Love baking but trying to live an eco friendly, maybe even a zero waste, lifestyle? These can go hand-in-hand! In this post, I’ll share my favorite tips for sustainable and eco friendly baking. We’ll talk about replacing disposables, minimizing food waste, and even the energy efficiency of your appliances so you know exactly what to do.
In fact, eco-friendly baking can be a great way to avoid plastic packaging and minimize food waste! With a few simple swaps, you’ll be an eco friendly baker in no time!
Think about eco friendly baking as a system
If we think big picture about baking, which parts can we tweak to set up a sustainable baking routine?
- Food & ingredients
- Replacing disposables
- Sustainable kitchen tools
- Energy usage
Are you a beginner trying to find the right tools, pans, and ingredients? I’ve shared all of the baking essentials for beginners you’ll need to start your sustainable baking routine.
My 12 Favorite Tips for Eco Friendly Baking
1. Set up a zero waste pantry
Minimize the packaging waste coming into your home by either refilling your containers at the bulk store or shop for plastic free items.
- Learn about setting up a zero waste pantry here
- Set up a zero waste kitchen (& learn how to shop the bulk bins)
- My favorite source for low waste organic pantry staples
2. Think about ingredient quality
When possible, aim for organic products with fewer food miles and pesticides. To reduce emissions, you may want to consider plant-based milks or try to get yours from a local dairy with pasture-raised cows. Try baking without eggs or get eggs from a local farmer!
Aim for products grown in your country or region when possible to avoid international shipping. If you are sourcing internationally, look for certifications like Fairtrade and Certified Organic to ensure fair working conditions and pesticide-free growing conditions.
You might even want to try playing with drought-tolerant grains that require less water, like einkorn, spelt, emmer, and rye. Buckwheat is another amazing pantry staple that grows quickly, even in poor soil conditions, and offers a complete protein.
Whole grains include the bran, germ, and endosperm. These require less processing and will offer the full nutritional value of the grain (source).
Learn more about working with whole grains from the researchers at the WSU Bread Lab! One of my favorite places for 100% whole grain recipes.
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Cooking from scratch is a gift you can give yourself and your family! It’s way easier than you think and my free pantry staples list & meal planner will help you get started right away.
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3. Switch to sustainable baking supplies
Let’s think through where the waste happens. Is it from the packaging for your ingredients? We tackled that in the step above. What else ends up in the trash? Usually, it’s your parchment paper, plastic wrap, plastic bags, piping bags, etc.
There are reusable alternatives for ALL of these products.
(Below, I’m going to share some links to help you find these products. My links will mostly be going directly to EarthHero, my favorite Amazon alternative for zero waste and eco friendly products. For products not on EarthHero, I am sharing links to Amazon. Consider looking for these in your local kitchen store instead.)
Eco friendly parchment paper
Switch to silicone baking sheets like these ones that can be used over and over again. They’re safe up to 425 degrees F!
Eco friendly cupcake liners
There are silicone cupcake liners that are sturdy enough, you don’t even need a cupcake pan!
Sustainable bread pans
Instead of parchment paper, try silicone loaf pans to get perfect, non-stick loaves without the waste! Another option is to simply grease your non-stick bread pans for easy removal.
Zero waste plastic wrap
There are so many alternatives to plastic wrap and you’ll want to adapt the tool you use for the purpose. In general, you can use a simple kitchen towel or fabric bowl cover for most purposes!
Reusable piping bags
If you’re a frequent baker and bake a lot of cakes, opt for a washable cloth or even plastic piping bag to keep those flimsy film bags out of landfills.
4. Source eco friendly baking tools
There are two ways to approach outfitting your kitchen with sustainable baking supplies.
Hit the thrift store for used baking tools
This is a great way to get everything you need on a budget with a minimal carbon footprint. These are items that were otherwise going unused and could end up in a landfill!
2. Invest in high-quality eco friendly baking tools made to last
For items you cannot thrift or for pieces you want to own for life, invest in the best quality you can find. I recommend investing in high-quality workhorses (pots and pans, cast iron skillet, sheet pans) and using cheaper, thrifted items for pans we use less often (angel food cake pan).
- Look for brands like Caraway, 360 Cookware, Nordic Ware, Viking, Calphalon, Le Creuset, All Clad, etc
- Search for 18/10 stainless steel, cast iron, cast aluminum, etc.
