Summer Cooking In A Sustainable Way

It is crazy to conceptualize this, but think about how in the sweltering summer months, we warm up our homes and apartments with fire and heat. Here’s a sustainable living tip that will keep your house cooler.

During the warmer months, the excess heat generated by your stove or oven while cooking does not supplement your home’s heat as nicely as it does in those frosty winter months.

Instead, the energy used to generate that cooking heat is unnecessarily increasing both your electric bill and your carbon footprint, especially if you have the air conditioning on. Green Blizzard recently wrote about the Cold Cooking Challenge.

Here’s what’s going on in your home every time you use your stove in the warmer months and some Green Blizzard suggestions on ideas to how to easily lower the environmental impact of your cooking, while saving on your utility bills.  Summer cooking in a sustainable way.

First Step – Heating Up Your Oven and Home – When you use your oven or stove you are not only heating the food, but everything surrounding it to obtain the desired internal temperature.  This excess energy is heating up the burners, pots, pans, oven racks, oven walls and the air circulating around your kitchen.

During and after cooking all of those heated objects will eventually dissipate their heat energy, resulting in an increase in temperature of your kitchen and eventually your whole home.

In the warmer months, your cooling system is already working hard to keep everything cool and now we light a fire right in its work zone.

All of this additional heat energy coming from your stove has to be offset with “additional” cooling energy from your AC system.   Seems crazy, doesn’t it?

Second Step – Cooling Down Your Home – Now that your home is warmer from this excess cooking energy, your cooling system has to work harder and longer to return your home back to the desired temperature, essentially more than doubling the cost of the energy to cook your food.  For starters, on particularly warm days if the air conditioning is on it will have to work harder to keep your home cooler after cooking.

For every unit of excess energy that goes into your home from cooking, the air conditioner will use that amount of energy and more to remove that energy, in the form of heat, from your home.  From an electric bill perspective, for every kilowatt-hour of wasted energy emitted from your stove or oven more than one kilowatt-hour is required due to the inefficiency of air conditioning

What are your options for Summer Cooking in a Sustainable Way?

summer cooking in a sustainable wayEat More Fresh Uncooked Meals  – Switch to diet richer in salads and ceviche.  Some argue that fresh options oftentimes require more frequent trips to the grocery store to ensure freshness and really do not reduce one’s carbon footprint – it depends on how smartly you shop. This option is also only practical to a certain extent because most of us love hot food, even in the summer.

Outdoor Grilling –  Many of us are lucky enough to have access to an out-door spot large enough and zoned properly to grill, or have access to a communal grill.  Though grilling does still have most of the same deficiencies as the stove, maybe more, it does keep the heat outside your home.  You’ve probably seen historic colonial homes that used summer kitchens that were detached from the main living section for this very reason.   Using a propane grill emits about the same exhaust gases as an internal gas stove.  Charcoal grills throw a lot of particulates and other gases into the air and you should think about changing over to a gas grill.

Microwaves – The most energy efficient option – year-round, is your microwave.  Microwaves do not use excess heat to warm the food, microwaves just heat the water in the food, which in turn cooks the other parts.  This method of cooking is so much more efficient than using your stove or oven but the tradeoff is in food taste and texture. Grilling and other cooking methods deliver food consistencies that are more often tastier than microwave.  Some cooks first microwave a dish to get it started and then finish it off on the grill to get desired texture and flavor.

Induction Cook-Tops – This new technology is slowly becoming more commonplace in homes.   Induction cooktops may look like the glass-ceramic cooktops that emerged in the 70’s but they work completely differently.  Instead of heating an element that indirectly heats the pot and creates excess heat, an induction cooktop uses a coil with alternating electric current to create an alternating magnetic field.  This magnetic field directly heats the pot or pan sitting on the element and because no energy is used to heat the area surrounding the pot or pan it’s a very efficient method of cooking.

So as you’re planning out your menu in the warmer months, bear in mind that it is feasible to be summer cooking in a sustainable way.

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About the author

Keith Blizzard

A life-long environmentalist, Keith set out on the never ending journey of adjusting his lifestyle to a more sustainable one, with a goal of annually shrinking his carbon footprint. When he looked around for a dependable source of meaningful carbon footprint reduction ideas, it was pretty lame - so he launched Green Blizzard loaded with eco-friendly lifestyle tweaks. When he's not managing Green Blizzard, you'll find him on the trails around Mid Coast Maine with his trusty trail companion mutt, Moose.