40 Ways to Shrink Your Cookprint
By Kate Heyhoe
Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, and rethink how you cook, shop, and eat. Learn all about cookprints here.
To shrink > think:
- 1. Energy-efficient kitchen zones
- 2. Water conservation and reuse
- 3. Lower hot-water usage and temperature
- 4. Energy-Star appliances
- 5. Small appliances as fuel-savers
- 6. Electric teapots over cooktop boiling
- 7. Avoiding peak power hours
- 8. Unplugging appliances
- 9. Renewable energy sources
- 10. Lower-emission grilling
- 11. Nontoxic, biodegradable cleansers
- 12. Regular over antibiotic cleansers
- 13. Reusable cloth napkins
- 14. Recycled and recyclable products
- 15. Plants over animals
- 16. Non-CAFO products
- 17. Local
- 18. Organic
- 19. Seasonal
- 20. Sustainable
- 21. Energy-efficient ingredients
- 22. Weather-sensitive cooking
- 23. Cooktop before oven
- 24. Induction burners
- 25. Passive cooking over active fuel use
- 26. Skipping the preheat when possible
- 27. Toaster ovens
- 28. Convection cooking
- 29. Microwave cooking
- 30. Simultaneous baking
- 31. Multitasking boiling water
- 32. Fuel-efficient cookware
- 33. Nontoxic cookware
- 34. Farmers markets and direct from farms
- 35. Fewer grocery trips
- 36. Shelf-stable over frozen
- 37. Minimal packaging
- 38. Bulk-buying
- 39. Aseptic and glass over cans
- 40. Extending food storage
- 41. No food waste
- 42. Green-conscious grocery stores
- 43. Low-carbon restaurants
You’ll find more details about why each action works in Cooking Green, which is full of recipes, tips and strategies.
Kate Heyhoe answers questions about her new book…
What do you mean by “shrink your cookprint”?
Your “cookprint” measures the entire environmental impact you make on the planet when you cook or eat—whether you cook the meal or someone else prepares it for you. In other words, your “cookprint” is the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process. So essentially, Cooking Green is a lifestyle manual for shrinking your “cookprint.”
The cookprint starts with food, in your garden or at the farm; it travels to your kitchen (or a restaurant kitchen) and takes residence in the fridge, freezer or pantry. The cookprint also includes the food’s packaging, transportation and refrigeration demands along the way. Then, the cookprint grows larger every time heat or fuel is added, from a cooktop, oven, or small appliance. Discarded resources, whether they’re organic produce trimmings, plastic packaging, or water down the drain, further color the cookprint. As do the implements you cook with and the way you store leftovers. Understanding your cookprint helps put the cook squarely in charge of just how big, or how green, that cookprint will be—in ways that include yet extend beyond buying organic or local, or eating meat or not.
Is this book just for cooks?
Cooking Green is for any one who eats. President Obama has committed to a green economy, and on every level, being “green” has established itself as a national priority. Adopting greener lifestyles doesn’t have to be tough, and this book focuses on ways to be green without feeling deprived. Chapters highlight which types of foods are lower-impact, and tips address water heaters, garbage disposals, barbecuing, shopping, restaurants and each link in the food chain, so it’s of value to every one who eats, even if you don’t cook.
And if you do cook, you’ll discover that the kitchen is ripe with opportunities for going greener. It’s the place where people can make real choices, and take direct control of their impact—without letting the family feel deprived, hungry, or stressed. In fact, everyone will feel better just knowing they’re helping the planet. With the book’s step-by-step model recipes, they can do it one bite at a time.
What inspired you to write this book?
Buying organic is a great green practice, and as a cook, I knew we could do more to combat climate change. Lots more. The result: A treasury of eating, cooking and shopping habits that are as simple as changing light bulbs, and integrate just as easily into daily life. Collectively, they’re a whole new approach to cooking the basics. They include fuel and water conservation, and the strategies go from farm, to food, to fuel, to fork. They push the concept of “green cooking” into how we cook, including cooking methods and cookware, appliances, and water usage.
