Book Review: Cooking Green

We are currently away on holidays in the beautiful Okanagan. I am seriously stunned at how beautiful this country is: a platter of different landscapes to enjoy.

I just finished reading a great and inspiring book that I would highly recommend: Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint In The Kitchen, by Kate Heyhoe. It goes beyond the basic requirements of leaving less of a damaging “cookprint”, namely – shopping locally, eating organic food, buying sustainable food – and suggests ways to take being environmentally responsible in the kitchen to a whole new level. I found it very inspiring. I don’t know that I will ever be able to implement all the ideas, but like eating healthy, little decisions every day can substantially change our impact on the earth. Here are some highlights of the interesting topics she covers:

1. This is an ongoing conversation I have with myself and others…Should I buy organic? Or local? But the local is not organic. But the organic is not local. Which is healthier? Which is better for the environment? Tricky business! Kate suggests that being an Ecovore requires a certain fluidity, and ability to have this ongoing discussion, making decisions as situations are presented. Obviously the ideal would be local organic food, but if you are buying from a small local farm, that may not be certified organic(which is an expensive certification for a small farm) but the food doesn’t have to travel very far…then local is maybe a better choice than organic. Little judgement calls all the time.

2. Eat less meat, more plants – This is an obvious one. I know many people aren’t interested or ready to drop meat completely from their diet, but there is definitely no reason why we shouldn’t eat LESS meat. Maybe for you that means planning one meat free dinner/week. We are not strictly vegetarians but in my family we probably only eat one dinner/week that DOES have meat in it. Interesting fact: The daily food and water resources required to feed one cow exceed the daily amount of milk produced by that cow. A single cow produces 120lbs of waste PER DAY and approx 100 gallons of methane per day. They produce more methan emissions than a car!

3. Small Changes: Switching to a totally local diet = driving 1,000 miles less per year. Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken/fish/eggs for one day per week = driving 760 miles less per year. Switching to vegetables one day per week = driving 1,160 miles less per year. Switching from the average American diet to a vegetable based one = driving 8,000 miles less per year!!!!!!! Can you believe those numbers?

4. Water preservation – Water is a non renewable resource, meaning that the water we have on earth is all the water we will ever have on earth. We cannot produce more of it. This is why we have to be careful not to pollute it and compromise the quality of it. Here is the amount of water required to create a SINGLE serving of the following foods: steak = 2,607 gallons, chicken = 408 gallons, milk = 65 gallons, rice = 36 gallons, lettuce = 6 gallons, tomatoes = 3 gallons. Clearly, reducing our red meat consumption is a great way to reduce our impact on the earth. If you eat one less beef meal each week, you’ll save: 40,600 gallons of water, 70,000 lbs of grain, and prevent the emission of 300,000 lbs of carbon dioxide each year.

5. Food Waste – Americans generate 1 lb of food waste per day for every adult and child. Americans throw out 27% of all food available for consumption. JUST 5% OF THE WASTED FOOD IN THE USA COULD FEED 4 MILLION PEOPLE/DAY. Can you even believe that? This just absolutely horrifies me. While millions of people are dying of starvation, we are destroying the earth with our over-consumption.

There are definitely some regular green practices I am already fully committed to: eating as much local/organic/sustainable food as possible, using only green household cleaners, recycling and buying recycled products, buying food from the bulk bins, shopping at Farmer’s Markets. There are many many more though, that I would like to try to take it to the next level. While Kate offers so many great ideas on how to make changes in the kitchen, here are a few that I think are practical steps that I am going to implement immediately:

1. use passive cooking techniques ie)bringing water to a boil, and then removing it from the heat after a few minutes and letting the very hot water continue to cook things. (where appropriate)

2. more commitment to using small appliances than the oven when possible. More energy efficient.

3. organizing a “small appliance swap”! I think we all have small appliances we don’t use often enough to keep, but just throwing them out is bad for the environment…so…let’s swap! I think my milkshake maker and second coffee maker need to find a new home. Sounds like a fun reason for a party!

4. Using reusable cloth napkins. The washing/drying is less energy than the garbage created from paper ones.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this book and think it is actually do-able, written in a non-judgmental and inspiring way, and totally practical. I really do believe that we change our lives in the small decisions we make every day. I would love to hear your ideas on how to decrease your “cookprint” on the earth!

If you would like to learn more about the topic, check out the book or check out Kate’s website: