Becoming more environmentally friendly is big news at the moment. Major supermarkets hand out biodegradable carrier bags, or refuse to hand them over altogether. Mass producers around the World monitor their pollution levels, and car manufacturers strive to design cars with lower fuel emissions.
But what steps can the humble home cook take to limit their impact on the environment? Here are some suggestions on how to limit the waste of food, energy and money in the home.
Controlling Waste Can Save Money and Help the Earth
One of the easiest ways to adopt a greener approach in the kitchen is to recycle. Most councils now collect tins, paper, glass and plastics for recycling. Yet some people still do not recycle. According to a report by the BBC, landfill space in the UK could run out by 2016 (BBC News, 7 January 2007). Throwing rinsed out plastic bottles and jars into different bins is not really labour intensive and has a hugely positive impact on the environment.
One of the more surprising problems with landfill is the disposal of organic materials and kitchen waste. Vegetable peelings, eggshells and uncooked fruit and vegetables produce a harmful gas as they biodegrade inside plastic bin bags. A solution to this is to compost garden and kitchen waste. Composters are often available through Local Authorities in a variety of sizes – from small single composters to family-sized bins. After around 18 months this waste starts to turn crumbly and brown and becomes compost that can be used for gardenening.
Cooking More Economically Can Help the Environment
There are a number of measures that can help the environment and save money on fuel bills. Try some of the following:
– Electric hobs can take a while to cool down after switching off. Use this to your advantage by turning the hob off a minute or two before the food is ready, using the residual heat to finish the meal. This doesn’t work so well with gas hobs as the heat is more “immediate”.
– Turn off the oven for the last few minutes of cooking time, keeping the door shut. This will save some money each day as well as make your home more energy efficient.
– Consider investing in a slow cooker. These are available in a range of sizes depending on the size of the family – and come with a double bonus. Firstly, they use the same amount of energy as a lightbulb – an economical way to cook a pot roast or a stew. The second bonus feature is that tougher, cheaper cuts of meat can be cooked very slowly and become meltingly tender in a slow cooker, saving money on shopping as well as on fuel bills.
Limiting Food Waste Helps the Environment
Be creative with leftovers. According to a report by the The Independent newspaper (8 May 2008), Britain throws away £10bn of food each year. Waste such as this puts a strain on food producers around the World, trying to keep up with so-called “demand”.
Buy bread in bulk and freeze it – or use slightly stale bread to make Bread Pudding, that old-fashioned and delicious standby. Before throwing leftover cooked potatoes in the bin, consider using them for making fishcakes, or slice them up and make a potato salad. Perhaps those broccoli stalks could be washed, trimmed and blended with some stock and Stilton cheese to make soup? And don’t throw away those dark, freckled bananas – use them to make Banana Bread.
If you are ever lucky enough to have too much wine left at the bottom of a bottle, don’t pour it down the sink. Tip it into a plastic container and freeze for use in risottos or pasta sauces. With dishes such as Shepherds Pie or Lasagne, cut leftovers into individual portions and freeze for reheating when time is short. Think before throwing anything away and make a challenge to find a way to use it. Following these steps means that there will also be less need for shopping, saving money on the food bills.
There are a number of ways that the home cook can gain “eco-friendly” points. By making a few small changes it can be easy to lower demand on fuel and food – and also save money.