I’m back with another look at living sustainably. Last week, I explained how we can try to make tourism eco-friendly. Before you go and book your new sustainable vacation, we should try to cut out the environmental damage coming from your everyday lifestyle. Tourism is not widely enjoyed by the masses, and only accessible if you have the time and funds to spend. But, if you’re the average United States citizen, you’re probably damaging the environment as you read this.
Everybody has to eat, but we all eat differently. Some of us eat out all the time, befriending the delivery driver and becoming a regular. Some people enjoy cooking at home instead, with different recipes and appliances. The rest do a mix of both ordering out and cooking.
A small sliver of the population I left out includes those who eat sustainably. I don’t mean organic or vegan, although eating sustainably and eating healthy often coincide. With the many ways we get our food also come plenty of ways that we damage the earth.>
Here, we’re looking at ways to cut down on the pollution that comes out of the food industry. How much could you commit to?
How Can I Cook at Home Without Damaging the Environment?
Dinner at home is usually healthier, but is it eco-friendly? As with anything, it depends on a few factors. Some appliances and objects in the kitchen contribute to environmental damage, as well as some of the actual food.
You’re going to need to conduct a kitchen audit and evaluate how eco-friendly it is.
When it comes to the actual food you eat, production is a highly damaging process. Not everything on your plate is naturally supposed to be there, which means it’s an act against nature.
“An act against nature” is a bit hyperbolic, but it’s true. A common fact of food pollution comes from the fact that cows release gasses that are harmful to the environment. The more red meat everybody consumes, the more cows that have to be held for meat production. Eating less beef means a healthier diet, and one less participant in the meat industry. Try incorporating meatless meals, and using meat as an accent instead of the focus of your dishes.
Now, let’s not focus on meat so much that we forget to examine the produce we eat as well. Vegans and vegetarians aren’t off the hook. Those strawberries, mangoes, and avocados you love are not naturally in season year-round. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it will when we dig a little deeper. Out-of-season produce requires more eco-engineering than harvesting in season. To keep those items fresh up to consumption it takes extensive transportation and refrigeration, which contributes to pollution. To combat this, you would buy from local farmers (or grow your own produce) so that transportation and refrigeration pollution is minimized.
When’s the last time you considered if your produce was in season?
Buying the right food isn’t the only change that needs to happen to create a sustainable kitchen. When you’re actually cooking up and making your dishes, a lot of waste and pollution comes from that as well.
Potentially obvious; warming up a stove is damaging to the environment. Using resources and releasing chemicals, you want to keep stove use to a minimum. That means meal-prep one day a week, and use your microwave or toaster oven when possible. Meal prep saves you time, and you only use the oven or stove once a week. Smaller appliances like microwave ovens use a lot less energy, too.
Another piece of preparation in the kitchen is the trash that comes from it. All the packaging and waste from your food should be dealt with to intentionally minimize environmental impact. Recycle and compost when possible so you don’t contribute to harmful landfill dumping.
Also, when you have to wash dishes, there is potentially a lot of water waste associated with that. Don’t let the water run as you wash; instead fill one sink with soap water, and the other with rinse water. If you’re using a dishwasher, it’s a little trickier to maximize eco-efficiency. Don’t over or under fill the machine, and let the dishes air dry rather than heat dry.
While we’re talking about dishes, you’d want to own pieces that you don’t have to replace often. Cheap wood or plastic is not healthy for you, and breaks easily. Buy stainless steel or other sturdy materials so all you need is to wash them after use. That includes travel utensils for on-the-go eating as well! Here you can find some biodegradable utensils.
I brushed past it above, but a big contributor to your carbon footprint are the energy guzzling appliances in your kitchen. The fridge, dishwasher, and oven are big users of energy and resources, we have to try and minimize their use.
Of course, this part is a bit pricey at first, but it saves money and our environment in the long run. Older appliances aren’t efficient at using resources, and often waste energy. An old fridge releases cold air if the door doesn’t seal properly, meaning it uses more electricity to stay cold. Also, an over packed fridge has to work harder to cool all the food inside, so make sure to only keep food you plan on eating soon. Make sure your fridge and freezer are running efficiently, upgrade to eco-friendly models, and use them intentionally rather than for food hoarding.
As I mentioned earlier, your stove is another big energy consumer, especially if it is an older model. An induction cooker is the best option, as opposed to electric or gas. Induction heats up food quicker, cleaner, and safer than electric or gas. Induction stove tops require certain utensils to be used with them, but this still saves money and energy in the long run. Combine an induction cooker with a high-end toaster oven, and now you have a sustainable way to heat food. Use the induction to cook large dishes, and use the toaster oven to cook smaller dishes and heat up leftovers.
Here are some of the most eco-friendly appliances for your home. Even if you don’t get these specific items, you can compare the features to other appliances you may upgrade to.
How Can I Dine Out Sustainably?
I kid, but it really becomes hard to have a minimal impact on the environment when you eat out. Consider all of the factors that I listed above, and think about the restaurants that follow those guidelines. I’ll tell you right now, not many restaurants care about being sustainable unless it affects their budget.
But, you can eat less meals with meat, eat in season, and be conscious about the establishments you support. Local is typically healthier for you and the environment so try it out. Eco-friendly and healthy eating costs more than a $2 cheeseburger, but of course it does. The health of you and our environment is worth the extra money, if you ask me.
How to eat sustainably and eco-friendly:
- Cut down on harmful waste (recycle and compost when you can)
- Minimize utensil replacement (buy stainless steel)
- Maximize appliance efficiency (upgrade and use wisely)
- Eat with nature in mind (less meat, more in-season produce)
It probably wouldn’t hurt to purchase some carbon offsets to take care of any leftover pollution. An easy way to do that is joining False Ego’s UCapture team. I wrote a bit about it in an earlier post, but UCapture is a tool you can use while online shopping to combat CO2 pollution.