Nothing warms us in winter like a hearty holiday feast or a cozy home-cooked meal. From simmering stews to roasted vegetables, we all crave comfort food during the colder months. So, why not experiment and embrace sustainable winter cooking this season? For one thing, you’ll be creating nourishing meals without leaving the warmth of your own home. For another, by making more mindful food choices, you’ll be contributing to a healthier, kinder planet.
Best of all, you don’t have to be a die-hard chef or food enthusiast to adopt these practices — our eco-friendly living tips are for anyone with a kitchen, and they apply year-round. So, wherever you live, or whatever the weather is like, read on as we uncover the ins and outs of sustainable cooking.
Must-know tips for your eco-friendly kitchen
You don’t have to wait for it to be green outside to elevate your green game inside. From reducing food waste to choosing the correct cookware, here are must-know tips to make your meal prep and eating habits smart, savory, and sustainable.
Embrace organic, local produce
The foundation of sustainable cooking lies in the ingredients you select. That means seasonal and locally sourced foods. During winter, this can include such root vegetables as carrots and beets, greens such as kale, and winter squashes. Farmers markets and grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s simplify finding organic produce for eco-friendly cooking.
Why choose organic produce? Organic farming avoids synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, prioritizing natural alternatives. This reduces soil and water pollution, benefiting both the environment and human health. On top of that, supporting local farmers and markets helps ensure your food travels shorter distances, reducing transportation emissions, while boosting your local economy.
Reduce food waste
Winter cuisine offers plenty of opportunities to reduce waste. Vegetable scraps? Make broth. Leftovers cramming the fridge? Time for soup or stir-fry! Planning your meals thoughtfully and using leftovers creatively will reduce waste and save you money.
And just because it’s cold outside, don’t forget about composting. Composting is another excellent way to repurpose food scraps while enriching the soil. Additionally, you will be preventing methane — a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2 — from being released when it decomposes in a landfill. In fact, one recent study found that 58% of methane emissions in the U.S. originate from food waste.
Incorporate eco-friendly cooking utensils
Consider the tools you use in the kitchen. Are they eco-friendly? While we don’t recommend throwing out what you already have, when they’re ready for a refresh, choose sustainable cooking equipment.
Look for eco-friendly cooking utensils made from sustainable materials like bamboo or stainless steel. These materials are durable, long-lasting, and won’t contribute to environmental degradation. Plus, investing in quality utensils means you won’t have to replace them as frequently, reducing waste in the long run. The same applies to your tableware and towels. To avoid waste, skip the single-use paper towels and napkins for reusable alternatives. Then when it’s time to wash them, use SaltyLama’s laundry detergent sheets for an effective, eco-conscious clean.
Choose energy-efficient kitchen appliances
When it comes to cooking appliances, prioritize energy efficiency. Look for appliances with high ENERGY STAR ratings, which can be applied to anything from your dishwasher to your refrigerator. Then, consider alternatives to your other daily essentials. Induction cooktops, for instance, are more energy-efficient than traditional electric or gas stoves. Additionally, convection ovens and air fryers circulate hot air, reducing cooking time and energy consumption.
Choose cast iron cookware over PVC and aluminum
Cast iron skillets are not only incredibly durable but, when sourced responsibly, are eco-friendly too. Look for brands that prioritize sustainable production methods and use recycled materials. Cast iron is infinitely recyclable!
Properly cared-for cast iron cookware can last for generations, allowing you to minimize waste and reliance on consumerism. And one of the amazing parts of using cast iron is that you don’t even need chemical cleansers. Just hot water and a rough brush will clean your cast iron!
Be mindful of meat and seafood consumption
If you consume meat and seafood, make sure you are sourcing them sustainably as these industries are among the biggest emitters of CO2. Look for labels like organic, grass-fed, and MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified for seafood. Also, prioritize wild-caught fish. It will be labeled as such when purchasing. Fish farming is notoriously unsustainable, and wild-caught fish is much cleaner in all aspects.
Preserve and ferment
Canning, fermenting, and pickling are excellent methods of preserving seasonal produce. Not only does it limit waste, but you will save money by buying fewer items wrapped, bundled and sealed in disposable packaging.
Get creative with plant-based cooking
Green living certainly invites you to incorporate more greens into your diet, and embracing plant-based cooking is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental footprint. Why? Because a plant-based diet comes with a lower carbon footprint and generally requires fewer resources like water compared to animal-based diets.
In fact, data shows that eating meat-free and dairy-free just once a week has the same environmental impact as taking 7.6 million cars off the road. So, incorporate dinner nights like Meatless Mondays into your cooking routine — you’ll be making a positive impact with each bite. Need inspiration? Do a quick search for easy plant-based recipes. You also specify specific ingredients you’d like to include. You might just be surprised by what you find!
Sustainable cooking in winter is about more than just enjoying delicious, soothing meals. Incorporating these sustainable cooking practices into your culinary journey also contributes to a greener planet. So, as you cozy up with your favorite winter recipes, remember your kitchen can be a hub of eco-friendly practices that benefit both your health and the well-being of the planet.