Eco-Friendly

We Asked 25,000 Home Cooks for Their Eco-Friendliest Kitchen Tips

Here's what they said.

by:
April 12, 2019
Photo by Alpha Smoot

Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Ways to Green, where we're sharing all the little (and not so little!) things we do to live eco-friendlier every day. Stick with us all month long for a lineup of handy tips—from composting do's and don'ts to which reusable products really light up our lives.


This month, members of our illustrious Cookbook Club are busy working their way through two books, Everyday Dorie by Dorie Greenspan and Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller, both winsome celebrations of home cooking.

But with cooking at home comes the inevitability of waste in the kitchen, along with the question: Are we doing what we can to minimize it? For instance, do we really need to stock up on plastic bags? Are fruit and vegetable peels necessarily destined for the trash can? How can we shop, cook, and eat sustainably?

Armed with a mission to go green in the days leading up to Earth Day, we asked the club for their eco-friendliest kitchen and cooking tips. And the response was overwhelming—turns out, there are a thousand nifty things we can do in our everyday lives to help make our planet a little greener.

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Top Comment:
“The jars are labeled with weights & the item numbers, they are super easy to fill & check out with, & no plastic or paper bags need to be used. Nor do I need to transfer food from bags to jars when I get home. You just need to be careful with transporting your jars - I use a market basket - but in the 8 plus years I've been doing this, not a single jar has ever broken!”
— KittyKate
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Here are some of those ways:

Save Energy by Saving Water

"After blanching vegetables, I'll sometimes use the same water to boil pasta or cook beans in. I'll also sometimes let the water cool and use it to water my plants." —Nancy B.

"I don’t throw out the water I've boiled pasta or corn on the cob in. I let it cool and water my garden with it." —Barbara L.

"When I boil my potatoes, I bring the water to a boil with the lid on, then turn it off and leave the lid on to let it continue cooking. Saves on energy." —Jackie M.

"When making tea, we try to put just the amount of water needed in the kettle so it doesn't waste energy." —Karry N.

Keep Scraps, Make Broth

"I save every onion and garlic skin. Then, when making stock, I add them all and it turns my stock a gorgeous golden color. I am so ashamed that I used to just throw them away." —Carolyn P.

"Bones, shrimp shells and vegetable scraps get a second life in bone broth." —Karen L.

"Keep Parmesan rinds in the freezer, and when you have enough, make Parmesan broth. Use this when making risotto." —Heidi B.

"I keep a gallon freezer bag in my freezer for veggie scraps, especially during CSA season. When it’s full, I dump the scraps into my Crock-Pot with water, salt, and whatever herbs need to be used up, cook for six to eight hours and ta-da: veggie stock!" —Heather B.

"I try as much as possible to buy whole chicken because not only is it cheaper and uses less packaging, but it also makes me feel more connected to the process and conscious that this was a living being. There's the added bonus of really, really good chicken stock that beats anything you can get at the supermarket." —Sunita S.

Rely on Your Freezer

"If I need egg yolks for a recipe, I freeze the whites in a large ice cube tray, then transfer to a freezer bag so I can use them individually." —Nicole G.

"1) Freeze egg whites in specific portions for angel food/sponge cake.

"2) Put tomato paste on a sheet pan lined with parchment in tablespoon measurements, freeze, and then pop in a container to use as needed in a recipe.

"3) Puree a Costco-size bag of garlic in the food processor with a bit of water, then turn out on a plastic wrap–lined rimmed sheet pan and spread to even thickness. Let freeze. Thaw slightly, cut into cubes, and refreeze on a parchment lined sheet with space in between and freeze until completely frozen. Store in a container or zip-top bag to use as needed (and never chop garlic again)." —Nancy B.

Get the Most Out of Produce

"Almost any fruit that has lost its freshness or dried out can be made into an instant spice preserve. Just dice and cook with sugar, salt, a touch of vinegar. Last few minutes, add lemon juice and roasted spices. Season with ghee and cumin. Stays up to 3 days without refrigeration and 3 weeks with. Lovely on toast or as a side to red meat.

"Any herbs that have lost freshness can be de-stemmed, dehydrated in the microwave (if you don't have a dehydrator), powdered to coarse dust. Retains colour and aroma for one more week, more if refrigerated." —Bindhu J.

"When I use my juicer, I save the pulp and add it to sauces." —Cheryl G.

"Everything pickled to get the most out of produce! I also love using leftover pickling liquid for brining." —Ashley F.

Clean House—With Scraps

"Squeezed lemons (I always zest first) get soaked in white vinegar for cleaning." —Nancy B.

"My family loves Mandarin oranges, but sometimes we can’t eat the whole bag of Cuties before they start to go bad. I put the bad ones in the freezer and whenever the garbage disposal smells a little, I just throw a frozen one down it. The frozen orange cleans the disposal and makes it smell great!" —Brenda M.

"I also save avocado pits to use for dyeing fabrics, and eggshells go into the garden to keep snails out." —Nicole G.

Compost & Recycle

"Compost kitchen scraps like fruit and veg waste, coffee grounds, and egg shells." —Ashley F.

"We have very little landfill/garbage because we compost. Our family of four produces less than one bag of garbage a week (usually about 1/3 of a garbage bag of waste per week). I hadn't realized this was low until our neighbor commented on how little waste we produce. That said, we are lucky to live in San Francisco, where we can recycle almost anything (including used clothing and plastic bags) and the city collects compost. It would be harder to compost in other cities that don't offer the service." —Linda S.

