Environmentally friendly practices are a dime a dozen, but implementing them in the home doesn’t happen overnight. Like any lifestyle change, they are best put into practice gradually; little actions that can be realistically maintained.
It’s important to take those steps to being eco-aware, even if it is just giving up bottled water this summer. Multiple small changes add up to big changes and there is less chance of you having a ‘green burnout’ if you start small.
My kitchen’s carbon footprint is gradually shrinking, as it’s in the process of a “greenover,” as cookbook author Jackie Newgent puts it. We compost enthusiastically, recycle constantly, and choose seasonal produce most of the time — my love for lemons is a powerful thing!
Now that we’ve started, it seems we learn something new every day about being more environmentally aware in the kitchen. It’s exciting to implement these changes for the better as a whole family, and it makes me proud when my two-year-old can sort compost from garbage. After all, this whole saving the planet business is for him.
Here is a list to get you started on your kitchen “greenover,” or, if you are already a conscious cook, inspire you to reach even further towards a low-carbon lifestyle.
Do what you can, when you can; take small steps, just don’t stop.
Photo by jaycross
1. Make sustainable food choices.
This may be the most important decision you make for feeding your family and is an excellent place to start on the road to a greener kitchen. On Simple Bites we gave 10 Tips for Sustainable Eating, among them being:
- eat in season and locally, (how to source food locally)
- earn to cook real food,
- preserve your own foods as much as possible (look to Simple Bites for a Canning 101 series to come in July), and
- grow something, anything.
2. Shop smart.
While buying local is commendable, there is more to smart shopping than considering food miles. Here are a few tips.
- Make a menu plan and stick to your grocery list. As you’ve probably heard, successful menu planning can help shrink gas and grocery bills, cut back on waste, and help you cut out convenience foods.
- Bring reusable shopping bags and produce bags.
- Buy bulk when appropriate. Less trips to the store means less fuel emissions, and it saves time, energy and money.
- Buy organic. Supporting crop rotation, water protection and pesticide-free food is a win-win situation for both the farmers and you.
- Buy Fair-Trade.
3. Be an energy-wise cook.
In her book Big Green Cookbook, Jackie Newgent outlines many clever tips for low-carbon cooking. Among the more progressive are:
- Hypercooking, which is forgoing the preheating process for baking casseroles or other dishes. Most foods cook just fine starting in a cold oven,
- Using residual heat. Turning off an oven or pot and allowing the cooking process to finish with residual heat.
Jackie’s cookie recipe below demonstrates both hyper-baking and the use of residual heat with great success.
Photo by the bitten word.com
4. Eat more plants.
It’s what my mother’s been telling me for years, it’s the tagline for our recent Simple Living Book Club selection, and it’s vital to our long-term health. Ultimately, it can help reduce the strain on our environment as the meat industry is responsible for a notable amount of water and air pollution.
Two simple ways to get started on your part-time vegetarianism are:
- Turn your side dishes into main dishes. Instead of making meat the centerpiece of your meal, serve smaller portions of it and add an extra vegetable to the menu.
- Embrace the Meatless Monday movement and pledge to serve one meatless meal a week in your home.
5. Implement these four ‘R’s into daily cooking.
- Reduce. Buy only what you need. Be conscious about food waste.
- Reuse. Love those leftovers and kitchen scraps! Give that lettuce-washing water to plants, turn the chicken carcass into a soup, and toss lemon rind into the dishwater for an instant deodorizer.
- Repurpose. Save those glass jars, plastic containers and tin cans for a reincarnation. Katie has an excellent post on repurposing kitchen containers.
- Recycle: Stay up to date with what recycling is allowed in your area, then max out your bin! Recycle vegetable scraps and lawn trimmings into compost — this tutorial from Simple Organic shows it is simpler than you think.
Photo by wheatfields
Hyper-cooking with Happy Planet Cookies
This recipe, from Big Green Cookbook by Jackie Newgent conserves energy by both not preheating the oven and turning the oven off before the cookies are completely done, allowing them to finish cooking in the residual heat.
The dough can also be easily stirred by hand — and in my case, by a child — which means no electricity is needed for a mixer.
Recipe: Happy Planet Cookies
Photo by Aimee
Makes about 24 cookies
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour (preferably stone-ground)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 cup canola or peanut oil
- 1 cup turbinado or Demerara sugar (see note)
- 1 large egg (preferably organic)
- 1 tablespoon apple butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
- 4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
- Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cayenne, if using, in a medium bowl.
- Whisk oil and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg, apple butter and vanilla until smooth.
- Stir the flour mixture into the oil mixture until blended. Stir in oats and chocolate (batter will be thick).
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto sheets, making 12 cookies on each sheet.
- Place baking sheets in the oven. Turn the oven to 375 degrees.
- Bake until the cookies just start to spread into a cookie shape but are still undercooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- As quickly as possible (so too much heat doesn’t escape), open the oven door and swap the trays — move the tray on the top rack to the bottom rack and bottom rack to the top. Close the oven and turn it off.
- Let the cookies continue to bake in the oven to the desired level of brownness and crispness, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer the sheets to racks to cool.
Note: Turbinado and Demerara sugar are available at natural foods stores and gourmet grocers.
Everyone is smiling when steps are taken to make our kitchen’s greener: the kids, the family and the earth.
What color of green is your kitchen? In what area would you like to improve?