Cooking in the summer can mean heating up the house, and working against all of your efforts to cool down your home when it starts to heat up outside. Working in the kitchen daily can also be somewhat of a strain when the heat begins to slow you down. And what about shopping for fresh food, and a way to make that easier?
These are only a few considerations when you approach the business of cooking and eating in the summer months. So, what are some of the other lifestyle, health, and even social implications when it comes to the simple (and in the end, beloved) act of eating well in the summertime, while being eco-friendly too?
Green lifestyle writer Jocelyn Anne fires up the grill on this topic, and expounds on how you can revolutionize your approach to meal times in the summer.
Ahh summer! All is happier, warmer, friendlier, greener and more colorful come these lovely months. The opportunities seem endless, the days never long enough and the fun never-ending. And, with summer comes a grand opportunity to not only indulge in pool parties and piña coladas, but to take up your eco-friendly living another notch.
If you’re ready to go deeper and greener than you have yet, one of the easiest ways to do so is through the way you cook and eat this summer. Not sure what that looks like or how you can get started? No problem. Super easy tips and words of “wisdom” are right here for you.
Cut down/cut out the appliance use
According to Cooking Green by Kate Heyhoe, appliances make up for 30% of a household’s energy use and the main violators are those in the kitchen. Summer is the prime time to cut out kitchen appliance use altogether, or at least greatly reduce it. If you need to bake something, skip the big oven and use a toaster oven or the warming side of your grill. Skip the pre-heat whenever possible, basically you’re just heating your house. Grill, grill, grill! Slice veggies and meats thinner, they’ll cook up faster and cut down cooking time even more.
Side Note: One appliance you shouldn’t cut back on is the dishwasher! Yes, here’s one appliance you can use. Using a dishwasher for a full load actually uses less water than hand washing. But remember to choose air dry and always skip heated dry.
Consider a CSA
If you can afford it, consider signing up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. You’ll pay one fee and be delivered with a weekly (or bi-monthly) a box of produce straight from a local farmer’s garden! You’ll know for a fact that you’re supporting sustainable farming, you’ll get fruit and vegetables that are as fresh as can possibly be and you can revel in the energy saved that wasn’t used to ship your produce across country in a gas-guzzling truck. Plus, you support your local farmer and get to enjoy a new array of produce that perhaps you might not always pick for yourself but may soon fall in love with.
Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables
We get told to eat more fruits and vegetables during the summer months as a means of going more “green,” and that’s fine, as long as those fruits and veggies are seasonal. Buying strawberries in August doesn’t make the same sense and difference that it does to buy them in May when they’re in season.
Any time you’re buying produce that isn’t seasonal, it means it was grown at some past time, shipped somewhere to be stored, draining energy in cooled warehouses and then shipped again to you. If at all possible, simply buy what grows where you live, and that will guarantee you’re buying what’s in season and what didn’t have to fly to you from South America.
Garden-it-up and grow your own food
If you’ve got some ground, grow some food! If you don’t (which I get it, most of us don’t, unfortunately), at least grow your own herbs and potted plants. Nothing beats grilled pork chops sprinkled with freshly plucked rosemary. Or, how about a slice of bread, some mozzarella, a couple homegrown cherry tomatoes and some freshly picked basil, topped with a little balsamic? Heavenly.
Become a salad aficionado
Skip the oven, the stove and the grill and take it upon yourself to become the master of salads. The possibilities, truly, are endless. And, with all the fresh produce coming in right and left, there’s no better place for it than at the center of your meal. Mix your greens and fruits. Dive into candied nuts and candied dates as toppings. Become a crouton making pro. You don’t have to give up your passion for cooking while ditching appliances, you just get to be more creative, that’s all!
Find seven friends
See if you can organize a neighborhood food-sharing program. Whether that means making one dish seven times and sharing it all around or coming together with your own produce to go around, everyone will cut down on their cooking. In fact, if you find seven people, you can all cook just once each week and each have seven dinners taken care of. Don’t just help yourself go greener, help the whole community!
If you do grill, grill green
Many people turn solely to a grill for the summer months, thinking it’s the most eco-friendly thing out there. But, beware, a charcoal grill is not particularly green. If you plan on grilling extensively this summer, then think about investing in a green grill. There are plenty of solar and hydrogen options available that will easily pay off in no time.
Practice organic composting
Save all those organic materials like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, apple cores, potatoes past their prime, you name it, and make your own compost. You’ll be able to fertilize your own plants and cut down the waste you would otherwise be piling up in one more landfill. If you don’t have your own garden, see if you have any friends that do or check for a local garden that would be able to benefit from your compost.
Support local eco-eats
Skip the Rubys and milkshakes this summer and instead, support your local fruit smoothie shacks and local eco-friendly restaurants that are springing up like crazy around the U.S. See if you can make it a point to only eat food that comes within a 100 mile radius, and that includes eating out. That alone will certainly kick Taco Bell to the curb and encourage you to find the new local places. And, if it’s burgers you crave, you’ll be very happy to know that local eco-friendly fast food places are even starting to spring up… so keep your eyes out!
Eating green is certainly easier in the summer and offers more variety, so don’t miss out on it. Skip the stuff on the go and take a little extra time. It’s healthier, better for your family and the environment, and it tastes better too. It’s win-win all around!
Freelancer Jocelyn Anne writes about healthy, sustainable living and enjoys encouraging families to go greener every day. At the moment she’s working alongside a cooling company promoting an eco-friendly portable air conditioner as the best way to eradicate central AC systems and save money and energy in homes this summer.