In honour of Earth Day, we’re sharing our savviest energy-saving and waste avoiding tips to help you dine with the planet in mind. The bonus here is that you're also giving your bank account a bit of a break. All the tips below are as cost-effective as they are kind to the Earth.
1. Lids on, Heat down
When boiling water, place a lid on top of the pan and turn the heat down. This will trap the heat in, allowing you to cook more efficiently and sustain the level of boiling without having the hob turned up so high. This can save about 3% in energy costs, per pan.
2. Use the right pan and the right hob
It makes very little sense to boil a few handfuls of peas in a massive saucepan. A lot of energy would be wasted trying to heat up excess water that’s not being used. Also, make your hob choice wisely. If part of the hob is peaking out from underneath the pan, the hob is too big and the heat will escape. Don’t let the energy go to waste and opt for a small hob instead
3.Choose carbon-footprint friendly foods
Not to bang on about it, but reducing your meat intake truly is the easiest way to achieve a sustainable diet. Meat has the highest carbon footprint of all the food we eat. But you don’t necessarily need to go cold turkey. The environmental impact of a Mediterranean diet is pretty similar to the environmental impact of a vegan and vegetarian diet. In fact, if we all mimicked the elements of the Mediterranean diet in our everyday cooking, we could actually save 15% of global warming pollution by 2050 . So that means plenty of plant-based foods with fish and poultry a few times a week, maybe red meat a couple of times a month. Essentially, if you can bring your meat-intake down even just a little bit, you can help the planet a lot. Use this climate change food calculator to help you measure your foods carbon-footprint.
4. Spend some quality time with your freezer
Your freezer could be your best friend when it comes to reducing food waste. But like all good friendships, they require mutual respect and understanding. If not, the food you put in your freezer will end up spoiling, be forgotten about and things will start to go rather sour.
- Freeze things in portion size containers to stop you from opening stuff up and resealing it, as this causes freezer burn
- To save space, freeze soups, sauce and stock in ice cube trays, so when you need them, you can just pull out the suitable number of ice cubes you need
- Try to resist the urge to hoard. Keep a simple inventory to remind you of what you’re storing
- Think of your freezer as a short term solution i.e 'I’m saving this curry to eat for dinner next week'; rather than 'I’ll save it for when I fancy it sometime in the distant future'
- Lastly, de-frost things naturally, rather than using the microwave. Just pop it in the fridge overnight. De-frosting this way also cuts on cooking time!
5. Spring clean your oven and hob space!
Burnt bits of food or oil and grease absorb heat, making your oven and hob far less efficient.
6. Boil and steam your food at the same time
When possible, use a steamer to cook your veg at the same time you're boiling other ingredients. The residual steam from the boiling water will cook whatever you have in the steamer. This saves yourself using more energy on another hob. It also means there's one less saucepan to wash up. Just pop your steamer on top of a suitably sized saucepan.
If you don’t have a steamer, use a metal colander and place a lid on top to prevent the steam from escaping
7. Save Scraps for Soups, Sauces and Stocks
Try saying that 3 times in a row. Carrot tops, potato skins, squash skins, onion peels, garlic top, mushroom stalks, herb stems.
Keep an empty tupperware in the fridge for the ends of vegetables that you haven’t used or if you can’t use all of a vegetable up in one dish. There are so many useful ways to use up the scraps. Either leave them to boil to produce a flavour-packed savoury broth or blend them up to use in a sauce or dips. You could also save veggie scraps for pickling. For a simple but unbelievably tasty Vietnamese pickle recipe, click here.
8. Carry on experimenting with world cuisine!
It probably won’t surprise you that we’re strong advocates for world food. But all plugs aside, it really is amazing what you can learn from different cultures about how to cook with different parts of an ingredient you’d otherwise throw away. You might recognise the term root-to-stem or nose-to-tail. Middle-Eastern and Asian cuisines are particularly admirable for the delectable ways in which they put these concepts into practice.
A tangy Lebanese fattoush salad could be the perfect example of how to use up food in your kitchen. Old flatbread is torn into hearty chunks and brought back to life by frying with olive oil, tossed together with herbs, leafy greens and luscious tomatoes.