Category Archives: Sustainable Kitchen

10 Steps to a Sustainable Kitchen

This is part of a Sustainable Kitchen presentation I did for Planet Home last year. I found it while cleaning things out but it’s still as timely and accurate as ever. Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. Stop looking for commercial solutions to ease your guilt. Just buck up and do it.

1. Stop Wasting Food (or water, or energy for that matter)
Did you know that 40% of all food goes to waste? And rather than getting a rain barrel or solar panels how about you just cut back on your consumption? Not only is decreasing consumption free – it will save you money. Reducing spending is actually better than making money because it saves you from paying tax on that money!! Sustainable and fiscally responsible. Look at you go!

2. Eat more nutrient dense food
You’ll consume less of it, and reduce your garbage at the same time. Did you know that nutritionally-bereft food is the most packaged food there is? It just means more poop and more garbage – you don’t need either one!

3. Garden year round, and eat seasonally
Stop trying to preserve everything in sight – eat winter squash and kale in winter and strawberries and zucchini in summer. You’ll appreciate it all that much more when you only eat it in season.

4. If you don’t garden, consider getting a local, organic CSA
This helps reduce monocrop faring and GM foods, and supports food security in your local economy. If everyone did this it would change the shape of modern agriculture.

5. Learn to ferment, culture dairy and cure meats
This is a great, no electricity-required way to preserve perishable foods until spring. You won’t need to buy those emergency supply kits with their freeze dried meals – you’ll be ready to feed your whole block!

6. Trade surplus produce with friends and neighbors, or donate it to food banks
Don’t let large bounties go to waste and create pest and disease problems!

7. Compost kitchen and garden scraps and turn your past-prime foods into garden gold. This reduces your yard waste and strengthens the web of life in your yard (the good web – the one that keeps down pests and plagues and things.)

8. Get chickens, rabbits or worms (or all three!)
Before becoming garden gold, those food scraps could become eggs, or meat. The synergy between rabbits, chickens and worms is amazing. The rabbits will spill alfalfa pellets (or poop the partially digested alfalfa), the chickens will eat any form of alfalfa on the ground, reducing the amount of chicken feed you need to buy, rabbit and chicken feces will feed composting worms and the worms and any fly larvae will feed the chickens. It’s so cyclical it will blow your mind. And you will get meat and eggs for half the amount feed.

9. Buy a grain grinder and learn to make your own baked goods.
You and your local grain farmers will be healthier for it. And when I say baked goods, I mean that middle 1/3 of the grocery store. Crackers, cereal, breads, buns, cookies. It represents more of your grocery bill than you realize, more of your middle-aged spread than you care to notice, the majority of your garbage, and most of the food preservatives and flavor “enhancers” the industry so loves to pawn off on your kids.

10. Buy local, pastured meats and learn to use the whole animal. Nothing goes to waste. No feed lots to support. No recalls to watch. Find caring farmers who raise happy and healthy animals (or raise your own backyard meats.)

Help! I need YOU.

I need your help. I hear frequently from people who get what I do that it’s overwhelming. And those are the people who want to do this and understand the difference it makes. But trying to communicate this to people who are just beginning to consider sustainability is not going so well.

You see, I was just over at Planet : Home with a table set up in between a small table of “green” products and a table demonstrating canning. Because of the kiddos I wasn’t able to be at the table the whole time but I had a board up with my list of the top 5 things I think you can do to make BIG changes.

Top 5 Things You can Do to Make Your Kitchen More Sustainable
1. Eat only seasonally – no need to preserve.
2. Grow your own or buy only local, organic, sustainably produced vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy, meats and grains.
3. Learn to properly store things to eliminate waste

  • cellar long storing things like potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squashes, apples
  • ferment short storing things like cucumbers, carrots, beets, cabbage
  • dry fuits
  • freeze or can things you would otherwise be tempted to buy during the off season (peas, tomatoes, berries)
  • 4. Ditch the grocery store – Grind your own and learn to make from scratch
    5. Compost

    These things would make what was on the tables flanking me obsolete.

    I watched as people came and looked at the items on the table, picking up the Mrs. Meyers (which I consider more greenwashing than green and could be easily replaced by baking soda, vinegar and Dr. Bronner’s), the compostable toilet bags (which you don’t need if you don’t have wet waste) and then gravitate over to the canning table (which you don’t need if you eat seasonally all the time.)