What makes this book different from the rest?
Many green living books require such a major commitment to lifestyle change, I think they push mainstreamers away. They provide great advice on green construction and buying composting worms, but often they don’t address common day-to-day tasks, like cooking and eating.
My book connects the gap between buying greener foods and greener ways to cook them. What really sets this book apart from other culinary or green living books is that my message includes, but goes far beyond, organics, composting, and recycling—because it also scrutinizes the physical ways we cook. My book asks (and answers) such questions as:
- Can the way I cook my favorite meatloaf truly make a green difference?
- How can I be more fuel-efficient when it comes to baking, broiling, or doing dishes?
- Why is grilling with hardwood less polluting than using charcoal briquettes?
- Is it really so easy to be greener when I shop, cook, and clean? (Yes, it really is.)
So my book is about every aspect of energy-efficiency—shopping, cooking, eating and cleaning up. In ways not instantly thought of as “green.”
- …Like certain benefits of small appliances (including rice cookers and electic tea kettles, not just toaster ovens or slow cookers)
- …It’s about foregoing the bigger-is-better mentality (do you really need a double-wall oven in your next house? A toaster oven is a better second choice)
- …And making better use of the tools you already now (did you know convection ovens produce 30% less greenhouse gases than conventional ovens? Maybe it’s time to figure out how that convection setting works.)
- …It’s carrying an ice chest with freezer packs in the car so you can do a full day of errands at once, without the food going bad, thus saving on mileage, gasoline, and time.
- …Or neat tricks to keep lettuce and other perishables fresh an extra three days, so you can eat better and shop less frequently.
And it’s realistic: Baking and roasting in winter naturally make more sense, but sometimes a cook just needs to use her oven, no matter what time of year. So this book tackles summer baking with green options that avoid ratcheting up the AC. Eating lower on the food chain is also important, and the book recommends consuming less meat, but it also suggests greener meaty options, like stretching out portions of grass-fed beef, for die-hard committed carnivores.
What’s an “ecovore”?
Our planet’s food resources can shift in abundance amazingly quickly. A fish species that thrived last winter may be in short supply this year, or a plentiful crop (like corn) can inadvertently increase global hunger when it becomes a biofuel. Ongoing drought can limit what’s available and increase the prices we pay. I believe it’s important to be mindful of our food supply even as it changes. Food is impacted by climate, and also by our own actions, which can have both good and unintended consequences. An ecovore watches, reads, and pays attention to global food conditions, and makes choices based on what’s happening now. It’s conscious eating with a “to-the-moment” awareness.
You say this book speaks to short attention spans. What do you mean?
The opening chapters detail the concept of “New Green Basics” and preview the strategies. But overall, chapter-by-chapter reading of this book is optional—it’s meant to be absorbed in snippets, sidebars, and quick hits, ideal for new-media-minds. Flip through it whenever you have time, and you’ll find something handy to absorb. For instance, there are sidebars and tactics presented in lists, tips for water conservation, and a “Green Meter” introduces each recipe with bullet points on the basic green strategies being used, when the dish is most seasonal to make the most of local ingredients, estimated prep and cooking times, and special conveniences for the cook.
What exactly are the “New Green Basics”?
They’re the basic rules of everyday cooking, but updated with the planet in mind. How you cook is as important as what you cook. Without abandoning your favorite recipes, you can bake, roast, broil, grill, and fry in vastly greener ways, saving fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gases, and shrinking your carbon footprint. Cooking Green (the book) shows you how, and you’ll find more recipes and strategies here at NewGreenBasics.com.
For other interviews with Kate Heyhoe about Cooking Green, check out Celebrity Chef Chat at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online and, in print, It’s Easy Being Green in the April issue of Austin Monthly (Austin, TX).
Buy Cooking Green
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen
the New Green Basics Way
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”)
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.