Friday, 28 May 2010

Ostentatious Consumption

Rebecca Seal in the ‘Guardian’ on that tricky question of how to ensure that your barbeque is as eco-friendly as possible:
Last year, in spite of the dire summer, we hardy Brits had 120m barbecues, making us the barbecue capital of Europe, according to the National Barbecue Association. The "alfresco eating industry" is worth £7bn annually (presumably companies making rainproof gazebos and waterproof fleece are also doing well), but, unfortunately, few of us realise how environmentally unfriendly a traditional barbecue can be.
I think that ought to read: ‘few of us care’, don’t you?
Those who think an outdoor gas grill is the green solution are quick to point out that charcoal releases more than 100 times as much carbon monoxide as gas. But although it's true that gas is a more efficient fuel for cooking, charcoal is carbon neutral as it releases carbon tied up temporarily in the tree it was made from.
And we wouldn’t want to be too efficient, would we? Not when we can be less
Most charcoal briquettes are made from hardwood culled from tropical forests that could do with being left alone. And they are also usually doused with firelighter solutions which can taint your food. The solution is to buy British lumpwood charcoal from sustainable sources, such as coppiced trees in managed woodland and forests.
Hmm, sounds a bit on the pricy side, doesn’t it?
Sarah Mooney from Bioregional, an entrepreneurial charity that sells British charcoal (available from Homebase and Sainsbury's, from £7 a bag), says: "Our charcoal has a more open structure than hardwood charcoals, so it doesn't need to be impregnated with lighter fuel. It burns for far longer so, although it's a bit more expensive, you'll use much less."
Yikes! £7 a bag! I should hope so! I'd expect it to go all night for that price.
Start your barbecue using twists of rolled-up newspaper, with the charcoal stacked on top, or natural firelighters such as those from If You Care (available from goodnessdirect.co.uk, 72 for £3.97), which are made from wood and vegetable oils.
Why not encourage people to rub two sticks (of sustainable British wood, natch) together..? Or would that be a health and safety risk?
You could also build your own barbecue using an oven rack and some old bricks, or an old oil drum cut in half – you'll have to weigh up the ethical points scored by not buying something new against less efficient cooking.
Mmm, weighing up ethical points. Yes, that’s certainly always on my mind when I’m planning a BBQ…
Rather than using paper plates, stock up on crockery from charity shops or buy palm leaf plates that biodegrade (25 plates, £11.99).
£11.99!!!

At this rate, I won’t be able to afford any food for this BBQ. Let’s hope that that’s not also an ethical minefie…

Oh.
Finally the food. There are far more interesting and ethical things to cook than cheap beefburgers, sausages, or Day-Glo chicken. Ben Spice, head chef at Acorn House and Water House, two of London's most environmentally friendly restaurants, suggests farmed tilapia fish or arctic char. "Unlike lots of farmed fish, tilapia is not fed dried fishmeal (which could have come from all sorts of untraceable, endangered fish), but sustainable organic matter. Similarly, farmed arctic char, a pale pink fish halfway between salmon and trout, barbecues well and is also fed on traceable fish meal. M&J Seafood is good for both."
They don’t say how much it costs, this time. I suspect I know why…
Both he and Henry Dimbleby, a restaurateur and founder of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, agree that squid is also a great choice. "It's the most sustainable fish at the moment, as we have overfished their predators and they're multiplying with abandon," says Dimbleby.
Thanks to our ‘green’ waste disposal efforts, so are rats and foxes. Want me to throw one of those on my barbie too..?

Seriously, who, other than neurotic Guardianista, can afford to concern themselves with this sort of thing?

21 comments:

Mr Eugenides said...

Now, I enjoy a nice piece of farmed tilapia as much as the next guy, but this reminds me of so many BBQs I have been to where people f*ck everything up by trying to be too clever.

Some chargrilled squid? Gorgeous. But then I want a steak...

TheBigYin said...

Ah, those nasty, nasty BBQ's, apart from being ever so un eco friendly they give you cancer too, it's in the smoke you see...and the charring of the food.

Joe Public said...

Don't forget you also need the gas-fired patio heater that keeps the birds (feathered) warm.

Mrs Erdleigh said...

Oh dear, Rebecca won't like my new barbecue then ...

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2559/3751434212_953cf8efc2.jpg

John R said...

Rather than steak, burgers or even ethically raised fish or squid I prefer to barbeque eco-warriors.

