10 easy ways to cook and eat environmentally friendlyApril 11th, 2012 | Posted by in Commentary
Let’s start with the basics: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. There are many things you can do to make your cooking and eating style more environmentally friendly. Many of them require only a mere change of habit, and adds little inconvenience to your life.Â Other than the act of changing long-term habits, of course. Your food won’t taste any different, it won’t take more time to prepare it, and it doesn’t cost more than what you already spend.Â Here are ten ways in which you can reduce trash without the slightest hint of difficulty.
1. Use washable cotton kitchen towels instead of paper towels.
Paper towels are thin, and you go through them quickly, because every time you need one, you actually need three or four of them. Kitchen towels are thicker, and more durable. You can do the same with real cloth napkins. Some people say you waste water when you wash them, but that shouldn’t be the case. Unless you run a load of laundry just for a couple towels, there is no reason why using kitchen towels will increase your use of water. Simply throw in your kitchen towels in with your other colored wash. Your machine won’t notice the difference.
2. Away with zip-lock bags and cling wrap!
Well, you can keep a couple zip-locks around in case of emergencies, but there is absolutely nothing a zip-lock can do that a plastic container or a bowl and a plate can’t. Bring a sandwich to work in a snap-shut, washer-safe plastic container. Marinate your zucchinis in a container. Need cling wrap to cover the leftovers? Put them in a smaller bowl and cover with a plate.
If you don’t already recycle your paper, glass, cans, and plastic, then you should start off with that. Make room for your recycling bin by using a smaller garbage can, because you will reduce your garbage by a lot. This will also save you time, because you will have so little garbage, you will be taking your garbage out about once a week, or less! You might ask me, well wouldn’t my garbage start smelling? Well, no, because of the next thing you’re going to do.
4. Compost your food scraps.
Make a separate bin in your kitchen for recycling food scraps. This should be about the size of a large margarine tub, or a bit bigger. Because food scraps spoil quickly, you will want to take it out every day. Many cities accept food scraps as part of the yard waste collection, which will be taken to a big compost heap some place outside of town. Make sure you read the guidelines from your city about the types of animal products you are allowed to include. If your city doesn’t already have yard waste service, I highly encourage you to write to your public utility to tell them how you plan on using it. If you have your own yard, you might consider installing your own compost bin. Go here to find out how.
5. Use old plastic grocery bags to line your trash bin.
Well, until you run out anyway. There is no need to buy trash bags, when you already have a stash of plastic bags at home.
6. Bring your own shopping bag.
This one is pretty well known. Most grocery stores sell durable shopping bags, and you can keep a couple in your car, ready at your service upon demand. If you don’t drive, there are tout bags that fit in your purse, and can be quite stylish as well. After a while, you might even find yourself using it for other shopping goods!
7. Cut down on the packaging you buy.
Processed foods often have preservatives and other additives that your body will never need. Some canned and jarred products only have salt and water in the ingredients, but cooking with fresh produce is much more healthy, and retains much more of the flavor. Other than tomato paste or the occasional can of sardines for peculiar recipes, I almost never need to go down the can isle. If you need a can of tomatoes, corn, or green beans, try the produce section! They have all of these things too. For kidney beans and other pulses, the bulk section has a much greater selection.
8. Avoid the plastic bags in the produce section.
Now that you’re going to the produce section, try to refrain yourself from grabbing the plastic produce bags. Plastic is one of the more difficult things to recycling (maybe not for you, but for the processing facility), and if these little thin bags get loose out in the open, they can be a hazard to small birds. When they have been sitting out in the sun for too long, plastic bags release a chemical that destroys the ozone, which is the thing in the sky that protects us from skin cancer. So do us all a favor. When you grab that broccoli, or when you want to bag up a couple oranges or apples, just skip the bag and put it straight into your cart. They will all get bagged up in the end anyway.
9. Bottle your own water for the day.
The FDA recommends that each adult drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. That is precisely half a gallon, or two quarts. If you are out of the house most of the day, then you might buy bottled water, and then you won’t know what to do with the bottle afterward. So get yourself a personal water bottle, and keep it by your side– in your car, in the office, or in your purse/briefcase. It’s also a great way to make sure you drink plenty of liquids.
10. Get a travel mug for your coffee.
One time, I came across a 5-way intersection, each corner with a garbage can that was overflowing with disposable paper coffee cups. The paper industry estimates that Americans will consume roughly 23 billion paper coffee cups in 2010. Do you want to be one out of millions contributing to that? The next time you are at Starbucks or your local coffee stand, just hand over your personal coffee tumbler, and tell them to fill it up! Starbucks will even rinse it out for you, and give you a 5-cent discount. If you don’t have one already, I recommend getting a double wall, stainless steel, vacuum insulated tumbler. I bring coffee from home, and it’s still steaming hot at lunch time!
Extra credit: convince your friends how easy it is to be environmentally friendly.
Of course, your friends will only be convinced if you show them how easy it is. You can kick-start your friends on their efforts by getting them a personalized tumbler mug stuffed full of pictures, funny quotes, or whatever strikes your fancy. Not only will your friend be forced to think about you every day while sipping at his/her coffee; thanks to you, they’ll be doing their small part in reducing trash without even realizing it.