Plus: Refrigeration Storage Tips
What do you call the impact you make on the planet when you cook?
It’s your “cookprint”— the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process.
The cookprint starts with food, in your garden or at the farm; it travels to your kitchen and continues in your fridge, freezer or pantry. The cookprint grows larger every time heat or fuel is added, from a cooktop, oven, or small appliance. Discarded waste, whether it’s organic produce trimmings, plastic packaging, or water down the drain, further colors the cookprint. As do the implements you cook with, the way you store leftovers, and how you dispose of food waste.
In short, the cookprint measures every meal’s entire environmental impact. It’s the total amount of energy (from farm to fuel to fork) used in creating a meal. And it puts the cook squarely in charge of just how big, or how green, that cookprint will be—in ways that go far beyond buying organic or local, or eating meat or not.
In writing my next book, I couldn’t find the exact term I wanted, so I created “cookprint.”
I was having a tough time with the term “carbon footprint.” Not because of what it stands for, but because it’s such a cold, negative term, and my world revolves around upbeat, positive and inspiring ways to integrate food and cooking into our lives. Food writing should be mouthwatering and inviting, and “carbon footprint” was not.
Nor is the new buzzword “foodprint” exactly right. Coined by Cornell University researchers led by Chris Peters, “foodprint” is defined as the amount of land needed to supply one person’s nutritional needs for a year. It makes conclusions about meat vs. non-meat diets, but pivots mainly on agriculture land resources.
I wanted a word that was vested in personal actions: how we can each make a difference, every day. Even if you don’t cook, someone cooks what you eat, and that contributes to your personal cookprint.
Moreover, I wanted a term that involved a verb, not a foot or a food.
The “cook” in cookprint is a word of action. Just think of all the decisions, and all the physical steps, that go into answering the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”
Understanding your “cookprint” is about questioning the things we take for granted, and making greener choices with every meal. Sure, a “cookprint” includes ingredients—where they come from, how they’re grown, and how they’re packaged. But there’s more: it’s how you cook your food, the type of energy used, the amount of fuel consumed, the amount of water you use—and the amount of fuel and water you waste.
A cookprint covers even the smallest details. It’s about storing food in ways that use less energy, without sacrificing nutrition or flavor. This means making the refrigerator you already own more energy efficient, storing fresh fruits and vegetables in ways that make them last longer (meaning fewer shopping trips and less spoilage), saving leftovers in glass containers rather than plastic ones or zipper bags. Frying with energy-efficient skillets. And hundreds of other tips.
“Cookprint” is the foundation of this website, and what I consider the New Green Basics of Cooking.
Boiling Down Your “Cookprint”
Recipes and traditional cooking methods are also targeted when it comes to greening your cookprint. In places and times when fuel is scarce, people never take fuel consumption for granted. Neither should we. Does that mean giving up slow roasted foods or big, boiling pots of pasta? Absolutely not! But there are plenty of ways to stretch the fuels we use, every time we turn on the oven or fire up the burner, and green our cookprint by doing so. It’s time to stop being mindless energy hogs when it comes to cooking methods. It’s time to green our cookprints.
Cookprint Q & A:
From time to time, as I write my current book, I’ll be posting tips and articles intended to color your “cookprint.” To start, here’s a question that makes better use of your refrigerator.
Q: The refrigerator is the kitchen’s biggest energy hog. What’s the best temperature setting for your refrigerator?
A: When fresh foods are stored properly, at their specific optimal temperatures, they’ll last longer, meaning fewer gas-guzzling trips to the store. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to monitor your setting. In general, 37 to 40 degrees cools sufficiently without wasting electricity. Keep dairy products at 33 to 38 degrees, meats between 31 and 36 degrees, and eggs at 33 to 37 degrees. Store fresh vegetables and ripe fruits at 35 to 40 degrees. To stash foods in the coldest sections of the fridge, store them along the freezer wall (in a side-by-side) or in the back of the fridge, and never in the door. Some refrigerators come with programmable storage bins, so you simply set them for meats, produce or citrus. Tip: Place a freezer pack in your fridge or its bins, to chill down the immediate area (place it under meats or milk, for instance). The freezer pack will last several days, and you can refreeze it when it thaws.
