What's your cooking's carbon footprint? - BBC Food

The animation is better than the text.

Reading this article, I imagined my mom in my head beating a drum and chanting “you need the BBC to tell you what I’ve been doing all this time is right?”

Mind you, when your cooking fuel is delivered in a cylinder (India), there is a physical reminder of how much fuel you are using to cook. And electricity being expensive means you think before running an electric oven for four hours to do something the pressure cooker can do in 15 minutes, with another 15-30 mins of gas time to finish to the desired state.

Seeing this was a bit of a rude awakening. I’ve been thinking for a while how my cooking has evolved to actually be much worse in terms of energy efficiency - extended oven use, single items cooked separately on the stovetop where I could have combined half the cooking in separators in the PC and then finished each in a few more minutes on the stove, sous vide to tenderize vs pressure cooker, and so on.

It doesn’t escape me that scarcity of resources probably drives people to naturally conserve, and an abundance leads to the opposite. So much of what may now be viewed as “green” is just what people did before things were plentiful enough to waste.


As someone who grew up when you saved the silverfoil from gum because it was special, i.e., there was no such thing as aluminum foil, when bowls of leftovers were covered with a shower-cap shaped device rather than Saran. A zip-loc bag would have been a treasure! So many things we use capriciously today were still in inventors’ minds.

1 Like

@Saregama thanks for posting about this on what’s for dinner, as I completely missed it and discussions such as this are totally right up my alley.

I do my best to keep my footprint as small as possible (eg, I try to use the minimum amount of water for boiling things; I try to use my toaster oven in favor of turning on the big oven whenever possible; etc). But I know I can always do better (eg, I don’t own a pressure cooker and have never cooked with one).

I was just in Iceland and I thought to myself how much more forward-thinking Europeans are in terms of energy efficiency, with the widespread use of fan-driven convection ovens and induction tops. It took me a little while to get used to cooking on induction tops but once I got the hang of it it was amazing how quickly things heat up. Of course, gas is easier to control, heat-wise, but I’m a simple home cook and not that precise.


I always hang onto pieces of aluminum foil and use them over and over again until they are basically falling apart and ready for recycling. I also hang onto aluminum takeout containers for reheating food in my toaster oven. We don’t buy Ziploc bags but we often acquire them through kid-related activities. I save those as well washing them out and re-using them. When I was a kid, in elementary school, I used to bring home the plastic sandwich bags my mom sent me with, to her amusement. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree - she would (and still does) hang onto fancy plastic containers, as they were too nice to throw away (this was back in the 70’s/80’s). I’m sure to her immigrant eyes, it was unfathomable that Americans would just toss these things in the trash.

I have a mountain of plastic bags from food products, with a silly optimism that someone will invent a recycling/reuse process for them. Having a tree hugger gene is a tough burden to bear.


I’m personally responsible for 77.5% of the US’s carbon footprint. But that’s down from 80%. :muscle:


You need to take shorter showers, maybe.

1 Like


My stovetop and oven do double duty, especially in hot weather: when I shut them off after cooking, I put a covered pot of water on/in them, as the case may be. The residual heat transfers to the water, which I then use to do the dishes. In summer, putting the heat into the water means the kitchen doesn’t get as hot as it otherwise would.

I never boil if I can steam or use a pressure cooker, which saves water and energy.

Pasta does not need a big pot of continually boiling water. Boil 3-4 qts of water, add a pound of dry pasta, stir, cover, leave atop turned-off burner. Let steep about 5 minutes longer than package cooking directions call for, stirring once, midway. If other cooking pots need soaking, use the hot water drained from the pasta to do that.

Basically, think about what you would do if you didn’t have running water in your home. You’ll discover many ways to make optimal use of your water.


I think I do my bit here by trying to buy local & seasonal as much as I can. I’ve read an article that suggests that it is better for the carbon footprint for the UK to import lamb for much of the year from New Zealand (instead of it being raised in the next county to me). But that is certainly complete bollocks. Oh, wait a sec. Wasn’t that research study funded by the NZ farmers organisation?

We cook on electricity because we’ve always done that (and Mum did before me)

1 Like

I had stopped reading BBC altogether after they adopted the “viral marketing” and click bait strategies to compete with new websites.
However, I honestly think I am careful about energy even more than what’s described in there.
I heat only the water I need for the purpose.
If I’m cooking just for my meal, I try to minimize the number of items by putting them together. There I have a principle of nutrition above fancy dishes.
I fry the eggs rather than boiling it if it’s for my food.
If I’m alone for many days, I cook at least 3 days’ worth of rice and keep it in the fridge.
And I have many more things which I never tell others. Sometimes they ask me why don’t you do it like this or that to which I say I like this way better, to avoid revealing that I’m overly concerned about the environment.