Hello there, and welcome to another pledge in MNN's Nest, an interactive program that helps you create and accomplish easy and Earth-friendly personal goals. With each goal that you tackle, you earn points that are then turned into donations to your favorite nonprofit eco-charity.
This MNN pledge revolves around an act that may prove to be particularly challenging for those of us who rely heavily on the culinary skills of others — the cookbook-challenged; the recipe-reserved; the chronic eater-outers; those who loved "Julie & Julia" but who would never, ever attempt coq au vin in their own kitchens. It's a pledge for those us who dig digging into a great meal — and really, who doesn't? — but who do most of our noshing at restaurants. It's a pledge to eat more meals at home.
Although some pots and pans and your taste buds may suffer in the process of this pledge, the results can be absolutely delicious when foresight, open-mindedness and patience are added to the mix. Here's how and why you should go about this tasty task:
Check, please: An increasing number of dining establishments — even those of the "fast" variety — are taking proactive steps to minimize their ecological footprints, but the restaurant industry is responsible for a heaping serving of energy consumption (food service buildings consume more energy per square foot than any other U.S. industry according the Energy Information Association), water use and unfathomable amounts of waste. Each time you eat out, you might be pleasantly satiated, but you’re also directly contributing to the restaurant industry's unsavory environmental impact. We're not saying don't eat out ever (that would be torture) but by eating at home (and no, take-out doesn't count) just a couple of more times a week, you can keep your food-related environmental footprint in check.
Homegrown: Many restaurants are dedicated to serving edibles that are fresh, sustainable and locally produced — an effort that Mother Nature Network applauds since it's good for the environment and local economies, to boot. However, by eating at home you can really keep it local — and save cash — by incorporating ingredients from your own backyard into each meal. Keeping a kitchen garden is a fun way to further understand what exactly you're putting in your mouth (no more frozen, mysterious, pesticide-treated veggies flown in from thousands of miles away) and you don't necessarily need to have a full-on mini-farm spanning multiple acres in your backyard to reap the benefits of growing your own food. Start small with a few tomato plants or potted herbs and expand from there. For what you don't grow yourself, get in the habit of frequenting local farmers markets when in need of provisions. In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, you can pick up cheeses, meats and baked goods all produced by folks in your community. After all, isn't it more interesting to meet the producer rather than meet the frozen food aisle? Just don't forget to take your reusable shopping bag along for the trip.
And for dessert ... : After eating a meal at home, it's tempting to toss any veggie trimmings in the trash. If you have the space, try your hand at composting food waste. In cities like San Francisco, composting organic waste is the law, but in other places it's still one of those eco-friendly actions that folks are slow to warm up to since it has a reputation for being stinky, messy and well, gross. When done properly, composting can be an effortless, odorless affair even in tight urban spaces. Plus, if you're already a backyard gardener, composting makes total sense since it results in nutrient-rich fertilizer that you can use to grow your own edibles.
We got your back (and your stomach): We at The Mother Nature Network have insatiable appetites, so there's never a shortage of food-related items to read up on. Check out the MNN Food channel for the latest eco-epicurean news and the daily blog entries cooked up by Robin Shreeves, MNN's resident food blogger. She frequently has great seasonal recipes to share and tips on how to make nom-nomming a more Earth- and health-friendly affair.
The above points are just appetite whetters, if you will, to get you into the eco-beneficial, eat-at-home-more groove. Ready to give dining at home a shot? Then repeat after me: I pledge to eat more meals at home. Now put this pledge into action! Bon appetit!
More personal pledges to consider:
- Once a week, I will walk one place instead of driving.
- I will make my home more energy-efficient.
- I will actually use my reusable bags.
- I will get my kids (and myself!) outside more this year.
- I will do a toxin audit of my home.
- I will support my town's local and green businesses this year.
- I will read three environmentally themed books this year.
- Instead of throwing them away, I will recycle my old electronics before buying new ones.