There seems to be an inexhaustable supply of greenies of one form or another so I think I'm just helping keep their population under control rather than making them extinct. They are, unfortunately, a bit wet but a few extra minutes over the charcoal seems to sort them out OK.

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

This is a wind-up, of course.

Anonymous said...

charcoal is carbon neutral as it releases carbon tied up temporarily in the tree it was made from

Isn't that true for coal and oil too?

English Viking said...

Loads of steak, chicken wings, the odd shish kebab, plenty of bacon burgers and a few bangers, all swilled down with a crate of lager. Bootiful.

I am now so fed up with all this eco nonsense I will not buy anything that is described as 'green' or 'eco-friendly' and go out of my to create as much carbon dioxide as possible.

Simon Cooke said...

I hate bbqs - wholly pointless when I've a fully equipped kitchen 20 feet away. However, on discovery of how evil they are I now face a dilemma!

BBQs it is this summer - I'll stick one on the back of my pick up

English Viking said...

Are you sure this stuff produces carbon MONoxide, and not DIoxide?

Sounds a bit dangerous to me. Still, there's probably a friendly Town-Hall inspector with a lethal gas-measuring device to 'help' me.*

* i.e. Ban it.

Umbongo said...

" . . and Henry Dimbleby, a restaurateur and founder of the Sustainable Restaurant Association . "

Oh look - Henry, yet another Dimbleby - taking his place among the Righteous.

Mrs Rigby said...

"palm leaf plates that biodegrade (25 plates, £11.99)"

At that price I'd want to be able to eat them!

Chuckles said...

Rebecca definitely needs to look to George H. Goble for advice on minimising barbeque times and carbon footprints and the like. He's done a lot of research into bio-degradable barbeques, just not perhaps in the way she might consider.
George is also a professor, his initials are GHG, and licence plate of one of his vehicles is GHG-1. Oh, and he has an Ig Nobel prize for his work on barbeques -

http://www.ambrosiasw.com/Ambrosia_Times/September_95/2.5HowTo.html

http://youtube.com/watch?v=sab2Ltm1WcM

I did suggest to him that he try some chlorine trifluoride instead, but he declined.

Anonymous said...

FFs! I got as far as your comment 'few of us care' thought 'yes' to that & couldn't read any more. All this PC rubbish gives me the urge to twist arms out of sockets & stamp on fingers - AND ensure that I have lots & lots & lots of B-B-Q this summer

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

If I rightly recall, plates for smashing at Lincoln's finest Greek restaurant were ten for eleven quid. That seems to make the palm tree ones quite good value. But I bet they don't smash quite so splendidly.

TheBigYin said...

Brian, sorry to bust your bubble but you can no longer smash plates in a Greek restaurant, it's against elf & safety ya know! Bollocks!!!

blueknight said...

The Grauniad knows how to take the fun out of everything.
Just wondering, looking several posts ahead, whether there is a Guardian approved guide to ethical 'dogging'.

JuliaM said...

"...this reminds me of so many BBQs I have been to where people f*ck everything up by trying to be too clever."

Indeed. It's as if they've forgotten the primary purpose of a barbeque.

"...apart from being ever so un eco friendly they give you cancer too..."

Is there anything that doesn't, these days?

"Oh dear, Rebecca won't like my new barbecue then"

Heh!

"This is a wind-up, of course."

I'd like to think so, but...

JuliaM said...

"I hate bbqs - wholly pointless when I've a fully equipped kitchen 20 feet away."

Given the usual British summer, that's always handy... ;)

"Oh look - Henry, yet another Dimbleby - taking his place among the Righteous."

Is he one of the Dimblebys?

"At that price I'd want to be able to eat them!"

Me too! I've BBQ'd large prawns wrapped in leek before. Tasty!

"I did suggest to him that he try some chlorine trifluoride instead, but he declined."

:D

JuliaM said...

"Just wondering, looking several posts ahead, whether there is a Guardian approved guide to ethical 'dogging'."

I'd never be surprised to see one, frankly...

Gibby Haynes said...

...tropical forests that could do with being left alone.

Should've evolved deterrents to stop us then, eh? Stupid trees.

Any who, I'm like 99.7% of people when they have a barbecue. I'm only interested in shoving cheeseburgers and sausages in my face. If I have to punch Mother Earth in the sex hole to do that, then so be it.