpie by the plastic cups, and have people write their names on them so they don't use more than one cup for the afternoon. I used to hate it when people did this, but now I'm a fan.
  • Make some of your dishes from local, in season food. If you’re in a region where asparagus is in season, try this asparagus guacamole recipe.
  • Offer organic wine or organic beer choices and other beverage choices.
  • As an alternative to organic wine or beer, offer wine or beer from local wineries or breweries. By reducing the miles that the beverages have to traveled to reach you, you’ll be conserving fuel and reducing green house gas emissions.
  • Make recycling easy -- have clearly marked receptacles so people can easily put recyclables where they belong.
  • Be a trash picker when it's all done. I know it's gross, but pick out things from the trash that shouldn't be there and put them where they should.
  • Don't buy decorations that are going to be thrown away at the end of the evening. Use what you already have, borrow decorations or decorate sparsely.
  • Let your guests know that you are trying to be more environmentally responsible with your BBQ. If you don't let them know, it will be harder for them to help out.
  • Don't be the green, preachy police. Enjoy your event and do the best you can, but if someone uses two plastic cups, get over it.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Greening your Memorial Day BBQ
Memorial Day weekend means the unofficial start of summer and that means lighting up the grill. Here are some ways to green your BBQs all summer long.