Think you can’t make a difference in the fight against global warming? Not true. Each of us can take many small steps that, multiplied many times over, can have a significant impact on the amount of greenhouse gases we pump into our atmosphere.
Every home cook, for example, can turn the kitchen into a front in the climate change war with these 10 simple actions:
1) Go vegetarian, at least a few times a week. Producing meat takes more than eight times as much fossil fuel energy as raising plant foods, according to David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. And, he adds, for all that energy used, meat is only 1.4 times as nutritious as plant foods. (See “Livestock Production: Energy Inputs and the Environment” at Cornell University, http://www.cornell.edu)
2) Stock your fridge with locally grown produce. Food in stores often travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles to get there – that’s a lot of fuel consumed for shipping. (See “The Freshest, Most Flavorful Food is Just Around the Corner” at FoodRoutes Network, http://www.foodroutes.org, and “Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry” at Worldwatch Institute, http://www.worldwatch.org, for more information)
3) If you can’t find a fruit or vegetable in your local farmer’s market, choose an organic alternative at the grocery store. Fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals are not only often petroleum-derived products, but can have an adverse effect on the environment and your health. For more information about eliminating pesticides from your diet, see the Environmental Working Group at http://www.foodnews.org.
4) Make your coffee shade grown. In addition to protecting native vegetation (which contributes more oxygen to the environment), shade-grown coffee farms provide a habitat for up to 150 species of birds, compared to the 20 to 50 species typically found on non-shade farms. (See “Bird Safe and Shade Grown Coffee” at The Coffee Research Institute, http://www.coffeeresearch.org.)
5) Cook with your microwave more often. A microwave oven uses only about one-third the energy of a conventional stove, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (http://www.aceee.org). Plus, microwaving your dinner creates less heat in the kitchen, which means less stress on your air-conditioning bill.
6) Cut back on pre-made meals and processed foods. The more heavily processed the food item, the more fuel-intensive it is. Besides, when you make your own meals with fresh ingredients, you know exactly what you’re eating.
7) Try homegrown. Whether you grow a few herbs in pots on your patio, or turn your backyard into a mini-farm, every leaf of spinach or bowl of tomatoes you produce yourself saves food trucking miles and gas.
8) Unplug coffeemakers, toasters and other small appliances when you’re not using them. These and many other devices – TVs, VCRs, computers, etc. – continue to consume power as long as they’re plugged in, even if they’re not being used. For more details, see the Standby Home Power Page at http://www.standby.lbl.gov/index.html.
9) When cooking on an electric range, turn the heat off a few minutes early. The electric coil will remain hot enough to continue cooking for a while, and you’ll save energy. Also, cover your pots when bringing water to a boil; you’ll get the water bubbling a lot quicker that way.
10) Buy extra fruit and vegetables at the farmer’s market for later. By freezing or canning local produce when it’s in season, you can reduce your dependence on out-of-season items – often shipped thousands of miles – at the grocery store.