It's that time of year. The air is crisp and football season is in full swing — the perfect time for tailgating.

Before we go 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, we've rounded up a few ideas to green your party and demonstrate that almost anything can be made more sustainable.

The green barbecue

Your lowest-impact grilling option is propane. Sure, propane is a fossil fuel, but it burns a lot cleaner than charcoal or wood. 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.

Earth-friendly eats

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 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 beginning of tailgating season is that it coincides with the biggest selection of the year at the farmers market. Bon appetit.

Organic brew

Green beer isn't just for St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, we're talking organic — not color.

Organic beer has really taken off in the past few years. Even big players like Anheuser-Busch have gotten into the act, which means organic brew may be sold wherever you normally buy groceries. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or most local natural food stores also carry organic beer lines.

Wolaver's is currently the largest national distributor of all-organic beers. Its pale ale is a good choice for warm-weather tailgating. It's traditional to drink heavier brews once there's a snap to the autumn air. In any case, it's an excuse to sample Wolaver's award-winning Brown Ale or Oatmeal Stout. You'll find similar organic selections from Peak Brewing and Goose Island Beer Company.

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 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 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. For other ideas on cutting picnic waste, see our article on dining without disposables.

A little entertainment

Crank your own tunes with the Eton Emergency Radio.

If you're fit enough to roll with the Tour de France (and perhaps a bit crazy), you can always follow the big game on a bicycle-powered television set like these inventive fellows.

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 cellphone 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.

What can you add to this list? Feel free to leave your green ideas in the comment section below.

Copyright Lighter Footstep 2008

Chairs photo: Robert S. Donovan/Flickr
MNN homepage photo: sjlocke/iStockphoto

5 easy ways to green your tailgate party
Tailgating season is winding down, but football is still in the air. Can you make a stadium outing less of a green disaster? Try these tips and find out.