- Avoid nonstick coatings (these flake off and can release forever chemicals)
5. Rethink waste
Baking is a great way to use up food scraps that may otherwise end up in the trash can. We all know about banana bread, but it’s more than that. Baking can hide the texture of dried out berries or soft apples.
When you notice your fruits or veggies starting to age past where you like to eat them fresh, it’s time to turn them into cakes, muffins, breads, or more.
6. Zero waste sourdough starter
If the sourdough bug bit you too, you’ve likely spent some time searching for recipes to use your sourdough discard.
This is a great approach to minimizing your waste. Think of that discard as flour and water already mixed together. Anywhere you need flour and water, you can use sourdough! This looks like…sourdough tortillas, sourdough cookies, sourdough muffins, sourdough crackers, etc.
If you’re not ready to use your sourdough discard RIGHT NOW, pour it into a mason jar and stick it in the fridge. This will delay any rising and save it for when you’re ready.
7. Adopt a make-do mentality
Avoid single-task items that clutter your drawers. Most kitchen tools can be used for multiple purposes!
Plus, your recycling bin is a source of gold. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve dug back through my recycling bin for a just-right jar or that plastic yogurt tub.
Before you buy new, hit the thrift store to see if there’s something to address your need. Get creative!
You can also try to do without. What happens if you don’t use that fancy tool? This doesn’t work in every situation, but sometimes all these fancy extras we’re told we need really don’t matter.
8. Think about your energy usage
This is a part of zero waste baking that people don’t often want to think about, but your oven and stove are typically a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Which is better for the environment? Electric stoves.
New research shows that gas stoves leak more gas than previously thought. Up to 3/4 of the gas emissions occur when the stove is turned off (source).
Both gas and electric stoves produce greenhouse gases, though. Plus, since over 60% of electricity in the US is generated from using fossil fuels, electricity isn’t as squeaky clean as people think either (source).
Learn more about the energy efficiency of your cooking equipment here.
How can you improve the situation?
- Check if your energy company will allow you to pay for renewable energy (learn about my experience here in tip #1)
- Consider replacing older appliances with ENERGY STAR options
- Use kitchen appliances like slow cookers and toaster ovens to reduce your energy use by 1/3 to 1/2 (Be sure to unplug them when you’re done!)
- Take advantage of passive heat (Use a lid; turn off the heat after the water boils for pasta, etc)
9. Make the most of the oven
When you do use the oven, make the most of it! Try to bake multiple dishes with each heat.
For example, we usually make a breakfast casserole on Sundays for breakfast during the week.
Instead of just making a breakfast casserole, we’ll also roast nuts, bake some brownies or bread, or roast some veggies.
You’re already using & paying for that energy…make the most of it!
10. Make a double batch
Instead of just baking one tray of brownies, could you bake two and freeze the second one for later? This is a simple way to maximize the heat from your oven and save time baking!
If brownies are too tempting to keep on hand, you can try doing this with loaves of bread, trays of granola, or your favorite casserole. This is a great way to simplify meal planning, too!
11. Crack the door when you’re done
Especially in the winter, I always crack the oven door open to allow the heat to fill the home. Again, we already used this energy. How can we allow it to serve us again?
12. Your fridge is your friend
Many freshly baked foods spoil faster due to the lack of preservatives. The last thing you want is to see your gorgeous sourdough boules get moldy!
We store almost all of our baked goods in the fridge, except for items like brownies, cookies, and crackers.
All breads, tortillas, English muffins, and more are stored directly in the fridge or even the freezer for longer storage. We either reuse a plastic gallon bag, wrap them in beeswax wrap, or store them in a silicone Stasher bag.
Baked goods loaded with fruit fruits are often high in moisture and can spoil quickly at room temperature. Store your fruit desserts in the fridge. The same goes for any dairy-based toppings like cream cheese frosting or milk glaze.
Start eating real food every day
Get the inside scoop from my years of cooking from scratch & preserving the harvest. Learn how to eat seasonally & sustainably… even on a budget!
Which of these eco friendly baking tips did you like the most?
How can we make this list more helpful? Is there a topic we didn’t cover yet? Tell us in the comments!