If you are concerned about the climate-damaging emissions of your next barbecue, then swap beef and barbecue cheese for vegetables, sausages or pork. This is scientifically proven by TÜV Rheinland, an independent, German organization which provides technical services worldwide.  The specialists conducted a comparative life cycle assessment for barbecuing. Why Germany? Maybe because the country turns into a nation of private barbecue masters every summer – and is known for exact scientific work in any aspect of life . The assessment involves calculating the emissions and other environmental effects over the entire life cycle of a product – from manufacture, transportation and sale to usage and recycling. Ralf Martin Müller, project manager for life cycle assessments at TÜV Rheinland: “As far as environmental impact is concerned, the choice of barbecue food has long been far more important than whether you use a charcoal, gas or electric barbecue. Animal products, for example, have a much greater environmental impact across the entire life cycle than vegetables.”

For this study, the specialists from TÜV Rheinland analysed the environmental impact of an entire evening barbecue for two families of eight people each. A charcoal-fired barbecue, a disposable charcoal-fired barbecue as well as a gas and an electric barbecue were used. The first items to be barbecued were 400 g each of beef, pork and chicken, beef and pork sausages as well as feta and corn. The result? Depending on the barbecue type (gas, charcoal, electric), total emissions were between 17.5 kg and 18 kg of CO2 equivalents (CO2e), corresponding to one car journey of around 120 km in a medium-sized vehicle. The biggest polluters were beef, with emissions of 2.9 kg of CO2 equivalents per 200 g of grilled meat and barbecue cheese (1.9 kg of CO2e per 200 g). Pork and sausages yielded much better results, while grilled corn turned out to be the most environmentally friendly, producing just 50 g of CO2e emissions. The specialists also barbecued a special “climate-optimised” feast, which contained neither beef nor grilled cheese, but instead 560 g of the other barbecue food for the eighth person in each family. The results were clear: climate-relevant emissions were down 18%. As Müller says, this proves that conscientious buying can benefit the environment and that going without barbecue cheese or beef is an easy way to reduce the impact of your barbecue on the environment.

Analysis of the entire barbecue process – from the manufacture of each individual barbecue and production of barbecue food through to the actual process of barbecuing and the subsequent disposal of the barbecue equipment – shows that the barbecue food itself accounts for almost 95% of climate-relevant emissions. Nevertheless, the specialists also examined the environmental impact of the different types of barbecue. Again in terms of climate-relevant emissions, the best option is the electric barbecue, which produces 0.5 kg of CO2e. This is followed by the conventional charcoal-fired barbecue as well as the gas and disposable barbecue, which each produce around 1 kg of CO2e. In terms of the consumption of material, the gas and disposable barbecue were the worst performers: the gas barbecue because it uses a non-renewable resource for the production of the required butane, and the disposable barbecue precisely because it can only be used once. And when it comes to waste avoidance, the disposable barbecue is obviously the least favourable option too.

In this study, TÜV Rheinland focused exclusively on environmental aspects, particularly the impact of greenhouse gases (e.g. methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide), energy efficiency and raw material requirements. The purchase price or quality of the barbecue and food (e.g. taste) played no part in the study.

Photo by CMSeter.