Secrets of a Sustainable Summer Cookout

Rebekah Dunstan, Program Coordinator, North Carolina State University Sustainability Office

June 8, 2017

Secrets of a Sustainable Summer Cookout

It’s cookout season, and there are tons of cookout options that will make your summer party more sustainable. Here are our favorite ways to make a summer cookout a sustainable cookout.

Impressive Invitations

Throwing a large summer gathering? Avoid paper waste by sending electronic invitations instead of printed ones. Bonus: they’re much cheaper (actually, they’re probably free) and your guests can RSVP online with just one click.

Feast on Local Food

Did you know that the average food item travels 1,500 miles to get to your plate? That extra transportation takes time and money. Instead, stop by your local farmer’s market to pick up fresh fruit and veggies for your cookout. There’s nothing like fresh tomatoes, corn, green beans and juicy watermelon to spice up a summer cookout. These veggie recipes are super easy and even better when made with local produce. Looking for a refreshing take on water? Try these fruit-infused water recipes. Another creative use for fruit: delicious dessert pizza. Try this July 4 recipe and impress your friend with creative, patriotic designs and fruit combinations.

Buy in Bulk

Have a large cookout guest list? Buying in bulk will save you money and reduce the amount of packaging waste.

Here are some great items to buy in bulk.


Ask guests to bring their own cups instead of using disposable cups that end up in local landfills. Bonus: when everyone brings a cup, you’ll spend less time searching for yours in a sea of look-a-like disposables.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

It’s easy and helps reduce waste sent to landfills. Check out this handy chart for picking the perfect sustainable supplies:


 Better Choice

 Best Choice

Plastic plates

Paper plates (compostable if your are composting)

“Real” or reusable plates

Bottled water, Styrofoam cups, Plastic cups

Paper cups (compostable if your are composting)

“Real” or reusable cups

Single serving condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayo, sugar, etc.)

Bulk use condiment containers (such as a bottle of ketchup or jar of mayo)

Refillable condiment containers

Plastic silverware

Silverware made from a compostable material

“Real” silverware

Plastic tablecloths

Paper tablecloths

Washable tablecloths

Prepackaged sandwiches or meals

Finger foods

Single use decorations such as balloons and streamers

Live or edible decorations such as food or plants

Reusable decorations such as art

Pick Propane

If you’re grilling, propane is the cleanest burning fuel (meaning better air quality for you) and also the easiest to manage.

CFL Bug Lights

It’s not a North Carolina summer without mosquitos and other biting bugs. Avoid the toxins of bug repellent by strategically placing eco-friendly bug lights at your cookout.

Go forth and savor a sustainable summer cookout!

From NC State University’s Change Your State website.

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