Ten steps towards greener cooking and eating

Eat cheap and plentiful vegies.
Eat cheap and plentiful vegies. Photo: Marion Brenner

We all know there's a lot we could and should be doing to be more sustainable eaters, but it's hard to know what really makes a difference and it can be overwhelming to sift through the flood of information. Let's not be hamstrung.

Small steps can lead to large transformations as much through awareness as concrete change and we might as well Do Something! (dosomething.net.au) Start small, think big, eat green and help save the world one bite at a time.

1.  Eat small fish and shellfish rather than large slow-growing fish nearer the top of the food chain. That means sardines or calamari instead of tuna and swordfish. Buy Australian!

Consider buying smaller amounts when shopping.
Consider buying smaller amounts when shopping.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

2. Eat what's cheap and plentiful: price is a great indicator of seasonality and local produce. We're used to eating such variety that it can seem weird to eat the same fruit or vegetable for weeks on end but it should be quite normal. Consider buying just what you need for today and tomorrow. The whole notion of stocking up can lead to squishy vegetables which end up in the bin. 

3.  Carry your vessel: keep a water bottle and reusable coffee cup with you whenever possible, or just take the extra five minutes and have your coffee to-stay rather than to-go. Always carry shopping bags – you never know. Keep a couple in the car and one in your bag.

4. That's not a scrap! Put celery leaves in a salad or use as a garnish for soup or risotto. Eat beetroot leaves and stems. Broccoli stems are sweet and crunchy: cut them into sticks and eat with dips or use them as a pizza topping. Look at Sarah Wilson's book Simplicious for other ideas on how to use leftovers.

Make the most of every part of a vegetable - from leaves to stem.
Make the most of every part of a vegetable - from leaves to stem.  Photo: Marina Oliphant

5. Know your meat. If you eat animals, show some respect by thinking hard before eating them. Choose free range. Yes, it's more expensive but just eat less. Ditch anonymous meat, such as the ham and chicken at most sandwich shops and in pub parmas. Jump on to ideas such as #meatfreeMonday and the RSPCA's Choose Wisely (choosewisely.org.au) campaign which lets restaurants and cafes highlight the humane choices they make.

6. Sign up to the Sustainable Table's Give a Fork campaign (giveafork.com.au) and take on a #grexy (that's "green" and "sexy") challenge. Participating restaurants are putting special efforts into sustainable dishes throughout April. Show your support by dining at places including Hawthorn Common and Barry in Melbourne, Black Star Pastry and Cornersmith in Sydney, and Local Press Cafe in Canberra.

7.  Eat consciously, at the table, not in the car, not at a screen. The more mindful and social your eating is, the better the quality is likely to be.

8. Grow something. Even failing at growing is a win (that's what I tell myself),  because you increase your appreciation of the effort and resources it takes to grow food successfully.

9.  Be less wasteful. As well as carrying containers and bags, that means composting, reducing packaging at point of sale (buy dry goods in bulk from shops like The Source Bulk Foods and Rita's Coffee and Nuts at South Melbourne Market). Recycle soft plastics that you can't avoid: Coles has in-store recycling bins for wrappers and plastic bags. Have a shelf or box in the fridge and pantry where you put stuff that needs to be used up but be sceptical of use-by dates, too. Embrace ugly fruit and dented cans; see @uglyfruitandveg​ on Twitter.

10. Get smart with appliances. Fill the dishwasher before using it. Don't pre-rinse. Vacuum the coils at the back of your fridge. Run your fridge a bit warmer. Clear out the freezer: either eat it or ditch it (compost, preferably) but don't continue using power to keep it frozen.