Skip to main content
Kitchen & Cooking

Party time! Here's how to throw a low-waste barbecue

Investing in a few sustainable products can go a long way.

Steel reusable cups, recyclable utensils, drink dispenser with drinks inside, family of three barbecuing outdoors. Credit: Reviewed /Greens Steel / Bamboodlers / Estilo / Getty Images / StefaNikolic

Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

As the impacts of climate change become more evident, many of us are adapting our lifestyles and strengthening our focus on sustainable practices and eco-friendly products.

And in a lot of ways, sustainability has become completely intertwined with our daily lives. From electric vehicles to plant-based food alternatives, we're often choosing sustainable products and practicing these habits effortlessly. But what about when it comes to something like hosting a summer barbecue?

You may not even think about it, but hosting a gathering like this can produce a lot of waste. Things like plastic water bottles, single-use cutlery, and canned beverages make it easy to host but add up to be major landfill contributors.

Luckily, we have solutions! It's possible (and easy) to host a sustainable barbecue that's fun, effective, and just as convenient. And soon enough, following these tips will become just as effortless as drinking from a reusable water bottle.

1. Encourage a BYO-vibe

Friends enjoying a barbecue together outdoors.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Rawpixel

The best thing to bring to a barbecue? Reusable goodies like flatware and food-safe containers, of course.

First step in hosting any successfully sustainable gathering? Make sure your guests are on board!

Most of the time, friends and family are already expecting to bring something to a gathering. Instead of an obligatory gift (or 12-pack of White Claw), encourage them to bring personal reusable items like tumblers or flatware. This kind of BYO approach can make a world of difference in cutting down on waste. (And it’s an especially helpful step if you're hosting a large group and are short on dinnerware.)

If they are planning to bring food, drinks, or desserts, remind them to bring any homemade goodies or cocktail mixes in reusable containers instead of single-use plastic or aluminum.

After meal time, you can toss everything in the same dishwasher load to either be returned to your guests before they leave or at the next gathering (a great excuse to make more summer plans!).

2. Opt for zero-waste options

Metal kabob skewers, glass drink dispenser, multi-colored reusable napkins, and metal straws.
Credit: Reviewed / Lanney / Estilo / Ruvanti / Sipwell

Ditch the endless cans and bottles that are sure to pile up during a barbecue and opt for a refillable glass dispenser.

When providing guests with your own materials, aim for as many zero-waste items as possible.

Some of the most common waste culprits at barbecues are beverages: Plastic bottles and aluminum cans can clog up recycling bins extremely fast (and most of it doesn't even get recycled).

These adorable glass drink dispensers are a great alternative. They come in a set of two, can hold up to one gallon in each jar, and include chalkboard labels to easily distinguish between beverages. Fill them with flavored water, lemonade, or homemade cocktails to keep the drinks flowing without going through dozens of single-use containers.

As for cups? Ditch the plastic red Solos and save the fancy glassware for indoor occasions. These toxin-free stainless steel cups are ideal for backyard sipping. Not only are they reusable and dishwasher safe, they'll also keep your drinks colder for longer, thanks to the stainless steel makeup. Don't forget to offer some reusable straws, too, for anyone who prefers to sip slowly.

When it comes to food, your day-to-day utensils are obviously preferred over plastic cutlery (and they're much more efficient for cutting meat). You can even invest in a new set specifically for outdoor dining in order to keep things separate. These cloth napkins are another great addition to summer parties, and the multicolor set can help keep track of whose is whose. Just toss them in the washing machine at the end of the night.

You can also swap any single-use wooden skewers for reusable stainless steel ones, and use Bee's Wrap for leftovers in place of plastic wrap. The more long-lasting items you invest in now, the less waste you'll produce at each upcoming barbecue.

3. Get compost-friendly alternatives

Compostable napkins, utensils and plates.
Credit: Reviewed / Bransio / Bamboodlers / Stack Man

Egg shells and coffee grounds aren't the only items that can be composted.

If you already have a compost bin, we probably don't have to tell you how much of a game changer it can be for turning waste into gardening gold. (If you don't have a bin yet or don't know where to start, let us introduce you to our beginner's composting guide.)

Putting all your food scraps into your compost bin during a barbecue is a no-brainer—just don't put leftover burgers or ribs in it! But what if you could compost other barbecue materials, too?

If reusable dishes, utensils, and napkins aren't feasible at your backyard party, compostable options are a great alternative. These wooden utensils are highly rated for being sturdy, splinter-resistant, and free from common chemicals you'll often find in plastic alternatives. They're also biodegradable and can be tossed in the compost bin after use.

You can also opt for single-use, compostable paper plates and napkins for an eco-friendly, no-clean-up option. You can even bring these along next time you're invited to a friend's barbecue, and spread sustainable habits beyond your home.

4. Grocery shop sustainably

Reusable grocery bags, produce bags, and an overflowing Misfits Market box on a pink and blue background.
Credit: Veno Bag / Misfits Market / Cottify / Reviewed

Sustainable hosting starts when you grocery shop.

BBQ waste goes beyond the dishware and cutlery. It starts right at the source: food.

When prepping for the big event, make sure to take inventory of whatever's in the fridge and pantry. (Read: Don't buy a whole new package of Kraft singles if there's some hidden in the back of the cheese drawer.)

When you hit the store, shop like you're on a mission. Make a detailed list of what you'll need to cook ahead of time, and carefully select appropriate portions so you're not overestimating how much food will get eaten. And don't forget to bring along your reusable produce and grocery bags!

Can't be bothered to go out? You can also opt to get your groceries sent to you. We love Misfits Market—the self-proclaimed "ugly" produce subscription service—because it ships food that would otherwise go to waste, and prioritizes local and seasonal produce to avoid cross-country shipments.

Related content

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or Flipboard for the latest deals, product reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.