How to Host a Zero Waste BBQ

Summer Solstice has arrived and everything is aglow. People are flocking into parks, beaches, and front lawns and grilling like it's the only way we know how to cook. Summer is a wonderful time in the Pacific Northwest.

So you're planning a barbeque.  Maybe you invited a bunch of your friends over for veggie burgers and beers and now you're not sure how to keep it zero waste.  And yeah, maybe some of your friends are gonna start seeing you as a hippie, but hey what better thing to be than a zero waste queen (or king!)?

Here are a few of our favorite ways to throw a Zero Waste Barbeque.

1. Reusables

If there's one simple way to keep your event waste free, it's using all reusable plates and silverware.  Did you know it takes 8 gallons of water to make one paper plate?

Washing the dishes at the end won't be as hard as you think.  I like to take a bucket of rain water or leftover shower water and leave it on the porch (or in my case, dock) for every one to leave their plates in, so you can rinse all the food residue off and make them easy to clean.

I love wooden plates, because they're lightweight without being plastic, and a little more chic than metal camping plates.  Plus, they're super storable.  These ones are made of Acacia which is one of the more sustainable wood species to harvest.

Or try making these edible utensils

2. Stainless Steel Kabobs

Hamburgers, hot dogs, and buns all come in plastic packaging.  But you know what doesn't?  Produce!

Get a set of stainless steel kabobs and try your hand at grilling a colorful stack of onions, peppers, potatoes, and whatever else your heart desires.

You can think outside the box (literally) and pick up meat or fish from a butcher so it doesn't come in packaging.  Ballard Market usually lets me pick up from their meat and fish counter with my own container!

Williams Sonoma Reusable Stainless Steel Skewers

3. Buy in Bulk

Get your shopping in a day or two before, and take the extra time to peruse the bulk aisle for chips, trail mix, or other snacks you could serve.  Bulk is always better.  Plus, it's cheaper.

Did you know that an item's packaging can be up to 14% of its cost?

Zero Waste Refill Counter


This is a good idea even if you're on your way to a friend's barbeque: instead of picking up that sixer of your favorite beverage, bring a growler and fill it up at a local brewery or grocer!  Yes, glass bottles and aluminum cans are recyclable, but they still take energy to produce and to break down.  Plus, if you get something on tap, you're usually supporting a local brand which is a plus.

5. Eat seasonally

A great way to reduce your footprint is to choose produce that's in season from local farms.  Produce that is out of season where you live or that comes from other countries travels farther, thus producing more carbon on its way to your plate.  If you go to your local farmer's market, you'll probably find organic, fresh, beautiful produce that has better taste and is often cheaper than what you'd find in the grocer. 

Not sure what's in season?  Check out our Local PNW Foods Wheel.

Berries at the Farmer's Market

6. Prepare ahead of time

A big part of being zero waste is planning ahead. 

Swing by your local farmer's market if you have time, and pick up local produce to throw on the grill.

Start the ice trays a couple days in advance and store them in a large bowl (or several) in your freezer so no one feels the need to bring plastic bags of ice!  Simply store in an outdoor cooler, and every one can toss their drinks or food in together.

7. Tell yo friends

Let every one know what you're trying to do, and encourage them to bring their favorite cup or mug, their own set of ToGoware reusable utensils, or a bandana to use as a napkin.  Raising awareness about the problems associated with single use plastic products is such an important part of this lifestyle.

 Friends Barbecuing with Reusables

Image source: Toto

And of course, don't forget to tag us in your Zero Waste summer BBQ photos!

Have ideas for a low impact barbeque?  Stories from throwing a successful waste free gathering?  Share them in the comments below.