Over the last few decades, environmentalists have been working hard to highlight the problems that bad human habits are posing for the planet. With increasing concerns over global warming, pollution, deforestation, animal extinction, and agricultural damage (which, sadly, is just naming a few) it’s unsurprising to see more people taking initiative to help combat some of these challenges. Trying to save the planet can feel like a mammoth task, and that’s why it needs a global effort. But there are definitely small, long-term lifestyle changes that can be made at an individual level to help reach this important goal.
One way of doing this is to move towards environmentally friendly diets and sustainable kitchen practices. This could look different for different people, but some common strategies involve choosing plant-based products over animal ones, minimising food waste, and becoming more aware of the resources you use in buying and preparing meals. If you’d like to learn more, I’d suggest turning to these wonderful cookbooks and food guides which offer great suggestions and unique takes on how to become more eco-conscious in the kitchen:
Grub by Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry
You might know Bryant Terry from his popular book Afro-Vegan which creatively explores plant-friendly food from the African Diaspora, and Anna Lappé from her work on eating habits and the impact of climate change. In GRUB, these environmental food fundies come together to produce an integrated guide for best practices of sustainable food consumption in the market and in the kitchen. The book is a great introduction to ideas around harmful agricultural practices and ethical food economics, and offers useful and affordable strategies for supporting local farmers and buying organic produce. It also includes loads of fun recipes, meal-plans, checklists and even music playlists for sustainable home cooking. GRUB helps readers to understand why organic dietary changes are so great for the environment and for our own well-being.
Zaika by Romy Gill
Romy Gill’s Zaika is a true celebration of plant-friendly Indian cooking and is filled with tantalising recipes that will delight all lovers of Indian cuisine, whether you’re vegan or not. The Bengali-born chef presents traditional and modern style Indian dishes that demonstrate how best to balance plant-based ingredients and spices. These recipes capitalise on fresh, seasonal vegetables while also shining some spotlight on trusty pantry staples like lentils, pulses, and potatoes that are available all year round and are central to so many Indian food favourites. One particular highlight from the book is its wonderful range of flavoured bread recipes, including chapatis, naans, and pancakes. In Zaika, Gill showcases some of the conscious cooking traditions from Indian food culture which anyone looking to become more eco-friendly in the kitchen can seamlessly adopt.
The PLANeT Based Diet by Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn, and Laura Hooper Beck
Remember “Cowspiracy”? The documentary that shocked audiences by revealing the environmental damage created by animal agriculture? The PLANeT Based Diet is a recommended dietary guide and recipe book from the documentary creators Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn and screenwriter Laura Hooper Beck. These environmentalists have produced the diet as a follow-up to their environmental exposé, providing people with practical foodie suggestions for how best to help protect the planet. The chapters are organised around environmental challenges which are highlighted and then complemented with recipes and tips for how not to become part of the problem. Taking its tone from the film, the book tends to sway between moods of hilarity and tragedy, but ultimately the writers provide compelling explanations for why veganism is the ideal lifestyle approach for achieving environmentalist imperatives.
Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats by Rachel Ama
If you love the idea of fun, fusion-based vegan cooking, then Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats will have you cooking up a plant-friendly storm in no time! Ama’s delectable contemporary and Caribbean inspired dishes are excellent go-to’s for trying to establish new cooking regimes that are sustainable for your life and sustainable for the environment. The book’s combination of affordable ingredients, shortened cooking times and ever-exciting flavour profiles makes keeping-up conscious cooking habits a breeze. Ama doesn’t compromise on the feel good factor of food either – her book is filled with indulgent recipes like plantain burgers, carrot cake waffles, pancakes, lemon and almond drizzle cake, and coconutty pavlovas. Vegan Eats is a great demonstration of the versatility of plant-based products and a testament to how effortless environmentalist cooking can be.
