by Maureen Ryan Filed under: Food and beverages, Fruit and vegetables, Meat and poultry, Farmer’s markets, Entertaining Grilling is a national pastime, synonymous with holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but Labor Day is actually the third most popular holiday for backyard barbecues, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. After all, what better way is there to say goodbye to summer and usher in fall? Fire Up the Grill Whether gas, wood, charcoal or electric, each grill has its environmental drawbacks, but there are ways to make grilling more eco-friendly. Even though they use non-renewable fossil fuels, gas grills burn cleaner than charcoal, and electric grills emit less carbon monoxide, which can lead to dizziness, nausea and even death, than either charcoal or gas. Charcoal fanatics can use briquettes that don’t contain fillers such as coal dust, starch, sodium nitrate, limestone and borax. Cowboy Charcoal Co. makes low-smoke charcoal out of untreated maple and oak scraps from furniture and flooring plants without those added fillers ( http://www.cowboycharcoal.com , 800-775-4060 for retailers). Even though these produce less smoke, always be sure your charcoal grill is properly ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. For a complete rundown on better grilling methods, see “Best Backyard Grilling.” Good Eats Get away from the same recipes that seem to make an appearance at every barbecuebaked beans, potato salad, cole slaw swimming in mayonnaisewith more creative side dishes. The tail end of August is great for in-season vegetables like mushrooms, peppers and eggplant, as well as fruits like peaches, nectarines and melonsall of which taste great if they’re grilled. Try the recipe for grilled plums with gingered yogurt in the sidebar (right) as a desert or an appetizer. Barbecues naturally call for meat. Meat and poultry that have been certified organic by the USDA are raised without antibiotics or growth hormones and given access to pasture. Humane Farm Animal Care’s “Certified humane raised and handled” label also ensures that animals were given access to pasture ( http://www.certifiedhumane.com ). If you can’t find either, look for grassfed and antibiotic-free beef or free-range poultry from small farmers who can provide assurances that their animals were treated humanely. See our Meat Product Report and http://www.eatwellguide.org for reputable companies. Since Labor Day may still be hot, consider a lighter meal of low-mercury fish, such as grilled shrimp (either farmed or trawl-caught U.S. Atlantic or U.S. Gulf of Mexico shrimp), Wild Alaskan salmon (August is peak season for Alaskan King Salmon) or rainbow trout. For more “Yes” and “Sometimes” fish, see our Smart Shopper’s Fish Picks card. To spice up your meat and fish, try Simply Organics’ Grilling Seasonings, in flavors like Spicy Steak and Lemon Pepper Marinade ($4.69/3.6 oz. bottle; $1.49/1 oz packet; http://www.frontiercoop.com , 800-669-3275). Another option is Good Life Food Organic Grilling Sauces, which use organic plant sweeteners like Lohan or Agave Nectar and contain no MSG. For $18.50 you get three 10 oz. bottles of BBQ, Tangy Vegetable and Tangy Steak ( http://www.melissas.com , 800-588-0151). Whether produce, meat or fish, buy your ingredients locally if you can. Use the Local Harvest directory to locate your neighborhood farmer’s market at http://www.localharvest.org or at www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets . You can also take advantage of the 100 Mile Diet Directory to find food sources within a 100-mile radius of your home ( www.100milediet.org/map ). Toasting the Evening Ni?a Bonita and Tarantas organic sangrias are both made with certified organic wine and fruit juices. Though not sold online yet, they’re available nationwide in some Whole Foods, Wild Oats and other natural grocery stores, or you can call the importer, Natural Merchants ( http://www.naturalmerchants.com , 866-324-5333), for a retailer in your area. If you’re more creative, whip up some cocktails with organic vodka and rum. Those of you on the East Coast can keep with the “go local” theme and buy certified-organic Sunshine Vodka from Vermont’s Green Mountain Distillers ($23.99; http://www.dandm.com , 415-346-1325). For rum, you may have to travel farther afield. Cuca Fresca Cacha?a (a type of Brazilian rum) is made from organically grown sugar cane, and 5 percent of the sale of each bottle is donated to Sting’s and Trudie Styler’s Rainforest Foundation ($17.99-19.99; http://www.cucafrescaspirit.com , 914-646-0749 for local retailers). TGG editors really like Cuca Fresca mixed with Kaboom’s organic Pomegranate Berry energy juice ($2.39-2.59/8 oz. can; available at Whole Foods and Wild Oats) Wine drinkers will love Mont’ Albano Pinot Grigio ($16.99; http://www.organicvintners.com , 800-245-8911) or Organic One Wines’ Green Path 2006 Australian Shiraz ($12; available nationwide at Whole Foods stores). Both are made with organically grown grapes and are perfect for a summer night. While organic beer sales still lag in the overall beer industry, they are rising. North American sales of organic beers grew from $9 million in 2003 to $19 million in 2005, according to the Organic Trade Association. Old favorites like Wolavers ( http://www.wolavers.com ) and Butte Creek Brewing Co. ( http://www.buttecreek.com ) continue to offer great organic varieties, but some of the nation’s biggest beer companies are going green, too. Last year, Anheuser-Busch launched the Green Valley Brewing Co., which brews 95-percent organic Wild Hop Lager ( http://www.wildhoplager.com ), and Miller launched Henry Weinhards’ Organic Amber beer ( http://www.henryweinhards.com ; only available in the Pacific Northwest). If you want to stay local, you can find a local brewery via the Brewers Association ( www.beertown.org/craftbrewing/locator/breweries.aspx ). It’s easy to whip up a pitcher of organic iced tea. Numi’s organic iced tea comes in several flavors like Citrus Black and Tropical White ($6.99/5 pouches; http://www.worldpantry.com , 866-972-6879). Santa Cruz’s organic juices like White Grape are perfect for kids and adults ($3.44/32 oz. and up; http://www.wellnessgrocer.com , 888-272-8775) For the Table Set your picnic table with reusable dishware, silverware and cloth napkins. If that’s not doable, opt for compostable and biodegradable plates and cutlery. Clear Creek’s sugar-cane and wood-pulp plates are suitable for cold or hot foods ($29.39/package of 100), and Nat-Ur forks, spoons and knives are made of potatoes and corn starch ($1.09/package of 20; both at http://www.kokogm.com , 802-247-4100) And be sure to offer Seventh Generation’s 100-percent-recycled, chlorine-free napkins, 80-percent post-consumer waste minimum ($8/500; http://www.greenhome.com , 877-282-6400). Clean-Up Leftover food on grills of any sort can attract bugs and add undesirable flavors to your next grilled meal. SoyClean’s Grill Cleaner is soy-based and doesn’t contain any chemicals that are corrosive to the eyes or skin ($9/22-oz.; www.soyclean.biz , 641-522-9559). Alternatively, the Martin Grill Gadget is a notched brass plate attached to a long handle that scrapes food from grates, negating any need for chemical cleaners ($20 and up; http://www.grillgadget.com ; 731-646-3888). Finally, set up a recycling center in your backyard, with bins for compost and for recyclable containers. Guests will enjoy helping you sort, and your clean up will be done in no time.