This year, cooking comes with greater awareness. Jumpstarted in recent years by Warren Buffet and the Gates Foundation, George Clooney’s plea for Darfur, issues raised by The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Al Gore’s leadership with global warming, the national mindset is increasingly aimed at connecting with bigger issues. As the year progresses, I’ll be covering the emerging trends behind what we eat and how we cook it…
- Cast iron cookware, regular and enamel coated
- Made in USA (preferably local)
- Induction cooking, to keep kitchens cool
- Re-usable shopping bags
- Stovetop cooking, all year round
- Conscious consumerism: voting with your dollar
- Savory desserts
- More meatless meals, especially with whole grains
- Dark chocolate, organic and fair trade, 70% cacao
- Certified: Organic, Fair Trade, and domestic Fair Trade
- Ethical eating, humanely raised animals
- Kinder, gentler TV chefs with world vision
- Kitchen sections at second-hand stores
- Inhumanely raised livestock and poultry
- Inhuman, self-centered TV chefs with no vision
- Milk chocolate
- Faux organics and exploited workers
- Made in China, including questionable “organics”
- Double wall ovens, which stress cooling systems
- Beefy meals (though grass-fed beats conventional)
- Plastic and paper
- Oven cooking in warm weather
- Supporting the bad guys
- Corn syrup sweets
- Teflon and nonstick-surface cookware
- Salad shooters and one-trick-pony appliances
…from Kate’s Global Kitchen
One benefit of cast iron is that the seasoned surface is naturally nonstick and non-toxic at any temperature, unlike bonded surfaces like Teflon.
It’s not just enough to make products from green materials, or design cookware that’s more energy efficient. The greenness of the manufacturing process also comes into play, and every cookware company makes some degree of environmental impact. But at Lodge, they’re environmentally vested. Here’s the company’s report:
How Green is Our Foundry?
Lodge Manufacturing Company’s Pollution Prevention Success Stories
*Increased Use of Biodiesel:* In 2005, Lodge began using biodiesel to power several pieces of equipment, progressing to a 90% blend before cutting back to 20% in winter months. Biodiesel reduces ozone forming potential and also reduces emissions of sulfur, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and hydrocarbons compared to diesel.
*Cardboard Recycling:* Lodge began cardboard recycling by allowing outside companies to pick up cardboard at no charge. In 2001, the amount of cardboard recycle was 34.5 tons. In 2005, it was 48.1 tons. The program continues today.
*Establishment of Beneficial Use of Foundry Sand:* Lodge Mfg, the American Foundry Society (AFS), and the Environmental Committee of the AFS worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Solid Waste to request and help draft a beneficial use policy for non-hazardous foundry sand. The policy was adopted in April 1996 and is an example of industry and government working together for good of the environment.
Beneficial Reuse of Foundry Sand/Marion County Landfill: Lodge Mfg coordinated with Marion County government to have 9,225 cubic yards of foundry sand to create the required 12-inch protective cover over the liner in the first phase of two new cells. Completed in March 2003, the County saved $191,311.75 by using the sand.
*Settling Ponds Support Plant & Animal Life:* A stream flows from South Pittsburg Mountain through the Lodge foundry and into the Lake Guntersville Reservoir Watershed. Working to enhance the stream’s water, Lodge constructed three storm water settling ponds to support plant and animal life. Water lilies, cattails and fish have been introduced to the ponds and are thriving. Water quality is now above requirements.
*Planting Trees for Site Beautification & Ozone Attainment:* A total of 121 trees have been planted on the Lodge Mfg campus to help improve air quality and beautification. The establishment of 1.4 acres of trees is equivalent to removing one motor vehicle from the highway.
