When buying your groceries, remember the four Ns. Choose food that is NATURAL, (meaning no pesticides have been used and it is as minimally processed as possible), NAKED (as little packaging as possible), NUTRITIOUS and NOW (in season).
Buy your food locally whenever possible. Most cities have farmer’s markets where you can purchase produce, meats, breads and baked goods from local vendors. Not only are you supporting your local economy, but these are usually fresher and healthier options. You can also talk to the seller directly to find out their practices when it comes to the use of pesticides, hormones and preservatives. An added bonus is that the food wasn’t trucked in which means less fuel usage and fewer emissions.
Pack lunches in reusable containers. The amount of packaging used for food nowadays is staggering. Help reduce it how you can by opting for reusable containers when packing lunches. There are lots of options available in a variety of different sizes so you can pack everything you need. Be sure to include reusable silverware if needed as well.
Purchase products you use often in bulk. Single serving food products are a huge waste of packaging materials. By buying in bulk you cut down on the amount of packaging that needs to be thrown out and buying more at a time means less trips to the store to pick things up.
Compost your kitchen waste. Composting your fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to cut down on the amount of garbage going in to our landfill sites, and provides nutrient rich soil that you can use in your garden. Some communities are now starting city run composting programs so be sure to check for a program like this where you live.
Don’t waste water while waiting for it to heat up. Running the tap while waiting for the water to heat up is an unnecessary waste. Instead of letting this run down the drain, catch it in a pitcher or pot and use it to water your plants, save it for cooking or put it in the fridge as drinking water.
Use less energy when you cook. There are several things you can do to cut back on the energy you use when cooking. When boiling water put a lid on the pot and it will boil faster. Once it is boiling, turn down the heat (water that is lightly boiling is the same temperature). Most foods don’t require the oven to be preheated so don’t waste energy on this. When using the oven for cooking items such as roasts, you can turn it off for the last 15 minutes and the heat left will finish the cooking. All of these can help you to use less energy in the kitchen.
Thaw foods before cooking them. It takes longer – and uses more energy - to cook foods from frozen. Instead, think ahead about what you will be cooking and when and thaw it first. Likewise, take items out of the fridge before it is time to put them in the oven to bring them up to room temperature.
Keep drinking water in the refrigerator. Instead of having to run the tap to get cold water every time you want a drink, keep a pitcher in the fridge. This will also help you avoid buying individual bottles of water that generate an unnecessary amount of waste.
Run the water less when preparing meals. Next time you cook a meal, put a big bowl underneath the faucet and see how much water is collected every time you wash your hands, rinse your food, etc. You may be surprised how much water is being wasted. Reduce this by instead keeping a bowl of water in the sink to wash your hands in. Keep another one to wash fruits and vegetables in. This way you are only using that one bowl of water instead of letting the tap run.
Look for paper plates that can be composted. The paper plates you are used to seeing in the supermarket are made from virgin tree pulp. They are then coated in a petroleum-based wax, which means that when you are done with them they cannot be recycled. But now there is a new type of paper plate made from “bagasse”. It is a left over from sugar processing and when used to make paper products is compostable. So now you can still be good to the environment and not have to do dishes after the family picnic!