As someone who supports the idea of global warming and climate change, and consciously tries to reduce my carbon footprint along with wastage in the world, I adopt several fuss-free easy methods that allow me to still bake enjoyably, while doing my part for the world.
In the current epoch where changes in our environment herald the start of greater environmental calamities, I feel a strong desire and need to be able to do my part and cut the amount of wastage I produce. Whenever I throw away that package of eggs or heavy whipping cream that have past their expiry or due dates, a lingering sense of guilt bothers me. Sure, I may be part of the consumer culture. However, why did I purchase them in the first place if I know I will not be able to utilize them in the first place? This boiling sense of guilt stems from multiple sources.
Firstly, I haven’t utilized these resources that were available to me, properly. These resources could have been better utilized elsewhere instead of ending up in landfills or the incinerator, where they further contribute to the increased amount of waste. This is an obvious failure of my part to not have planned the utilization of the ingredients I purchased well. This was in my power to change.
Secondly, food waste contributes to an increased amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Through the incinerator or in their grave-like landfills ( where biodegradable goods start to decompose ), every single bit of food that could have went through our mouths but didn’t, will end up producing more greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a plethora of reasons as well of the harmful consequences of food wastage, which you can access simply by searching up through google. Do note that these reasons are not to be dismissed but as this is an article dominated both the issues of the conservation of the environment and baking, and there are endless reasons why you should be more environmentally friendly, I shall stop here as I can’t possibly list all of them. I shall proceed to the methods I adopt that I feel you can adopt without any additional fuss in your baking routines! Do let me know if you have any other methods that I did not list!
It’s time for us, to finally recognize that we can also do our parts to be more environmentally friendly in the kitchen and as a baker.
1) Record the Expiry Dates of Food Products
Personally, I am not so sure how many countries use the term “Expiry dates”. In order to prevent misconceptions, they simply refer to the date where the food is no longer able to be consumed.
As baking utilizes many raw ingredients to make the final product, it is easy to lose track of when these ingredients will be expired. As such, with every new purchase of ingredients, I consciously record their expiry dates on a post it, pasting it on the fridge door. This will remind me that I should use up these ingredients and hence minimize food wastage.
This is a really simple solution. You can make the recording of these expiry dates less hectic too by considering your baking schedule.
With referral to myself, I bake almost every other week. As such, I only keep tabs on things that expire within a month of purchase. These include dairy products such as heavy whipping cream and of course milk, along with fresh produce such as eggs and cheese.
If you’re not a frequent baker, adjust the keeping of tabs properly, or simply buy smaller portions of what is available. For instance, a small carton of milk over a jug of milk.
2) Store Your Food Properly
Read the storage directions as given by the producers of the products. You definitely can’t bake or work with ingredients that are stale due to improper storage.
For instance, when I left my whipping cream in the open ( as there weren’t seals ), it actually caused it to form lumps even before the date of expiry. In order to ensure the freshness in the future, I will definitely store mine in an airtight container.
3) Know what to do with excess baked goods
There’s a high chance when you’re really addicted to baking or simply accidentally whipped up a large batch of baked goods, you will of course end up with excess. I doubt anyone will be able to finish a batch of 150 cookies before it goes stale!
As such, do plan in advanced what do you usually do with excess baked goods instead of letting them go to waste. I always give mine to friends, neighbours and of course family members if I do meet them up. They’re afterall a good conversation starter and everyone appreciates a good homemade dessert, especially without paying a single cent!
Do note also that you can check the recipe for the estimated amount that will be produced, or use your prior experience of similar recipes to gauge the estimated amount. This will at least provide a rough figure.
4) Cut Down on Electricity Usage
Unless your electricity is derived from environmentally friendly sources such as solar energy, I feel that by making small efforts to cut down on electricity usage, it will surmount to result in a large cut in electricity usage, compared to not making any efforts at all.
Whenever its possible to mix by hand, I will choose that option over using the hand mixer. The chances of me using a hand mixer will most probably be when it comes to whipping up a meringue as I do not want a mental breakdown.
I also preheat my oven only when I know that I am about to be done mixing my batter instead of from the start. For instance, if you know that the recipe requires you to rest the batter in the fridge or at room temperature, or requires a long time of mixing, you can estimate the amount of preheating needed.
My oven takes 10 minutes estimated to preheat to 180 degrees C. As such, I only start preheating when I know I am completing my batter. This prevents excessive wastage of electricity in a situation where the oven sits without baking anything. Gone were the days where I left a heated oven of 180 degrees C standing for 30 minutes, without it baking anything at all!
5) Cut Down on Water Usage
This is applicable for those who hand washes their dishes, like me, instead of using the dishwasher.
I try my best to minimize the number of bowls and equipment I am using so that I am able to reduce water usage. The awareness of water scarcity in Singapore further prompted me to adopt such a measure, and also because I would want to waste as little time as possible doing my cleanups. 😞
Here are some measures I have taken to reduce the number of bowls and equipment used:
a) Using a saucepan / cooking pot as a mixing bowl. After melting my butter and chocolate together for a brownie recipe, I utilized the whole saucepan as a mixing bowl.
b) When a recipe requires mixing lightly beaten eggs, I beat it in a well created at the center of the ingredients or create a space at the side of the bowl to beat the eggs before stirring everything together.
6) Using cloths for clean up
I utilized cloths for clean up. This will reduce the amount of tissue paper or kitchen towels used for clean up.
This is an environmentally friendly move as the washing of the cloths will definitely do less harm to the environment than excessive paper usage.
To prevent cross contamination, label your cloths separately or simply use different colours. This is to still ensure proper food hygiene!
7) Recycle and Reuse
Many of the packaging I have such as the containers for jam or the plastic for containing the sugar, can be recycled.
Of course, containers that come with these jam etc can also be reused for other purposes.
It is of a great environmental cost to keep producing plastics and other materials only to be simply thrown away into the incinerator or landfills, when they can actually be used for other purposes such as storage eventually, or just recycled to create other materials.
All these recommendations that I have listed will definitely not take up much of your time and if practiced as part of your baking routine, I am sure you can do a small part to help conserve the environment.
These environmentally friendly measures will will of course only be of a small help, but even though it’s small, it will surmount. If we together adopt environmentally friendly measures, these efforts will become even greater.
Let’s start the change today, for the future generations tomorrow. It is up to us to steer the world towards being environmentally friendly, by starting in the kitchen ourselves. As bakers, we can not only accomplish baking good foods, but we can also accomplish to be environmentally friendly bakers.
One of my favourite quotes is applicable in this context.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi. As such, I am all the more motivated to play my part in doing my fair share for the environment, whenever possible.
I do hope you consider these measures, and do let me know if you have other measures to recommend that I can add into this list!
Bakeomaniac, Javier Tan!