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cookprint

noun [countable]

the environmental impact of using energy and other resources in order to prepare meals

'The cookprint starts with food, in your garden or at the farm; it travels to your kitchen and continues in your fridge, freezer or pantry. The cookprint grows larger every time heat or fuel is added, from a cooktop, oven, or small appliance. Discarded waste, whether it's organic produce trimmings, plastic packaging, or water down the drain, further colors the cookprint …'

New Green Basics 26th February 2008

that most basic of daily activities, the preparation of a meal, could in fact be one of the worst culprits in our eco-unfriendly lifestyles

We're all familiar with how detrimental our gas-guzzling vehicles are to the environment. And then there's the old chestnut of air travel, and houses filled with energy-chomping computers, televisions and games consoles. But what if our impact on the environment was at its most significant in the proverbial 'hub' of the home – the kitchen? Environmentalists are beginning to argue that that most basic of daily activities, the preparation of a meal, could in fact be one of the worst culprits in our eco-unfriendly lifestyles. In short, we should be careful to consider the effects of our cookprint.

The cookprint then, is a measure of a meal's environmental impact, the total amount of energy used when creating breakfast, lunch or dinner. It encompasses the appliances used to deal with food, from storage (think fridge), and preparation (think food processor) through to cooking (think oven) and discarding leftovers (think dishwasher and waste disposal). The other main facet of the cookprint is of course the food you choose to cook, especially considerations about where it's sourced and what it's packaged in.

Just as with (carbon) footprint, a common collocate of cookprint is the verb reduce. Ways to reduce your cookprint and take a more eco-conscious approach to cooking include:

-Efficient use of your oven or hob: cook more than one thing at a time in a heated oven. Keep the lid on when you boil a pan of water. Make use of residual heat – turn off the flame under a boiling pan of nearly-cooked potatoes, or let a casserole finish cooking in an oven that's still hot.

-The fridge is the biggest energy guzzler in the kitchen. Try to keep its energy consumption to a minimum by organizing its contents so that you need to open and shut it as infrequently as possible.

-Instead of electric mixers, use hand whisks and wooden spoons for whipping cream and baking cakes. The few extra calories expended by your elbow might make up for that slice of chocolate gateau!

Background – cookprint

The word cookprint was coined by American food writer Kate Heyhoe, and introduced in her book Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen the New Green Basics Way (Perseus Books, 2008).

The term is of course a blend of cook and footprint, the latter used in its ecological sense, which has in fact been around for about thirty years. Though we're now most familiar with the expression carbon footprint, which was coined in the late nineties, earlier variations on the theme were ecological footprint, and environmental footprint, which dates right back to the seventies.

In the same context, Heyhoe also refers to the concept of an ecovore. This she describes as a person who eats in an environmentally-conscious way, but, crucially, this requires a flexible approach to eating. An ecovore makes food choices based on the conditions at a particular time and/or place. So for example, if local salmon is not sustainable in a given year, an ecovore may choose to consume a foreign alternative because this turns out to be more environmentally-friendly. This differs from the concept of a locavore who strives to eat locally-sourced food wherever possible. A related expression now used in this domain is farm-to-fork, which describes the human 'food chain', from production (farm) to consumption (fork).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 10th June 2009.

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