    On my table I had books about fermenting, cheesemaking, gardening and baking. I had a grain grinder for folks to try it out and see that it was indeed the same size as a burr coffee grinder and smaller than an espresso machine. I had a jar of spelt.

    They would read the board for a moment, shake their heads when I asked if they wanted to know about anything in specific, and then move on.

    I’m trying to think of ways to let people know they can start with small steps. You don’t need to rip out your entire lawn. You can buy that produce from a farmer’s market or at PCC when they have it (and you can encourage them to carry it more frequently).

    You don’t need to learn to can or dry or freeze or ferment or cellar if you simply eat in season.

    And if you stop buying processed foods you won’t have any waste that is not compostable or recyclable.

    I’m still trying to come up with a good way to present this information to people in a way that makes it simple for them to understand. I think part of the problem is this is a HUGE paradigm shift. Moving away from a largely grain based and nutritionally-bereft diet towards a more seasonal, nutrient dense diet is a huge shift for folks.

    But it is THE thing you can do to become more sustainable. Healthier. Leaner and Greener.

    If you have ideas on how best to present this apparently ground breaking information – Help! I’m all ears. Just not ears of corn.

    Planet : Home

    In case you haven’t heard about Planet : Home A sustainable living festival Sustainable Northeast Seattle has been organizing, here’s the info. You are welcome to bring everyone you know! Please help spread the word!

    Planet : Home
    A sustainable living festival hosted by Sustainable Northeast Seattle
    August 21st, 10am-5pm at the Hunter Tree Farm – 7744 35th Ave NE, Seattle

    Free workshops, speakers, food, live music, demonstrations, hands-on science and art activities for kids! Come learn how you can reduce your environmental footprint and share your experiences in trying to live more sustainably! Learn about solar cooking, bicycle repair (bring your bike!), cheese-making, weatherizing you home, growing your own tea (bring a cup!), sod replacement, worm bins, bee-keeping, tool repair (bring your tools!), edible landscaping, knowledge-sharing with community elders, rain gardens, and much much more. Take home ideas for environmentally-friendly living and maybe win some eco products to help you on your way.

    Morning schedule includes:
    Annette Cottrell –
    Tom Watson, King County’s eco-consumer – incorporating recycled materials into your garden
    Rob Stevens of Puget Sound Beekeepers Association – beekeeping basics
    Emily Bishton of Green Light Gardening – gardening for wildlife
    Heidi Mair – herbal and medicinal gardens
    Julianne Jaz – dye gardens
    James Reichstadt – cheese making demonstration

    Afternoon schedule includes:
    Linda Chalker Scott, King County Extension agent and author of ‘The Informed Gardner” – QA on soil building and other garden topics
    Barry Lia of the Washington Biodynamic Group – biodynamic gardening techniques
    Wilson Atteberry – Washington State renewable energy incentives
    Jenny Pell of Permaculture Now! – permaculture techniques
    Janine Van Sanden – no waste living

    For more info, see the
    Sustainable Northeast Seattle event page:
    Facebook event page:
    Or call Susan Gregory at 206-526-1169, Carol Sackeyfio or Joann Kerr at 206-523-8980

    I hope to see you there!

    How Sustainable is Your Kitchen?

    Sustainable NE Seattle has a sustainable home workshop coming up on August 21 and I’m helping pull together some information for the kitchen. I have many goals for our house and dog this year but I can’t really think of any more changes to make in the food preparation area. I thought I would share with you my list of things that will help make others become more sustainable in terms of food preparation and storage. As you read through these I encourage you to think if these are things you can do as well.

