Everyday Sustainability in the Kitchen
Sustainability is on everyone’s lips nowadays. It’s become a watchword for our times, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming when one considers the sheer number of alterations which need to be made in our everyday lives on both a personal and a grand scale, to combat the destruction of the environment, the tragedy of polluted air, plastic filling the oceans, and WASTE. And yet, environmental and ecological impacts are by no means the sole reason to increase our sustainability as individuals or households; so many causes are converging to elevate sustainable living, making it a necessity, not an option. Rising prices are an immediate influence which is reaching into every level of society in a way which hasn’t really been witnessed in the UK since the end of the second world war, and a lack of knowledge around being self-sufficient has placed the majority of people at the mercy of supermarkets and online delivery companies.
With that somewhat profound and depressing preamble, the problem feels almost unsolvable at the outset, and the idea that one can do anything at all to have a positive impact on this state of affairs feels laughable. And yet what other option do we have.
The aim of this article is to focus on one area of everyday life – the kitchen – in which we can make some small adjustments which could end up making a big difference to our individual lives. I want these suggestions to be attainable, not extreme and onerous, but simple and manageable. They are ways which I use myself and have found them to fit in nicely with my everyday life and cooking practise. They are wide ranging yet simple, and I hope you find some useful suggestions which you feel you could apply without too much upheaval.
- Plan your meals. The benefits of meal planning with regard to sustainability are endless, but to list a few, it enables reduction of food waste by planning in unused perishables from the previous week, whilst giving the opportunity to plan meals which make use of whole packets of perishable produce in the week you are planning for. For example, you have half a bag of carrots in the fridge when you check it before starting to plan your meals. You then ensure you will use them up in your meal plan, or you’ll plan to use them more spontaneously, say, for lunches or snacks in the coming week so they don’t go to waste. Another example would be they you choose a recipe to cook in the coming week which contains spinach, but you know you won’t use the whole bag in that one meal, so you plan another meal that same week to use it up. Meal planning massively reduces spending on unnecessary items, therefore helping with sticking to a budget.
- Don’t make unwise purchases of gimmicky kitchen gadgets, rather invest in good quality tools which will last for years and will achieve many purposes in one. For example, a garlic crusher is an unnecessary kitchen gadget. With a good chef’s knife, you can very easily crush a clove with the side of the blade, then chop it up even smaller than a garlic crusher would. Instead of a spiraliser, you can use a Y-shaped peeler to create lovely strips of carrot, cucumber, or whatever vegetable you would like long strips of. Of course, there are some investments which suit some people and are worthwhile because you will truly make good use of them. If you enjoy spiralising and a spiraliser would be a worthwhile investment for you because you would make frequent use of it, by all means invest! It’s all about being discerning and also being creative with what you have.
3. Compost your peelings and other compostable food waste. A very obvious one, but if you have outdoor space for a compost bin, use it for all your compostable food waste. Not only does it create a wonderful environment for worms and other compost-loving creatures, but you will have your own wonderful home-made compost to spread on your borders, and you’ll help reduce the amount of food waste your local council has to dispose of.
4. Source recipes sustainably by borrowing cookbooks from the library or looking out for them in charity shops. If you borrow a library book and only like a few recipes it contains, simply photograph those recipes and create a folder for them on your phone or use an app to organise them, then access them in the same way you would an online recipe. If you borrow a cookbook from the library which you really like, look out for it in charity shops, or see if anybody you know has it but no longer uses it. Charity shops are full of the most wonderful gems! They will frequently contain very popular cookbooks which have come and gone in and out of fashion, but if you cook and eat for love of food and creativity, not for what’s currently “in,” you’ll find you’ll be able to pick up some of the most fantastic cookbooks for the most ridiculously cheap prices.
- Look after your kitchen appliances and utensils. Make sure you clean everything properly after use, and use a professional company to clean your oven. It sounds obvious, but anything which is looked after with care will inevitably have a longer life than items which are handled with a lack of thankfulness and appreciation. If you’ve made an investment in utensils which bring you joy and transform your experience of cooking, items which your hands recognise and naturally conform to through such frequent use, then treat those items with care and they will last for you.
These recommendations only scratch the surface of the innumerable ways in which sustainability can become our own personal norm in our cooking practise, but I’ve selected them because they cover a range of bases and they are very easy to implement, achieving my goal of not being onerous.
What ideas would you add to this list, and how do you feel about the suggestions I’ve made? Please leave your feedback in the comments and let’s empower as many people as possible to take small steps to less waste and more sustainability in the kitchen every day.
Best wishes for creative and sustainable cooking!