Can you reuse charcoal? Yes, you can — old charcoal has multiple uses beyond the grill. Read on to find out more about the sustainability of charcoal, and 5 ways to reuse it.
In terms of carbon emissions, charcoal grills release more carbon particles and carbon dioxide compared to gas or propane grills, because they are literally burning carbon. But, this is not to say that charcoal is the least environmentally friendly way to grill.
How Does Charcoal Compare to Other Methods of Grilling?
Although other options, like LGP gas and propane, emit three times less carbon dioxide than charcoal when used for grilling, they are very fossil-fuel dependent. Fossil fuels are a non-renewable energy source and therefore rank very poorly in terms of sustainability.
Better than gas grilling and charcoal are electric and solar grills. These grills use renewable sources to power themselves, emitting less carbon and reducing the need for fossil fuels. They are however more expensive and not as easily available in stores.
If you do choose to use charcoal, be sure to source lump charcoal instead of the types that are ‘self-igniting’. Lump charcoal is made from pieces of roasted wood that could have otherwise been wasted. In theory, charcoal should be renewable because the trees used can be replanted. Charcoal that is ‘self-igniting’ is doused in additives and fluids that cause air pollution. When it comes to buying your charcoal in the store, look for the most natural option with the least additives and chemicals.
One of the most environmentally-friendly ways to grill with charcoal is to use local lump charcoal and avoid lighter fluids and accelerants. You could use a chimney starter available in stores across the country, or from Amazon**.
Can You Reuse Charcoal?
The answer is yes! You can reuse charcoal on your grill time and time again until it burns to ash. This is not just a more sustainable choice to make, but cheaper as well. Save yourself the time and money of going back to the shops when you want to start up the grill and reuse what charcoal you can, as much as you can.
There are other sustainable ways to reuse charcoal that does not just involve grilling. Follow this list of five things we recommend you do with your charcoal that has not yet burned to ash.
1. Add Old Charcoal to Your Compost Pile
Lump charcoal, made from wood, can be thrown into your compost pile. The old charcoal will help with the natural process of composting and enrich your compost. Do not however add the ashes from your BBQ, as these will make the soil too alkaline for the natural process of composting to occur.
2. Reuse Charcoal to Freshen the Air in Your Home
Charcoal naturally absorbs odors and moisture from the air. Using a fine mesh bag, collect some old charcoal, preferably smaller pieces, and place them inside. Hang the mesh bag around your home and enjoy odorless, fresh air. Or, place the bag in your shoes and never worry about smelly feet again.
3. Polish and Shine
You can polish silverware with used charcoal. Simply rub an old piece of charcoal on your silverware and watch as they start shining like new again.
Charcoal can also help to reduce rust. Because charcoal absorbs moisture, you can add a fine mesh bag, or old sock, filled with old charcoal to something like your toolbox, and rest assured your handy tools won’t get rusty.
4. Fertilize Your Garden
Old charcoal can help fertilize your garden, leaving you with a flourishing, healthy, and rich garden. Crush used charcoal and add it to your soil to help improve the alkalinity of your soil and absorb toxins. Your flower beds and bushes will be all the more grateful for it.
5. Help Your Flowers Last Longer
Old charcoal can also help keep your beautiful bouquet of flowers bursting with color for longer. Place a used piece of charcoal under the cut stems of your flowers in the vase, weighing it down with marbles or pebbles if needed. Change the water every four to five days.
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