Environmental friendly cooking involves making many choices that go beyond picking the right ingredients. It includes green kitchen utensils, eco-cooking methods, efficient water usage and proper disposal of food leftovers. Here are some simple green cooking tips to help you make more informed choices.
Shopping for a Green Cuisine
The best foods are local and organic since organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, toxic pesticides, and antibiotics. Growing and transporting food not only consumes a significant amount of water and energy, but also contributes to air pollution and global warming. Therefore, buying locally and eating with the seasons promotes many environmentally friendly practices, such as reducing carbon emissions and supporting small farms. To locate a farmers market near you, check out the local harvest website. Also consider joining a CSA.
When shopping at the grocery store for your ingredients, your environmental impact can be significantly reduced by adhering to these basic rules:
- Buy as few things in plastic as possible– opt for metal or glass containers whenever you can (and don’t use a plastic bag for fruits or veggies – you’ll need to wash them anyway when you get home).
- Buy in bulk. Remember that buying many little packages wastes paper and plastic.
- Use your own shopping bags (I know you’re heard this one many times, but it bears repeating).
- Buy less meat.
Equip your kitchen with “green-ware” and utensils made from porcelain enamel, glass and bamboo. When possible, purchase kitchenware that is reusable and/or made from recycled materials. By using reusable housewares, you not only save money, but also conserve natural resources. Examples of reusable kitchenware include: cloth towels, cloth napkins, reusable baking pans, reusable lunch box containers, glass jars and cloth bags for grocery shopping.
Make sure your dinnerware is lead-free. Plates and dishes now sold in the United States are subject to federal regulations for the maximum amount of lead they may contain. The federal standards require that plates contain no more than 3 ppm (parts per million) lead, and pitchers and other “hollow ware” that hold liquid can contain no more than 0.5 ppm. If unsure of the lead content of your dishware, contact the manufacturer. Check out our kitchen gadgets blog for more thoughts on this.
The best way to conserve energy in the kitchen is to use the smallest oven possible since it takes less energy to heat it to the proper temperature. To ensure that heat is not wasted when the oven is in use, make sure that the burner fits the pan and use a lid when heating items on the stove. If you have a smaller item to heat or cook, consider a toaster oven – these use about a third of the energy of conventional ovens. Here are some tips for buying a new oven.
Reducing water usage in the kitchen before and after cooking has both financial and environmental benefits. These are the easiest ways to conserve water:
- Don’t let the sink water run when rinsing dishes.
- Install a water saving aerator on your kitchen sink’s faucet. Water saving aerators are helpful in reducing the amount of water you use when rinsing your dishes.
- Install a water efficient, Energy Star rated dishwasher.
- Repair leaky water faucets. If your faucet is dripping one drop per second, you’ll waste as much as 2,700 gallons in a year!
If you do all of the above, but throw out your leftovers in the garbage, you are skipping one of the most important steps in green cooking. Food debris has no access to oxygen once it reaches the landfills and therefore emits methane, a toxic gas. The best way to get rid of food waste is by composting it – recycling food scraps by allowing it to naturally break down and turn into nutrient rich soil. Donating your food waste is another option; there are food rescue programs that specialize in redistributing leftovers.
To test your green-cooking skills, take the following quiz, “How Green is Your Cuisine?” from the Sierra Club. So…are you a Green Chef?