Gas or Charcoal?

July 11, 2022 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Nothing brings the family together quite like an outdoor barbeque. In decades past, cooking outdoors was not quite so glamorous; today, we have options galore to help make our cookout the best. Every good outdoor cook knows that the real question when it comes to cooking outdoors is charcoal or gas?

Although this decision has a lot to do with your particular style of cooking, there is also, today, the question of sustainability. Is propane or charcoal better for the environment?


You might automatically assume that charcoal is the less environmentally friendly of the two options. After all, charcoal puts out more matter into the air while also putting out double the carbon dioxide fumes. If you are looking at this simply from an environmental standpoint, then maybe propane is better, but there are two parts to any sustainability question. First, how does this activity or product directly affect the environment? Second, how much impact does sourcing this material have on the environment?

Propane gas is created from fossil fuels. As you know, fossil fuels are not renewable. These types of fuels are created through a process that takes millions of years. Humans use fossil fuels far faster than the earth can produce, making it the least sustainable type of fuel on earth.

It is also important to consider the development process. Fossil fuels must be refined into propane and other types of usable fuels. The refinery process of fossil fuels is one of the most detrimental industrial processes on the planet.


Charcoal is essentially made from trees. Trees are far more sustainable than fossil fuels, granted that the trees are being replanted more quickly than they are being harvested. When using charcoal, however, there are also considerations, such as the additives that have been put on the bricks.

Most types of charcoal are not pure charcoal, but charcoal with additives to help it light faster and burn longer. Additives such as lighter fluid increase the dangerous fumes emitted into the air.

So, what is the most environmentally friendly way to grill? There are more sustainable options, such as lump charcoal. This grilling fuel is created from sustainably sourced timber and has less impact on the environment. This would only truly be an environmentally friendly option, however, if it were locally sourced to cut out long-distance transportation emissions. You would also want to avoid using any kind of lighter fluid, but rather opt for a chimney starter.

Bottom Line

There is not necessarily a better or worse option as both propane gas and traditional charcoal leave a footprint behind. The good news is the CO2 emissions from grills and barbeques are minuscule.

If you are concerned about reducing your footprint here on earth, you can make other changes that would have a bigger effect, such as driving an energy-efficient car and reducing and recycling waste.  

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