For the chef who is committed to healthy cooking and living off of the land, making green choices in the kitchen is important. Changing some habits in the kitchen pays off for the environment and for your wallet. Mariel Hemingway, author of Mariel’s Kitchen, has eight innovative tips for making your kitchen earth-friendly.
One of our favorites here at Elixir? Food that has just lost freshness can still be used: soft vegetables can be made into stock for soup, overripe fruit can be frozen for smoothies, and you can puree and freeze leafy herbs for later use!
The Green Kitchen Challenge
Sustainability starts with the most essential part of life, eating. Mariel created an earth-friendly kitchen by challenging herself to make one small change a week to her regular routine.
- Commit to breaking one bad habit per week: Turn off taps when normally they’d be running; set up a streamlined recycling system by devoting a clean receptacle to non-landfill trash, unplug appliances when not in use because they steal energy for no good reason.
- Cut solid waste in half by deeming plastic containers, Ziploc bags, and glass jars non-disposable items and reuse them unless they’ve stored raw meats or fish. A small bag-drying rack on the counter top is a godsend for repurposing bags. Fifteen minutes spent organizing container drawers so each item has a lid pays off. Put a selection of these items in your car with your cloth shopping totes to use at markets and salad bars.
- Make a decision to buy bulk items whenever possible and take your own containers. Beans, pulses, nuts, baking ingredients, and whatever grains you use can be purchased this way, and it usually works out cheaper than brand-name goods.
- Pledge to not throw away food, and to cook or freeze whatever had just lost freshness. Soft vegetables can easily become a vegetable stock for soups; overripe tomatoes become sauce; bananas and other fruit going mushy can get frozen in chunks for smoothies. Half a loaf of bread can be sliced and frozen on purchase. Woody herbs like rosemary and thyme can be dried; leafy ones like cilantro get pureed and frozen in ice-cube trays for later use. Our grandmothers did it—why can’t we?
- Go cold-turkey on toxic, chemical-filled cleaning products. There’s no need to buy an armory of new stuff, as an all-purpose green cleaner covers many needs. Reusable cleaning materials like microfiber dusting cloths and old-fashioned dishtowels mean that (recycled) paper towels are saved for true one-time use.
- Install a good water filter for drinking, cooking, and vegetable-washing needs. This costs some money up front but delivers pure water free of chemicals and contaminants, without the environmental impact of bottled water production and delivery. Fill up a metal canister to take water when you leave the house.
- Put a large container outside your door to gather rainwater for plants and pets. It’s a small act of conservation, but it feels great to scoop water up and bring it inside—children learn from it, too.
- Invested in some solar panels for your roof to lessen your reliance on nonrenewable resources. The amount of energy you save may surprise you.
For more tips and nutritious, delicious recipes read Mariel Hemingway’s Mariel’s Kitchen, from HarperOne.