Buzzword: Cookprint

Consumer Reports News: May 15, 2009 11:37 AM

What it means. Cookprint takes the carbon footprint—the amount of greenhouse gas each of us generates through our daily activities—and plants it firmly in the kitchen.

Food writer Kate Heyhoe cooked up cookprint, defined as the energy needed to prepare the food you eat. That energy use encompasses the appliances and techniques used to prepare and store food, though the management of leftovers and food waste also factors in—you lower your cookprint by composting rather than tossing scraps into the trash. Low-cookprint meals should also be heavy on plant-based and locally grown, sustainable foods.

Cookprint Reducing Energy Use in the KitchenWhy the buzz? A few new cookbooks—including Heyhoe's Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen—the New Green Basics Way; Big Green Cookbook: Hundreds of Planet-Pleasing Recipes and Tips for a Luscious, Low-Carbon Lifestyle, by Jackie Newgent; and Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, by Mark Bittman—have stirred up interest in eco-conscious cooking.

Besides food enthusiasts, appliance manufacturers are in on the cookprint movement, though it's worth noting that cooking appliances as a category account for just 3 percent of a home's energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Whirlpool says that for its induction appliances, "90% of the energy [is] expended into useful heat to reduce utility costs. (With gas ranges up to 60% of the heat is normally wasted through indirect gas combustion.)"

It's easy to cook more efficiently. On the cooktop, blanch green beans first and then cook pasta in the same pot of boiling water. In the oven, roast vegetables for tomorrow's supper alongside tonight's baked chicken. And when preheating a gas grill, throw on some potatoes or corn on the cob or heavy-duty-foil packets of vegetables instead of letting all those Btu go to waste.

Or when you're cooking small portions, use your toaster oven, which will consume less energy than a conventional oven. And reheat leftovers in a microwave oven. As covered in our February 2009 report on microwaves, microwave ovens can save up to 80 percent of the energy used by a typical oven. Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering making microwaves eligible for Energy Star qualification.

Remember, it rarely makes environmental sense to replace a working appliance just to take advantage of a new, more-efficient model. Still, if you do need a new refrigerator or dishwasher, the latest versions will reduce your cookprint. The average 2008 refrigerator or dishwasher uses 30 percent less energy than the average 2000 model, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Just don't fall victim to the Snackwell's effect when shopping.

Completing the cookprint cycle, conserve energy and water with your dishwasher by not prerinsing dishes before loading them, running full loads, and skipping the heated-dry cycle.—Daniel DiClerico | | Twitter

Essential information: Visit our appliances hub to find the most energy-efficient refrigerators and dishwashers. Look for our special report on kitchens, in the August 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, online and on newsstands in July.

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