sustainable cooking for summer

5 Best Sustainable Cooking Practices to Try This Summer

The food you eat and how you prepare it make a difference in the ongoing survival of the planet. What are the best sustainable practices to try this summer? 

The process of greening your plate begins at the grocery store. Learn what factors make a meal more sustainable and how you can make better choices to decrease your carbon footprint. Here’s what you should know. 

sustainable cooking for summer

What Is Sustainable Cooking? 

Everything in life involves the use of energy, including eating. Even if you stick to a raw vegan diet, you impact the planet’s carbon balance merely by plucking a carrot and consuming it. The effect is infinitesimally small and necessary for life to continue. The trick is to minimize your impact, while still getting the nutrition you need to thrive. 

Sustainable cooking strives to minimize the carbon emissions and pollution associated with your meal. Many factors go into this equation. 

Factors Influencing a Meal’s Sustainability 

Determining how sustainable your meal is means considering the following questions: 

  • What production processes did farmers use? Pesticide and fertilizer overuse can create runoff that contaminates other ecosystems, like waterways. It also requires chemicals produced in factories and shipped to the location. Organic methods, conversely, use natural, renewable resources like compost. 
  • Does production contribute to deforestation? For example, some scientists fear cattle farming will destroy the Amazon rainforest. 
  • How far did the food travel? Foods shipped in from the other side of the globe produce considerable emissions during transit. Long shipping times also increase the risk of contamination, which contributes to food waste. 
  • How much packaging do manufacturers use? Packaging protects food purity, but it requires separate production and shipping, which creates emissions. 
  • How many resources does the food take to produce? For example, beef production uses up 80% of the total arable land, while producing only 20% of the calories. Sowing the same land with plant-based foods could feed many more people. In general, plant-based foods use the least resources, followed by fish and wild game, chicken and other poultry, with beef and pork utilizing the most. 

The Elements of a Sustainable Meal 

Creating a sustainable meal means asking yourself the above questions and doing the best you can within the boundaries of your resources and reality. You need to make meals you and your family crave — otherwise, the waste you create will impact your carbon footprint. Americans throw away 30% to 40% of their food each year, which often ends up in landfills, where it produces more methane emissions than any other material. 

For example, if someone at your table is a diehard meat-and-potatoes fan, who has no interest in vegan dishes, you can still pick up the spuds at the local farmers’ market. They’re usually organic and far less expensive than ones you’d find at the grocery store. In addition, local farmers generally transport them from right down the road. When serving proteins, you can opt for turkey or fish instead of beef or pork. You can also learn what veggies come into season in your area, at what time of year, so you can buy local produce.

Sustainable Cooking Practices

Sustainable cooking practices likewise use the least amount of energy while minimizing emissions. For example, small appliances like air fryers and microwaves require less electricity than an oven. 

Gas stoves can produce emissions harmful to your family’s health, not just the planet. They emit methane even when not in use, thus contributing to indoor air pollution. So, even though Congress recently enacted new gas stove standards, electric or convection models are better options for Mother Earth. 

5 Sustainable Cooking Practices to Try This Summer 

If you want to go greener in the kitchen this summer, the following five sustainable cooking practices can lower your carbon footprint. 

1. Go Meatless 

You don’t have to become a vegan, but the planet could benefit from everyone cutting their meat consumption in half. Embrace Meatless Monday and consider expanding it to a few days per week. Ease your family into the idea by choosing recipes that “disguise” the replacement for meat amid other ingredients, such as:

You can get all the protein you need from plants, although even some vegetarians allow dairy and seafood in the mix. Some examples of plant-based complete proteins include:

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Hemp seeds
  • Tofu
  • Nutritional yeast

Therefore, pasta with quinoa noodles packs plenty of protein into your meal. Additionally, you can get a complete protein consisting of all nine essential amino acids by combining foods. Red beans and rice is a classic example. 

2. Find a Local Butcher 

If a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t work for your family, locate a humane butcher near you. Doing so qualifies as a sustainable cooking practice because it lets you inquire about how producers raised your meat. For example, cattle play a crucial role in conserving the beautiful Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands covering much of the American West, as their grazing reduces the undergrowth known to spread forest fires. These cows lead natural lives, wandering the wilds and visiting campsites before landing on your plate. 

3. Make Eco-Friendly Kitchen Upgrades 

If it’s time to remodel your kitchen or make home improvements, choose suppliers with local vestments who take steps toward environmental care. For example, if you live in the U.S., choosing a business using USA-made products means supporting local communities and minimizing the carbon footprint associated with transportation.

Consider choosing businesses sourcing from manufacturers that embrace eco-conscious processes when selecting new cabinets, floors, fixtures and appliances. If upgrading appliances, consider swapping out your gas stove for a new convection model — these cook more evenly and give you temperature control without the emissions.

4. Strive for Zero Food Waste 

How can you cut down on food waste? Experiment with these ideas to see which works best for you and your family: 

  • Shop more often: Single folks and couples without children might find they waste less if they buy only what they intend to eat over the next day or two. Otherwise, items can sit uneaten and forgotten in pantries until they go bad. 
  • Invest in the right storage: Those with big families often benefit from buying in bulk. However, a super-sized bag of cereal can go stale halfway through unless you place it in an airtight container. 
  • Try a potluck: When cooking for a crowd, consider a potluck-style meal — everyone can take their leftovers home, minimizing waste. 
  • Freeze your leftovers: Eating the same meal two days in a row can get boring, but leaving leftovers sitting in your fridge may mean they go bad before you get to them. Instead, invest in reusable freezer containers so you can store your leftovers for up to six months. Making a little extra at each meal and freezing it is also an effortless way to begin meal prepping. 
  • Compost remaining food waste: As you prep your meal, be sure to add any fruit and vegetable trimmings you aren’t going to use in your meal to your compost bin. These trimmings can help you grow new food.

5. Cook (and Dine) Alfresco 

Did you know a branch falling from a tree in the forest produces the same amount of carbon as it decays as it would if you burned it? Few things taste better than a barbecue and opting for environmentally friendly briquets, free of lighter fluids and other additives, qualifies as a sustainable cooking method. 

Why should you take your meal outside — besides the fact warmer weather beckons you to do so? Spending more time in nature encourages pro-environmental attitudes. It immediately rewards you for your positive choices while inspiring you to do more to protect our planetary home. 

Greener Cooking Methods to Try

Your eating habits affect the planet. Adopting sustainable cooking practices by making wise food choices decreases your carbon footprint without leaving you feeling deprived. 

Take the five sustainable cooking practices listed above for a whirl this summer. The planet will thank you and so will your taste buds. 

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