"Compost! It's so easy. Or find a service or nearby farm who could pick up your compost/scraps. use the instant pot to make beans and broth (less energy/gas to cook over stove for hours); grow your own produce or buy directly from farmers at farmer's markets or their farm; save your egg cartons and give to someone raising chickens..." —Alex G.

Shop, Cook & Eat Mindfully

"I start at the market, looking for seals that indicate a food was grown sustainably. Honest, these seals (and the carefully developed rules behind them) make a difference! I write that with confidence because I helped launch a sustainability certification program (Rainforest Alliance Certified) 28 years ago. These seals are a great way to connect us, the consumers, with the people who responsibly grow the food we buy." —Diane J.

"Eating less meat and dairy is the simplest but very high-impact eco-friendly move one can make in the kitchen. I still consume both but have drastically decreased the amount. It’s scary to think about how our collective, daily choices impact our future. For example, livestock accounts for 18% of global calories produced and 37% protein but takes up 83% of farmland." —Katie H.

"I’m very careful about packaging when I shop. I don’t put any produce in plastic bags (did you really need a plastic bag for a cucumber?)." —Johanna B.

Nix Single-Use Plastic

"I have stopped buying clingfilm. There's no benefit to using clingfilm and I'd rather not add to the plastic going into our oceans. If I have to cover something, I just use a plate or a tea towel. Been a few months now and I don't miss it one bit." —Sunita S.

"I purchased some mesh bags for buying produce at the grocery store, and keep them in my car with my canvas shopping bags. I also have two amazing shipping totes that fold up into a sock-sized ball that I keep in my purse for the times I run in for one or two things. Our area has also started recycling all plastic bags (including cereal, toilet paper, etc.) to make benches for our community, so I save up every piece of plastic I end up with for that purpose." —Heather W.

"I’ve started using beeswax wrap instead of plastic, and reusable containers instead of plastic zip-top bags. When I do use plastic bags for food, I usually wash them out and use again. I’ve also switched over to silicone baking mats for a lot of things, which reduces the amount of parchment and tin foil I go through!" —Nicole G.

"The Keurig is great for my hubs and me, who like different kinds of coffee at different times of the day, but we ditched the single-use cups and fill a reusable one instead. At work, too!" —Beth G.

Get Your Hands Dirty

"We grow our own herbs. Herbs especially can be overpackaged, not to mention expensive." —Karen H.

"I grow a good majority of my own produce in my backyard...which makes me keenly aware of recipes that mix ingredients of different seasons or shipped from around the world. Eco-friendly means considering what it took to get an item to your table, i.e. who is producing corn or watermelon in April and how far they had to travel to get to me. In this regard, I have been moving my kitchen toward cooking with in-season ingredients that were produced locally to me." —Sherry T.

"I highly recommend growing a bay tree and a kaffir lime if you are not good with plants." —Kuva J.

"Most of our waste used to come from fresh herbs in the winter. We would buy, they would wilt, and we would throw out. We now keep them in the fridge, in a jar partially filled with water, covered with plastic bag. Herbs last up to two weeks. Waste be gone!" —Anne-Marie N.

Ditch the Stove

"We grill outdoors as often as possible to reduce the kitchen clean-up waste and electric consumed by cooking appliances." Ashley F.

"Use the Instant Pot to make beans and broth (less energy/gas to cook over stove for hours)." —Alex G.

"I use my pressure cooker to cook food that normally takes 4 hours. In a pressure cooker, that's usually only 45 minutes: stock, brisket, ribs, pot roast, even risotto (7 minutes to risotto!). Also, we bought a dual oven, which has a half-sized oven; we try to use that for most of our cooking so it takes less energy." —Kerry N.

What do you do in your kitchen to be eco-friendlier? Let us know in the comments below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Eric Kim is a Senior Editor at Food52, where his weekly solo dining column, Table for One, runs every Friday morning. Formerly the Digital Manager at Food Network, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.

8 Comments

Michelle W. October 6, 2019
These are all great ideas.
I save the end pieces of my loaves of bread and then set them out to dry. After I food processor them into breadcrumbs.
 
Cookie October 6, 2019
What a great bunch of ideas, thank you!
 
Jackie N. October 5, 2019
I live in the desert so water is an issue. I let my dogs lick the plates and cooled pans so I don’t need to rinse them. I have a dishwasher that sterilizes the dishes, it uses 7 gallons of water. I always run a full load.
 
Foodfan October 5, 2019
Where can I buy the glass containers that house the herbs featured in the first photo of this article?
 
Dana E. April 15, 2019
LOVE the tip about mandarin oranges! I buy Cuties all the time and hate throwing them away - such a great idea.
 
KittyKate April 15, 2019
There are some great tips here, thank you! Years ago I started bringing my glass mason jars with me to the grocery store when I want to buy bulk items. The jars are labeled with weights & the item numbers, they are super easy to fill & check out with, & no plastic or paper bags need to be used. Nor do I need to transfer food from bags to jars when I get home. You just need to be careful with transporting your jars - I use a market basket - but in the 8 plus years I've been doing this, not a single jar has ever broken!
 
Joan April 16, 2019
You could also use those wine bags to keep the jars separated. :)
 
beyondcelery April 13, 2019
My new favorite: toss my citrus peels in a mason jar, cover well with white vinegar, then screw lid tightly. Keep adding peels and vinegar anytime you have them. Strain out and use with a dash of liquid soap to mop your floors or clean pretty much anywhere.