    1. Stop Wasting Food. Did you know that 40% of all food goes to waste? Just think how much more sustainable you could be if you stopped wasting food!
    2. Eat more nutrient dense food.  It follows that you’ll consume less of it that way.
    3. Garden year round and eat seasonally. I do still preserve some of summer’s bounty but it’s far more efficient and simpler to just eat what is in season, when it is in season. In the winter in Seattle we have vit, winter hardy spinach, cabbages and kale, carrots and parsnips can stay in the ground and be harvested as needed, and onions, garlic, potatoes and winter squashes can wait all winter in your garage. Many long storing apples can also last in your garage most the winter. When they start to soften it’s time to make applesauce and fruit leather.  This means no strawberries in January, even if they are a good deal at Costco.Plant perennial edibles in your landscape. Many fruits, nuts and berries make attractive landscaping but also provide valuable and enjoyable nutrients that reduce your food purchases.
    4. If you can’t garden, consider getting a local, organic or heirloom variety CSA.  This helps reduce monocrop farming and genetic seed modification.  If everyone did this it would be a HUGE setback for companies like Montsanto.
    5. Learn to ferment. Many foods can be fermented, such as sauerkraut, kimchee, carrots and beets. In this way they can be preserved using no electricity and stored in a cold cellar, garage or basement until spring.
    6. Turn an area of your yard into a perpetual garden. Many herbs and leafy greens can self-sow, coming back several times per year at no effort on your part. Parsley, cilantro, arugula, kale and lettuces form seed heads and create new volunteers with abandon. Set aside a dedicated patch and let them. Think of all the plastic containers you’ll save by not buying these things any longer!
    7. Learn to culture dairy. Buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, and non-pressed cheeses are simple to make, require only a few ingredients and no special equipment. You’ll save a lot of packaging and be able to extend the shelf life of fresh dairy so that you don’t end up wasting it.
    8. Grow your own teas. Camellia sinensis grows very well in most climates and is easy to dry as green, black, or oolong tea. You can also easily grow and dry mint, chamomile, Echinacea, lemon balm, raspberries or huckleberries, rose hips and other plants that make many different flavors of herbal teas. Leaves are simple to dry in the warm summer air and you won’t be buying individually wrapped tea bags in a plastic wrapped box that was imported, shipped and trucked in order to get to you.
    9. When you buy things like chocolate, coffee and sugar be sure they are organic, fair trade, and shade or sustainably grown.
    10. Trade surplus produce with friends and neighbors. Don’t let large bounties go to waste!
    11. Organize a barter event twice a year. It’s much more efficient to make large batches of the same canned good, soap or lotion then swap with another person who has made something different. Trading for things you don’t know how to make also keeps you from buying a less local, more packaged version of the same thing.
    12. Compost kitchen and garden scraps. You can make small plastic tubs into worm bins that fit under your kitchen sink, making composting just as convenient as using your garbage disposal. In fact – you should take out your garbage disposal so you have room for a bigger worm bin! Simple metal lidded garbage cans can be drilled with holes then sunk into the ground outside to make rodent and pet proof compost bins and a simple pile suffices for everything else.
    13. Make long lived snacks rather than buying packaged foods. Jerky, dried fruit, fruit leathers and trail mix are great ways to preserve fresh meats and fruits so that you have some convenience foods in a pinch yet they will be shelf stable.
    14. Buy a grain grinder and learn to make your own baked goods. This will be the single-most biggest change you will make. Imagine no longer buying bread, pancake mix, crackers, muffins, tortillas or breakfast cereal. Not supporting the additive companies, or the packaging, or the companies supporting genetically modified grain seeds, or the pesticide companies, or the large mono-crop farms is what will change the food movement faster than anything else. Drive that change. Support local, small scale grain farmers who are growing organic heirloom variety grains. There is a whole world of grain beyond wheat just waiting for you to discover it.
    15. Buy local, pastured meats and use the whole animal. Request the bones for making broth and bone meal for the garden, learn to prepare the organs and reserve the fat for soapmaking and cooking. Nothing need go to waste.
    16. Take a good look at your pantry. Do you really need to be buying so many different vinegars and other products? Consider making due with fewer variations of things. Do you have molasses and granulated sugar? Then make your own.
    17. Use pantry items and essential oils to make lotions and cleaners rather than buying a closetful of products. Old houses didn’t need cabinets in the bathroom because they didn’t have things to put in them! You don’t need them either.
    18. Shop monthly from a list. This will help force you to be organized and cut out impulse buys that get you off track. It will also help you stay on budget.
    19. Consider replacing existing appliances with high efficiency models, or using them less frequently.
    20. Hit thrift stores and stock up on cast iron, glass, wood and Corningware™. Repurpose rather than shopping for new.

    How about you?  Do you have any suggestions for things I’ve missed?  If so I’d love to hear them!