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Aug 26, 2013

Green Up Your Labor Day

by Margaret George

Have you ever pondered the real meaning of Labor Day? Well, it is our cherished end-of-the-summer, three-day weekend placed on the calendar to celebrate workers’ economic and social contributions. While we have all played a role in some manner, take advantage of this Labor Day weekend by making a different type of contribution — one to our planet and its ecosystem.

Planning for a more environmentally sustainable picnic or barbecue will save you some cash and help improve the quality of air we breathe. It could also prove to be a valuable learning experience for children, giving them a leg up on sustainability lessons that many schools now include in their curriculum.

Here are a few quick tips:

Mmm Grilling. Time your meal so that the grill isn’t releasing emissions all day. Use propane rather than charcoal or, better yet, convert your grill to a natural gas burning appliance if your home is so equipped. If guests are fashionably late or awkwardly early, the most environmentally method of handling cooked food is keeping one side of the grill turned low to keep it warm.

You said food? While planning the offerings from the grill, think about carnivals where you can pretty much order any type of food-on-a-stick. Metal skewers can hold hot dogs or kebobs or corn so that it isn’t necessary to use a plethora of non-recyclable paper plates and plastic eating ware. Besides, metal skewers are washable and they are efficient in retaining heat.

Also, look for locally sourced, certified organic or grass fed beef, or opt for meatless grilling all together. There are a number of benefits to be had.

Drinks. Drinks! Set a plastic bag or cardboard box next to the garbage and clearly label it “bottles and cans,” so when guests pitch their beverages, the containers are already on the way to “repurposeville.” One sustainable party planner,, suggests asking guests to BYOC (bring your own cups). If plastic cups are a must, however, provide a Sharpie and allow friends to mark their cup. That way the cups don’t get lost or tossed, plus it’s fun for everyone!

Compost? Sure, grow on! If you have a garden at home, remember that scraps of leftovers can be converted into fertilizing fuel that could make your plots of vegetables and flowers gardens flourish so much so that Martha Stewart would be envious.

Ew. Wait. What? Oh, and when you brush your teeth after that scrumptious barbecue, guess what? You can recycle your toothbrush. Yes, toothbrushes are often repurposed into decking or picnic tables.