A Greener Kitchen
As you are reading blogs on the Happy Eco News website, we do think that you personally have (hopefully!) an interest in the environment. You will have noticed and hopefully celebrated the substantial increase in global awareness for the environment during the last months. And although we do see clear pockets of improvement, the rise in awareness still needs to convert to more action. Especially during festive periods, our ethical, green choices may slip a little…
In this blog, we will bring some ideas to create a greener kitchen, which actually can be more fun, and definitely will not ruin any festive or celebratory spirits!
Disposable food packaging
Let’s first talk about disposables. Disposables are often front of mind when thinking about creating a greener kitchen, particularly the amount of plastic that our food products are packed in. “Bananas already have their own packaging” is probably one of the most quoted examples where it is felt that the food industry uses extensive amounts of wasteful packaging. From a food science point of view however, there are often reasons for certain types of packaging.
For the banana example, plastic prevents the bananas from ripening too quickly (in a very cheap manner). Sure, there’s other (& better) ways to prevent this, but there will be initial costs involved to change. For many food products, plastic has been used as a cheap & convenient (waterproof, hence durable & lightweight) packaging material. Changing it, will require us as customers to behave slightly differently. The good news is that more customers are starting to demand this change, and slowly the food industry is responding. The next step is the rise of more long term, sustainable alternatives.
In today’s world there are so many plastics and other disposables that we purchase, use and throw in the landfill around us. The plastics introduced over the years to cover food as cheap, hygienic packaging are now starting to be seen as physically unattractive and unsustainable. Larger groups of consumers are ready for a change. But as all change, stepwise often makes the best long term impact.
Here are some small steps that can make a real difference:
- Buy Fruit and Veg from markets, or choose loose items from your local supermarket/grocery shop. Not bringing packaging home, means no unattractive plastic bags in your fruit bowl/fridge, and no additional rubbish to dispose of.
2. Buy yoghurts in large quantities, rather than individual pots. It’s easy enough to add some cocoa & sugar (plus grated chocolate, yum!) into a plain yogurt to make chocolate yoghurts, or a spoon of jam to create a fruit variant. Less plastic, more $£€ left for you!
3. Choose items in paper boxes, glass jars or refillable containers. It is great to see that more companies are starting to use eco-friendly alternatives. You may find that choosing a different brand of porridge oats, rice or milk will help your environmental footprint. Supporting those businesses that make the better choices, will hopefully send a message to those businesses who haven’t (yet).
4. Don’t buy any tinfoil. The creation of aluminium foil requires a staggering amount of energy. Sadly, only about 20% gets recycled (that’s in the UK) – but it’s probably safe to say that worldwide the majority ends up in landfill & requires 400 years to break down. If you do use it, wash it after, save up for a while and squash it into a ball together ready for recycling.
5. Replace use of cling film (/plastic wrap) and plastic sandwich bags with reusable alternatives. Although it is such an established & versatile product, and also takes much less energy to create compared to tinfoil, almost all ends up in landfills releasing toxic chemicals on our lands and items ending in our oceans, eaten by fish being very poisonous to them, and also consumed again by us.. Alternative products will make your kitchen look much better, think of reusable containers, beeswax wraps for dry, non perishable foods, or washable wraps & covers for any food to take with you or store.
Nearly 10% greenhouse gas caused by food waste
Did you know that nearly 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions created is due to food waste? That is more greenhouse gas emissions coming from food waste, than from all commercial flights combined! If Food Waste were to be a country, it would have the 3rd biggest carbon footprint, with USA and China ranking 1st and 2nd.
Wasting food is also not just about throwing the food itself, it also has wasted the amount of energy and water it took to grow & harvest, pack and transport. Food that goes to landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.
Actively reducing your food waste has tangible benefits as well. It will obviously save you money if you make your food go further, and it will also make you a more creative chef! Be mindful of your food waste and you might just find yourself trying out new amazing recipes to use up those perfectly edible parts of food.
Some of the most wasted foods include:
Fresh fruits & vegetables – Often these are bought because we try to be good, but then not eaten in time. As soon as you see vegetables going a bit soft, prepare and freeze them. If you think they are not good enough any more to eat by themselves, consider adding them to a (pasta) sauce or a soup.
Also, we tend to throw away lots of edible parts of fruits and vegetables. A broccoli or cauliflower stem & leaves often end up in the food bin. Did you know that you can make great dishes with those? Soup is always a favourite, but what about broccoli pesto or garlic roasted cauliflower stems
Bread & bread-heels – Sadly, most of us have at some point encountered mouldy bread when grabbing for a slice. Freezing part of your bread, and defrosting on a need-to-be basis is the easiest way to avoid this. When you do think it is about to happen, also try to use bread in your cooking or baking. Aside from bread and butter pudding, bread is a great ingredient in a veggie bake, or to be made into breadcrumbs to use as a crispy topping.
Bread heels (the two ends, in case you were wondering), are often left, as they are often considered to be not as tasty as the other slices. Personally, we think it actually makes the very best croutons!
Milk – Milk can get spoiled due to the growth of bacteria in it & introduced to it when opening. Keep milk saved in the main part of your fridge, not in the door, to keep at the best temperatures. You can also safely freeze your milk, ideally for up to a month, but fine for a bit longer. Make sure to defrost in the fridge to prevent it going off.
You could also consider using more plant based milks, these have a longer shelf-life, are generally a greener alternative and there is so much great choice now too. For an overview of different plant based milks, you can read our blog here.
Eggs – The shelf life of eggs is different by country. The food laws in some countries require eggs to be washed prior to putting them on the shelves. The washing will remove any dirt and bacteria on the outside, but it will also remove the protective layer of the egg, making it more vulnerable for bacteria to get into the egg. In general terms, fresh eggs straight from the farm should last 1 month+ (at ambient temperature). Supermarket bought eggs, if stored in the fridge, are likely to be fine after the expiration date. To test, place in a glass of water. If it stays horizontally on the bottom, it’s fine, if it comes floating, it’s sadly time to bin. If cooking for any vulnerable individuals, just keep to the date listed. If your eggs are about to expire you can use them up by baking cakes, making protein rich (egg rich!) pancakes, or you can even freeze them (out of their shell).
Meat & Fish – Sadly a lot of meat and fish ends up in the bin. Either by cooking or buying too much, or by parts of the meat/fish not being used. Raw meat/fish can be frozen and cooked meats and fish often make the best ingredients for a wrap/fajita, toppings for bread or salads, or can even become the main ingredient for some fancy canapés!
If freezing any meat or fish, defrost on a plate/bowl in the fridge. To defrost quicker, place meat or fish in cold water. Always thoroughly heat meat. In terms of the unused parts, consider using them up in a different dish – lots of recipes can be found online, from bone broths to stews.
Our mission at EdiBee is to be more food conscious and create greener kitchens. We apply our food science background, with our love for the environment and add some creativity to come up with practical ideas. We sell green kitchen accessories, food and try to support our local community and beyond. We love to speak with like-minded individuals to share ideas to improve our journey. Feel free to get in touch via social media channels or DM.