Shrink Your Cookprint
December 22, 2008 by Kate Heyhoe
New Year Resolutions with Green Solutions:
Six Ways to Shrink Your Cookprint
by Kate Heyhoe
Chill out. Hard times can lead to stress, but they can also illuminate the best in us, like compassion and empathy. People will understand if you can’t afford that over the top birthday or Christmas present. This year, my resolutions come with a proactive tint of green compassion.
1. Share Your Harvest: Free Up Your Fruits and Fields
Got fruit or nut trees in your yard? Or a bountiful garden or field of crops? When the time is ripe for the pickin’, you probably have way more fruit, veggies or nuts than you can use.
Solutions: Don’t let the harvest rot: find a way to match it with people (or animals) who need it. Invite families or schools to harvest by hand. Let the boy and girl scouts harvest the food and take it to the local food bank (many food banks now accept fresh food). Invite the 4H Club to harvest suitable fruits and other foods for rescued livestock, including horses. In downtimes and when global warming impacts grain prices, many farmers can’t afford feed for their animals. In my local area, after the row crops are harvested mechanically, there’s still lots of food in and on the ground; some farmers open their gates to people in need, to let them harvest by hand what would otherwise be plowed under. With imagination and a few phone calls, you can probably find plenty of ways to put your bountiful excess to use.
2. Opt for Re-Useable Over Recyclable
Ironically, goods manufactured from recycled materials can actually cost a few cents more to make than ones made from virgin raw materials. And with the economic crisis, the demand for all goods is down, including recycled ones. So these days, even if you recycle, your best intentions may be piling up in landfills. We’ve simply got more recycled materials than demand for them.
Solutions: Instead of using plastic wrap, store leftovers in glass containers with lids (Pyrex and other brands make ones, and they glassware can be heated in ovens and microwaves, too.) In the bulk aisle, bring your own bags, jars and bottles. Instead of disposable plates, cups, and forks made from recyclable materials, use the real thing: you can pick up cheap, sturdy plates and other eating-ware at thrift shops. Reuse, reuse, reuse.
3. Cook Fresh, from Scratch: Share Cooking Skills
Fast food, prepared meals and frozen foods save time, but they’re not the greenest choices. Stop adding to packaging waste, and greenhouse gases from frozen foods and their transport, by cooking at home, preferably with fresh, local, and organic ingredients. Knowing how to cook should be a life skill as important as driving or working the Web. (By the time you’re old enough to drive a car, you should at least be able to feed yourself, and not by cruising the drive-thru lane.)
Solutions: If you’re a skilled cook, share your knowledge and teach your kids or cooking novices of any age the basics. Encourage them to adopt fresh food habits, good for their health and the planet’s. If you don’t know how to cook, dive in; you’ve got resources everywhere, from cookbooks to TV and websites. Ask a friend to show you how to make their favorite home cooked dish. The bonus: A tasty meal and a good time.
4. Commit to Cooking with Less Fuel
My book Cooking Green shows hot to conserve fuel in the kitchen, and still cook your favorite meals. It’s a whole new approach to the basics. The biggest step is to scale back oven use. Ovens waste up to 94 percent of the fuel they burn.
Solutions: Instead of oven braising, you can save fuel by cooking in a heavy pot on the stovetop. Or in a Crock-Pot. Or in a pressure cooker. And stretch the fuel by cooking in larger batches, freezing portions, and enjoying them another day.
5. Try a New Fresh, Local Food
Crop failure happens. With climate change comes drought, extreme heat and cold, and crop damage. So familiar fresh food options may be limited. Or not.
Solutions: Get acquainted with what’s plentiful and sustainable. If you’ve never eaten turnips before, and they’re local and plentiful, buy them and test them in a simple recipe. Try unfamiliar fish that’s sustainable, too, and avoid species that aren’t. Open wide to open doors.
6. Drive Less: Stay Committed
Whoopee! Gas has dropped to below $2 per gallon. But don’t turn that ignition over just yet. With gas prices falling, you may be tempted to drive more miles. Don’t do it! The environmental costs of fossil fuels don’t change, even if the price at the pump does.
Solutions: We all found ways to conserve fuel when it was $4 a gallon, now let’s stick to that plan, until better options come along. (Chances are these low prices won’t last long, either.)
Find more ways to shrink your cookprint in Kate Heyhoe’s book:
Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen—the New Green Basics Way (Hundreds of tips and over 50 energy- and time-saving recipes to shrink your “cookprint”)