The Big Green Cookbook by Jackie Newgent
In The Big Green Cookbook, dietician Jackie Newgent creates a holistic guide for how to start adapting to an eco-friendly food lifestyle that is attuned to environmental stresses like climate change and goals of conservation. In addition to sharing dozens of recipes, including some drool-worthy desserts like Buckwheat Blueberry-Peach Pancakes and Chocolate Raspberry truffles, Newgent provides readers with lots of suggestions on how to make more environmentally aware actions around cooking. These easy-to-implement strategies include limiting the amount of time cooking appliances are in use, reconsidering methods of food storage, and learning how to avoid food waste. The Big Green Cookbook is a comprehensive resource for anyone committed to making sustainable shifts without delay.
Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia
Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food embodies lucidity in all senses of the word: the book gives clear explanations of fundamental concepts related to eco-conscious cooking, coupled with vibrant recipes to help get you started on some of the cooking practices informed by these concepts. Her explanations take the form of informal, informative articles that introduce readers to big questions around food ethics and environmentalism. These are especially useful for established cooks who are new to sustainable cooking ideas. Shafia also presents recipes that are beautifully coordinated to the different seasons but promise to bring joy to your kitchen all year round. Look out for the recipes in this compilation that draw on Shafia’s Iranian heritage using a range of popular Persian ingredients like rose petals and pistachios. Lucid Food is a must-read for anyone eager to start taking small steps towards making big environmental impacts.
The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook by Linda Ly
The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is a recent publication from nature-lover and founder of the garden and cooking blog “Garden Betty”, Linda Ly. The book is filled with deliciously innovative ideas for how to get the most out of vegetables and how to minimise food waste in the kitchen. Ly takes readers through a journey to explore the best of seasonal vegetables, and highlights different techniques for how to transform unassuming parts of plants like roots, skins, rinds, stems, leaves and flower buds into mouth-watering delights. These recipes extend from full meals like falafel wraps and bean curries, to enticing accompaniments and versatile snacks such as hummus and pesto dips, sauces and pickles. Ly’s no waste/more growth focus encourages conservation and appreciation for all of nature’s bounties, and paves the way for an imaginative, sustainable cooking future.
More Plants Less Waste by Max La Manna
More Plants, Less Waste focuses on helping readers to think carefully about processes of food production, packaging, consumption, and waste-removal and how these have a direct impact on our own relationship with what we eat. Chef Max La Manna brings together two key techniques from the traditional environmentalist kitchen, plant-based cooking and minimising food waste, under a common goal of sustainability. His book even takes these practices beyond the kitchen, giving handy suggestions for how to use plant-based items and leftovers for personal hygiene and cleaning products. For cooks who already consider themselves sustainable savvy, La Manna’s More Plants Less Waste is a great affirmation of some of the basic aspects of environmentalist cooking habits and an important invitation to do more.
La Vida Verde by Jocelyn Ramirez
In her new cookbook La Vida Verde, chef Jocelyn Ramirez thoughtfully reimagines flavoursome Mexican dishes from her heritage into nutrient rich, plant-friendly meals. These include Mexican favourites like mole, tacos, and tortillas, that are amplified with the fresh, wholesome vegetables, herbs and spices that are characteristic of Mexican cooking. Ramirez also makes helpful suggestions for plant-friendly substitutions of popular ingredients like cheese and proteins which can be used similarly in other types of vegan cuisine. La Vida Verde’s 60 recipes are filled with ideas that are not only great for the environment, but in fact celebrate the natural deliciousness of our planet’s edible offerings.
Sistah Vegan edited by A. Breeze Harper
A. Breeze Harper is a researcher in critical food ethics, feminism, and race studies, and founder of the Sistah Vegan Project, an online platform that creates a space for exploring relationships between vegan lifestyles, social justice issues and the subjectivity of Black women. Sistah Vegan is Harper’s curation of creative and analytical prose, poems, and essays from different women who reflect on their lived experiences as Black vegan women in America. The book powerfully brings together issues of racism and sexism, and environmentalist concerns around animal rights, conservation, sustainability, and personal health to consider how some of these challenges overlap. More importantly, the book shows how these challenges can be resolved through common solutions. Although not a book of recipes per se, Sistah Vegan contains all the right ingredients for thinking about how we might transform our societies and protect our planet, one eco-conscious action at a time.