Is it harder to be eco-friendly during the summer months?


File photo. File photo.

Teri Kent runs Charlottesville’s Better World Betty, a non-profit organization and online resource for locals looking to shrink their impact on the environment. Every month, Betty—Kent’s ’50s-housewife-meets-earth-goddess alter ego—answers the most burning eco-questions from our readers about energy use, water, waste and recycling, transportation, and green buying.

Is there such thing as a “green” way to grill?

Grilling, just like winter campfires and chimney fires, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. So what’s a “cleaner” burning grill method for the planet: charcoal, electric, propane, or solar?

Since more than half of our power in Virginia is generated by coal plants, I vote against electric models. Solar grills do exist, and perhaps with expected heat waves are more and more viable, but the nice ones are out of my budget.

It comes down to this: charcoal is dirtier, but can come from renewable resources; gas has a smaller carbon footprint, but is derived from non-renewable fossil fuels. Most charcoal is a cocktail of things like sawdust, corn starch and lighter fluid. When it’s burned, it can result in 105 times more carbon monoxide than burning propane and lots of harmful volatile organic compounds.

So propane gas grilling won out for me as the best eco-option, producing 5.6 lbs of carbon dioxide compared to charcoal’s 11 lbs of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Propane also produces less soot than charcoal grills.

Can’t do without charcoal? The good news is that lump charcoal doesn’t have all those nasty additives. Pay attention to labels and look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. They have stringent guidelines that require the use of sustainably harvested wood. Some brands, like Greenlink and Kamado, even use leftover coconut husks. Stay away from liquid lighter fluid by using natural wood lighters or cubes.

Finally, if you’re replacing an old grill, clean it thoroughly and then deliver it to our local scrap metal dealer Cycle Systems (formerly Coiners Scrap and Metal) on Meade Avenue. Propane tanks get recycled ad infinitum at any Blue Rhino exchange center.

What are eco-friendly ways to keep the mosquitoes away (from homes and off bodies)?

Try mixing six drops each of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper into 30mL of organic soy oil, and you’ll have your own homemade, all-natural, DEET-free insect repellent.

As for keeping mosquitoes away from your home, remember to always remove any standing water from gutters, potted plants, wheelbarrows, and buckets. For bird baths or water features, try to change water at least once a week so the little bugs won’t have standing water in which to breed. Spraying garlic on garden plants and shrubs is known to keep the insects away from your yard for about four weeks.—Teri Kent


Going green at work: Charlottesville’s Better Business Challenge, a year-long competition to encourage companies to cut back on waste and energy consumption, wraps up this week with an awards ceremony at the Paramount Theater. More than 70 businesses, schools, and churches participated this year. Efforts include a massive composting operation for city apartment dwellers, lighting retrofits that translated to big electricity savings, and recycling programs that have kept more than 44,000 tons of material out of landfills. The awards event starts at 5:30pm Thursday, June 19; tickets are $25 at the door.  

Water, water, everywhere: On Saturday, June 21, Wild Virginia is teaming up with Trout Unlimited to train citizen volunteers to conduct water quality monitoring. The course will cover chemical monitoring on water samples, measuring stream flow, testing water temperatures and turbidity, and conducting visual assessments. The event begins at 9am at the Ivy Creek Natural Area education building.

Garden gurus: What better way to spend the first day of summer than in a garden? On Saturday, June 21, check out the International Refugee Committee’s Cultivate C’ville Urban Farm and Garden Tour, which will showcase five gardens that have been tended by refugees from Bhutan, Burma, and Burundi. Tours will be offered at 9:30am, 10:30am, and 11:30am. Get the details at

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