*Lodge Manufacturing receives the 1994 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Hazardous Waste Reduction:* In 1991, Lodge President Henry Lodge replaces the cupola melting system with more environmentally friendly induction melt system. The result was that Lodge Mfg changed its status as a Large Quantity Generator of Hazardous Waste to Small Quantity Generator.
The Ivory Coast produces 40% of the world’s cocoa, and its beans are mixed into almost every brand of mass-produced chocolate. But did you know that much of that cocoa is harvested by children as slave labor, held captive and forced to work against their will?
In 2000 and 2001, British and American journalists documented the enslavement of adolescent and teenage boys on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. Most of the children come from Mali, Ivory Coast’s poorer neighbor. Traffickers entice naive adolescents and teenagers with the promise of good jobs in the Ivory Coast. Even the prospect of buying a new bicycle or modest scooter can motivate a boy to sign up for a season of hard work. Later, once separated from their community or others who speak their language, the children are sold to cocoa farmers. Some farmers pay children a small sum at the end of the cocoa season. Some do not. And some farmers exploit the children’s vulnerability, forcing them to perform long, hard, dangerous work, with only minimal food and shelter. Some beat and threaten those who try to escape, locking the children in sheds or huts at night.
West Africa supplies 70% of the world’s cocoa, mostly to Hershey’s, Mars, Nestlé, Cadbury, Cargill, ADM, and other global corporations. And while a handful of these western corporations control approximately 85% of Ivorian cocoa exports, and could take a pro-active lead in combating slavery practices, few have done anything substantial. Even 2001′s hopeful Harkin-Engel Protocol, in which large-scale cocoa industry players promised to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, has been watered down and produced little effect.
Consumers, though, can make an impact—by buying Fair Trade Certified products. Fair Trade Certified cocoa and chocolates are sourced from eleven origins, including Ivory Coast, Ghana, and numerous Central and South American countries. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate child labor and forced labor. Fair Trade also offers critical protections for workers, and directly addresses the underlying problem of low cocoa prices and chronic poverty among cocoa farmers. And Fair Trade’s criteria also specify the practice of sustainable agriculture that limits the use of agrochemicals.
For us at Global Gourmet and NewGreenBasics.com, our favorite chocolates just happen to be Fair Trade Certified, and we’ve added a new company to the list: Equal Exchange, which was founded in 1986, and is the oldest, largest for-profit Fair Trade company in the U.S. Besides sinfully rich cocoa and chocolate bars, they offer organic coffee, tea, and sugar produced by democratically run farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The company takes an active roll in humanitarian issues, and the story above is adapted from an article that appeared in their Spring 2007 newsletter. (Read the original “Ivory Coast cacao (Ivory Coast cacao)”:http://www.equalexchange.com/child-labor-in-the-cocoa-industry article).
A list of Fair Trade Certified companies, from chocolate makers and distributors, to tea, sugar, rice, vanilla and other ingredients, can be found at “Fair Trade Certified’s Licensed Partners (Fair Trade Certified’s Licensed Partners)”:http://www.transfairusa.org/content/certification/licensees2.php#cocoa .
You can, but you don’t have to, go vegan or grow your own vegetables, just to go green in the kitchen. This site is more about how you cook than what you eat. Not that organics and local foods aren’t important. They’re hugely important. But don’t we already get that message?
There are so many other ways not being addressed by media or publishers to reduce greenhouse gases and shrink your eco-footprint. The real news, the untold story, lies in the fuels you use, the method (steaming, boiling, baking, for instance), the cookware, and the clean-up. Let’s apply a concept of “bright green cooking,” very specific actions and totally practical plans that have more impact than “light green” steps alone, but are just as easy to do.
As a bonus, stretching energy consumption directly relates to saving time, too. Less time in the kitchen means fewer lights on, less cooking fuel used, and more personal time for you to do other things.