Cooking and eating sustainably: Six simple steps to get started

Julie Burleigh has a created a sanctuary with the gardens surrounding the West Adams home she shares with her partner, photographer Cathie Opie and their son.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Cooking and eating more sustainably doesn’t require that you rethink your entire life. Here are some simple things you can do to get started.

Start canning some of your own pickles and jams when fruits and vegetables are at the peak of season. It will be cheaper than buying store-bought, and likely the quality will be better as well.

Grow your own — either plant vegetables in raised beds in the yard or even just put some herbs in pots on a sunny kitchen windowsill.

Eat lower on the food chain — take advantage of the whole animal by using off-cuts of meat that others might pass up, such as beef shanks or lamb’s necks, and try cooking the less popular small, oily fish, such as mackerel and sardines that don’t extract such an environmental cost compared with high-end fish such as salmon.


Meatless Monday. Even in the best circumstances, raising meat takes a toll. Make this change only one day a week and you probably won’t even notice.

Shop at bulk bins to cut down on wasteful packaging.

Take your own reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers — you’ve probably had enough tinfoil swans already.

Want to get a little more involved?


Raise chickens. In some neighborhoods they’ve become the new dogs, except they lay eggs. Plus, you can turn them loose in the vegetable garden to keep the bugs down, and you can add their waste to the compost pile.

Start composting. Put a pail under the sink and a tumbler in the side yard. You won’t find any richer garden soil.

Take advantage of Southern California’s wealth of backyard produce by starting a harvest swap with your neighbors who have trees or gardens.