The word "sustainable" can bring up a lot of confusion and anxiety. It seems like every day there's something new to consider or switch to using or avoid altogether. Sustainability coach Deborah Tull was on Good Food with Evan Kleiman this past week to help bring some clarity on the issue.
First of all, Tull emphasizes that "it's not that there's a particular set of rules. It's for each person to be looking at their own lifestyle, their own needs, and saying 'what works for me?'" For every aspect of the kitchen, from what we eat to how we store our food, there are different levels of sustainability and awareness that we can work towards. Here are a few:
Packaging: Even if we're making good choices about the food we're buying, we often get stuck when it comes to how it's packaged. To reduce waste, we can buy more in bulk and bring our own bags to hold things like loose apples (as well as to carry our groceries when we're done!).
We can also choose products that are packaged in a more ecofriendly way - for instance, Tull mentions choosing an almond butter stored in a glass container over one that's in a plastic jar.
Storage: We've been hearing a lot about avoiding plastics and switching over to containers made of other materials to store foods. Tull says it's great if you're doing this already; glass, stainless steal, aluminum, and ceramic containers are more sustainable materials in the longterm and don't have the health concerns associated with using plastic.
However, if you're not there yet, she advises looking at ways to limit and conserve your plastic. Wash and re-use plastic bags after using them. You can also keep the plastic containers that many foods come in and use them for storage.
Conserve Energy: We admit that this isn't something we always think about when cooking, but Tull points out that we can save a lot of energy by simply doing small things like matching a pan to the appropriate sized burner and covering pots while boiling water.
Stepping it up a bit, Tull also encourages cooking one-pot meals and using a pressure cooker, which can save 50 - 75% of the energy it would otherwise take to cook that food. Solar cooking is another option during summer months or for people living in sunny states.
Carry an Ecopack: It can be tough to keep things sustainable once we step out the door. Tull describes toting a simple ecopack on your journeys with a container for storing leftovers, a coffee mug and re-usable coffee stirrer, a water bottle, a cloth napkin, and a set of utensils.
What other tips do you have for keeping our kitchens sustainable and eco-friendly?
• To hear Evan Kleiman's full interview with Deborah Tull, visit the Good Food website.
Related: How to Avoid Wasting Food
(Images: Nancy Koltes at Home, Target, Flickr member Ilmungo licensed under Creative Commons, and Black Sheep Heap)