When you think about eating food, you typically only worry about the nutritional value of your meals. In essence, you want to eat healthily and consume things that are good for your body. However, some of you may also think about the environmental impact of your cooking. How much damage are you doing to the planet when you eat your meals every day? It’s something everyone should be concerned with as we all eat, so we all have a massive contribution to the environment. If everyone made a few alterations in the kitchen, could we reduce harmful emissions and improve the planet?
The simple answer is yes, we can absolutely do that! There are many ways you can alter your eating habits to protect the environment. One popular idea is to eat less meat and animal products as the production of these goods have a large carbon footprint. Nevertheless, today’s post won’t focus on what you should or shouldn’t eat. Rather, you will learn some ideas and tips that help you cook in a more eco-friendly manner. So, regardless of your specific diet, you should have a much greener time in the kitchen!
Cook multiple portions at once
Instead of cooking a meal for one, why don’t you cook a meal for four? You might live on your own and only need one portion, but you can store the rest in your fridge/freezer for another day. Think about what you’ve just done; you’ve cooked a meal and now have enough portions for four separate dinners. As a result, that’s three extra days where you no longer need to cook.
Aside from being convenient and providing instant meals, this saves a great deal of energy. Look at any recipe and you will notice that cooking times or temperatures don’t change when the quantity increases. Usually, you still cook things for the same duration, using up the same amount of energy. Now, imagine you don’t cook multiple portions at once. You have to use energy for each of the three days where you would’ve had your other portions! Basically, by cooking four portions for one person in one go, you use a quarter of the cooking time!
If you apply this tactic every week, you may only need to cook three or four times, then have meals in the freezer to cycle through and last at least another week or two! Think of all the energy you save by not having to cook as often.
Slice up your food as small as possible
The smaller your food is, the quicker it will cook. For example, let’s say you’re roasting peppers in the oven. Normally, a whole pepper might need to be roasted for around 30-40 minutes before it gets soft and cooks through. If you chop your peppers up into small chunks, you get the same effect after half the time.
This goes for every ingredient you use while cooking. Onions are another common one – dice them as finely as possible
and they will cook much quicker. Therefore, your smaller ingredients let you spend less time cooking, equating to less energy being used up.
Keep the lid on your pans
This tip might not apply in all circumstances, but it works when you’re doing things like boiling water, cooking vegetables, or letting a sauce/soup cook through. Some recipes tell you to let something simmer for a set amount of time until the food is cooked. Others will say cook this for x amount of time until the ingredient is soft and tender. So, what usually happens? You cook things in the pan, leaving the lid off.
While this might not seem like an issue, consider what’s happening in that pan. All the heat is escaping up into the air, which is a problem. Now, imagine you cover the pan, then what? Well, the heat has nowhere to go, so it stays contained in the pan. Thus, the food will cook a lot faster at a lower temperature! This works like a charm when you have to do things like softening onions or hard vegetables.
Again, as with the previous two ideas, this helps to reduce your overall cooking time. After all, this means less energy is used, lowering your carbon footprint in the kitchen.
Try to eat things raw
Did you know that eating things raw is one of the best ways to consume food for nutritional purposes? Okay, it doesn’t relate to things like meat and fish where you can get sick if it’s raw. But, it applies to almost all fruit and veg. Ask yourself, do I really need to cook this? In some cases, raw vegetables add a nice crunch to your meals, improving the overall texture. Food experts often say that adding different textures to a meal is the key to getting it to taste better!
Furthermore, you see some nutritional benefits from doing this. When you cook something, you tend to destroy a lot of the natural nutrients it contains. Let’s take some fruit as an example. A lot of fruits are rich in vitamin C, which is a key nutrient to aid your immune system and prevent illnesses. If you were to eat these fruits raw, you would obtain all the vitamin C it contains. Well, your body might not be able to absorb all of it, but you haven’t destroyed or weakened the vitamin content. By contrast, if you were to bake the fruit, the heat would drop the vitamin content and mean you get less of this crucial nutrient. From a nutritional standpoint, it’s worth trying to learn more about the foods high in vitamin C, particularly with a pandemic going on! So, you should consider eating things raw unless it’s absolutely necessary to cook it.
How does this relate to eco-friendliness? Yep, you guessed it, raw foods require no cooking, right? So, this means you don’t even have to turn on the hob or oven. You might still need to do this to cook other elements of a meal, but you cut out some valuable cooking time in other areas.
Use more eco-friendly cookware
All of the previous points have pinpointed ways to cut down on your cooking time and save energy. This next idea will partially help with that, but it also reduces your carbon footprint in another way. Nowadays, there are lots of eco-friendly cookware brands out there. Typically, they make pots and pans out a ceramic-based material. The benefit of this is that it makes the pan heat up a lot quicker, but it’s also more durable.
If you compare this to another non-stick technology – Teflon – this material will break down at a much higher temperature than Teflon. Therefore, you can keep the pans for much longer, preventing the need to continuously buy new ones. The process for making ceramic-based cookware is also more eco-friendly and involves better materials for the environment. Also, the fact that the pans get hotter means cooking time can be reduced, saving energy.
Overall, it just makes sense to make more eco-friendly switches in the kitchen. Get some better pans, and also think about the utensils you use. If possible, find ones that are recycled or made from better materials.
Put your leftovers to good use
Energy consumption isn’t the only concern when you want to be a green cook. You should also think about food waste! Tonnes and tonnes of food get wasted every single year. As well as being a waste of your money, the food often ends up in landfills, adding to the greenhouse gasses.
A brilliant way of reducing your food waste is to make your leftovers go a lot further. Christmas is behind us, but how much turkey did you throw away? It was probably a lot, and why did you do it? Because you had no more use for it and it was going off anyway. Instead, you could’ve taken the leftovers and turned it into a turkey pie or a curry. There are so many creative recipe ideas out there that take advantage of the leftover ingredients you have from meals. This doesn’t just apply to Christmas – it applies to every meal where you’ve got things leftover.
Similarly, what should you do with any leftovers you can’t eat? What if you only finished 80% of your meal, and the rest is on the plate? You could save it for later, but most of us will throw it out. Sometimes, food does have to be thrown away, but there’s a right and wrong way to do this. The right way is to recycle your food waste in compost bins so it can be put to better use. If you have your own garden, you may use it to help plant things – or you could ask around if any friends or neighbours would like it. At the very least, your local council will have food recycling days where they collect your waste and it avoids a landfill!
Keep all of these tips in mind if you’re hoping to improve the eco-friendliness of your cooking habits. It is also worth looking at different dietary choices and reading up on foods that have a smaller impact on the environment!