Cooking your own meals at home isn’t only better for your health, but it’s also much better for the environment than dining at restaurants or ordering take-out. That’s because cooking at home requires far fewer resources – less packaging, less transportation (and therefore fewer emissions), and because you are able to choose the quantity you prepare for each meal, less food will end up in the garbage.
But if you’re not mindful in the kitchen, your cooking habits can certainly be wasteful. 16% of all energy used in the United States goes into the food supply chain, from growing and transporting to storing, cooking, and dealing with food waste. On a consumer level, when it comes to energy and water usage, food waste, and packaging – there are a lot of things to be considered when you’re getting ready to put on your chef’s hat. Some things to think about as you’re planning your meals and putting together your grocery list:
- Where is my food coming from? Is it sustainably farmed and locally sourced? Is it organic?
- What is my food packaged in?
- Avoid plastics and opt for items that come without packaging or that come in recycled/recyclable packaging
- What do I actually need to buy in order to ensure that no food gets wasted?
- How can I make use every part of an ingredient?
- This is where your creativity comes into play – a lot of the food that we waste is because we just don’t think about how that part of the fruit/or vegetable can be used (i.e. citrus peals)
- What do I intend on doing with any leftovers?
- Enjoy again during another meal
- Compost it – 70% of our household and yard waste can be composted rather than thrown in the trash)
- Donate it to a local shelter
- Am I opting for reusables?
- Silverware, plates, cloth napkins, etc.
Once you’ve identified the most eco-friendly choices and methods for preparing your meal, you’re ready to hit the grocery store (with your own bag of course) and start cooking! However, your work doesn’t end there. If you’re not careful, you can unknowingly consume excess water and a whole lot of electricity. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that cooking alone accounts for 4.5% of total home energy use. This figure doesn’t even include the energy costs associated with refrigeration, hot water heating, and dishwashing. Added together, these costs mean that as much as 15% of the energy in the average American home is used in the kitchen.
On the bright side, there are lots of simple things that require little to no sacrifice that you can do to cut back your energy consumption while cooking. We found the best 10 ways to minimize your energy usage in the kitchen:
- Soak ingredients ahead of time – Foods like beans, lentils, oats will cook significantly faster if you let them sit in water overnight
- Thaw out frozen ingredients in the refrigerator overnight – These ingredients will already be unfrozen and will therefore not need to be warmed in the microwave
- Choose the right size pots and pans for the job – Match the pan size to burner size as best as possible. It has been estimated that a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner can waste roughly 40% of the heat produced. Using the right pots and pans will not only help food cook more evenly but can save you $36 annually for an electric range and $18 for gas
- Choose the right pot – Certain pan types are better at conducting and retaining heat. For example, copper pans heat up more quickly than stainless steel and cast-iron pans, and also retain heat more efficiently, so you won’t need the heat to be turned up so high. Glass or ceramic dishes are the most efficient to use in the oven and can reduce the temperature required for cooking
- Choose the right appliance – It’s important to find the right balance when choosing between an oven, a toaster oven, and a microwave. Smaller appliances are often the best choice. For instance, cooking in the toaster oven rather than a full-size oven uses less energy
- Chop smaller – Smaller pieces of veggies and meat will cook faster and reduce cooking time
- Put a lid on it – Covering pots and pans helps trap heat and reduce cooking times by approximately 10%
- Keep oven and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible – Keeping the oven door closed while the oven is in use can save as much as $20 per year!
- Cook in large quantities and freeze leftovers – Cook as much as possible in the oven simultaneously to ensure all the space and heat is being used. Larger portions and microwaving leftovers require less overall energy than cooking from scratch each day. To save energy on cooling, be sure to leave your food out to cool before you store it in your refrigerator or freezer
- Keep burner pans clean – They will reflect the heat better and help you save energy
Kiwi Energy prioritizes helping customers be more energy-efficient and live more sustainably, which is why we encourage you to cook at home more often. We hope that by following these tips for eco-friendly and energy-efficient cooking, you can help cut back on your energy usage in the kitchen and your overall environmental impact.
If you’re not already a customer, give us a call to learn about how you can join us in our mission of creating a more sustainable future! 1.877.208.7636.