For weeks you’ve counted down the days to kick-off and it is finally here. The college football season is in full swing. There are so many things to love about football season in the South, not the least of which is tailgating. The problem is you are one of millions of fans enjoying football every Saturday and Sunday, leaving huge amounts of waste and other negative impacts on the environment. The Environmental Protection agency (EPA) estimates that together the fans of NFL and college football games generate more than 40 million pounds of trash per year. If you would like to reduce your environmental impact but really can’t imagine the gridiron without the grill, there are ways to serve a brag-worthy but eco-friendly spread.
>> Plan to fire up the grill? While burning any fossil fuel releases carbon into the atmosphere, the lowest-impact grilling option is propane. It burns much cleaner than charcoal or wood and leaves behind less waste. It is also more convenient when you’re cooking away from home.
If you plan to use charcoal, you might try all-natural charcoal briquettes such as Coshell or Greenlink’s made from environmentally friendly wood sources and renewable plant wastes such as coconut husks. Unlike conventional briquettes, they do not contain clay or anthracite fillers. Avoid charcoal starter. Your food and your air are much better off without the VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Instead, use an electric starter or a good-quality charcoal chimney.
>> What’s on the menu? The best way to green your tailgate party menu is by buying locally grown and organic products and purchasing only what you need for your party. The EPA says in 2013 food waste accounted for more than 20% of landfill contents. Of course one great thing about tailgating is sharing, so if you make too much, you can always invite other fans to join your celebration.
The fall is a perfect time to enjoy the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available at local farmers markets and produce stands. Also, check out local, grass-fed, hormone-free meat that is better for our environment, better for your body, and brings great flavor to the grill. Talk to local producers about their favorite grilling meats. But if you really want to go eco-friendly, consider a vegetarian menu with all the season’s tasty fresh veggies. Choose dishes that can easily be prepared ahead, can be safely stored in coolers until ready to cook or serve, and require as little labor intensive cleanup as possible.
Looking for a unique beverage to serve with your tailgating feast? Consider one of Mississippi’s new craft beers. Since 2012, when Senate bill 2878 raised the permissible alcohol content in beer from 5% by weight to 8%, the craft beer industry in the state has exploded, with the number of Mississippi breweries increasing by 500%. Just a few of the Magnolia State’s budding craft breweries include: Lazy Magnolia brewery in Kiln, MS; Lucky Town Brewing of Jackson; Southern Prohibition Brewing and Gordon Creek Brewery in Hattiesburg; Crooked Letter Craft Beer, in Ocean Springs; Mississippi Brewing Company of Gulfport; Oxford Brewing (obviously of Oxford) and Yalobusha Brewing of Water Valley.
>> Recycle at home or away. Just because you are away for the big game doesn’t mean you have to give up on your good habit of recycling. Many universities now offer recycling services in and around the tailgate areas and in the stadium. If recycling options are not available on your campus of choice, take extra containers or bags with you and pack up your recyclables to take home. Don’t forget to set up waste stations so all of your partygoers will use them too.
>> Dump the disposables. Of course we don’t suggest you dump the disposables literally…the whole point is to avoid the landfill as much as possible. Cut down on the amount of waste by embracing the reusable: silverware, plates, cups and mugs. Once you’re done with your reusable dishes, pack them up in a bag or plastic storage container to take home and wash. Not only will you help keep more refuse from the landfill, but you will also save money. Besides, let’s face it. Food really does taste better when eaten with metal cutlery (whether stainless steel or sterling silver) and off real dinnerware (unbreakable plastic or fine china). But if you still want the convenience of disposable flatware, check out biodegradable products such as ones made by Eco-Products, NatureWorks and Cereplast.
Make your table festive and sustainable by choosing a cloth table cover instead of a plastic throwaway one. Round out the table décor with cloth napkins in your team colors. At the end of the party, stash them in a bag to take home and wash so they’ll be ready for the next tailgating get-together.
TAILGATING RECIPES you can prepare ahead Make your game day feast a snap by including some make ahead recipes that are sure to please.
Turkey-Jack Kabobs with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
1 pound deli-smoked turkey, cut into 1-inch cubes
8-oz. package Pepper Jack cheese cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pt. cherry tomatoes
1 (16-oz.) jar sweet or dill gherkin pickles
27 (4-inch) wooden skewers
For a different twist, substitute fresh melon balls for tomatoes and Cheddar for Pepper Jack, and serve with poppy seed dressing.
1. Thread 1 each of first 4 ingredients evenly onto wooden skewers. Cover and chill 30 minutes or up to 1 day. Serve kabobs with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce.
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce: Stir together 3/4 cup light mayonnaise, 1/4 cup coarse grained Dijon mustard, and 2 Tbsp. honey. Cover and chill at least 20 minutes before serving. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Stadium Pasta Salad
A great make-ahead side that is delicious with steaks, burgers, seafood, and more.
8 ounces uncooked whole wheat shell pasta
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Olive oil vinaigrette
1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Toss pasta with tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 8 hours.