People often think that if they’re not committing to a vegan, zero-waste lifestyle, they’re not doing enough for the environment. But that’s not really the case — being eco-friendly isn’t an all or nothing thing. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking that small lifestyle changes don’t have an impact. You can actually make a huge difference by practicing simple, mindful habits in the kitchen. Follow these steps for reducing carbon emissions, keeping food waste to a minimum, and decreasing water usage. Sustainable home cooking is easier than you think.
Sustainable home cooking starts with being more conscious when buying groceries. Shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables at your local farmers’ markets, for example, can greatly reduce your carbon footprint because it minimizes the distance that food needs to travel before landing on your plate. Choosing organic produce also has a positive impact on the environment, as fewer harmful chemicals are used to grow these crops. And of course, bringing reusable shopping bags and totes to the grocery store helps to reduce the amount of plastic bags that end up in landfills.
Speaking of organic fruits and vegetables, the produce section offers plenty of ways to make more sustainable choices. Try picking the ugliest looking products on the shelf. Chances are nobody else will, and that means a bunch of sad spuds and rejected radishes would otherwise end up in the garbage. Misshapen vegetables are just as tasty and nutritious as their attractive counterparts — and once they’re chopped and cooked into a meal, you won’t notice a difference anyway.
You might also want to consider frozen produce. This option unfortunately relies on packaging, but it also comes with the benefit of a longer shelf life; it’s great if you find yourself tossing out brown bananas and bruised apples more often than you’d like to admit. Plus, these fruits and vegetables are picked and frozen at peak ripeness, so you can count on them being delicious.
Pro Tip: Most frozen fruit is sold in resealable packages that you can rinse and reuse for food storage.
Buying bulk is one of the easiest ways to avoid processed foods and cut down on packaging. Think steel-cut oats from the bin instead of a box of sugary, flavored oatmeal and scoops of dried black beans instead of preservative-filled cans. Some stores will even let you bring in your own containers, so you can avoid using plastic bags.
The important thing to remember here is that buying bulk doesn’t mean buying more. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — you’ll likely reduce food waste since you get to control the exact amount of each product you purchase.
Pro Tip: Stock up on spices in the bulk aisle and store them in glass jars for a colorful and organized pantry.
Using all of your kitchen appliances efficiently will go a long way in making your cooking habits more sustainable. Heat up food in the toaster or microwave rather than the oven; be strategic about getting several dishes into the oven at once; and avoid opening your oven door while cooking to preserve heat.
The pots and pans you cook with can also make a big difference. Invest in high-quality stainless steel cookware that lasts rather than choosing cheaper options that will inevitably end up in the landfill.
Be mindful of how much water you use when cooking. Do you really need 12 cups to boil pasta? Probably not. Do you need to run the water as you scrub your carrots? Definitely not. And remember: your dishwasher is your friend. Many models actually use less water than you would washing dishes in the sink. Just make sure you wait until you have a full load, pick the most efficient cycle option, and opt for a non-toxic and biodegradable dishwasher detergent packs.
From making smart choices in the grocery store, to investing in quality cookware, to being conscious of water usage, sustainable home cooking is all about making informed decisions. But that’s not all. Learn more about how you can save the planet by reducing your food waste.
Photos: Katie Smith / Unsplash, Sven Scheuermeier / Unsplash, Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock, Leszek Glasner / Shutterstock