Blackberry Life

Chef Cassidee’s Tips for Sustainability

Cassidee Dabney, Executive Chef of The Barn at Blackberry Farm, is an advocate for implementing sustainability practices in the kitchen and in her everyday life. Reducing your footprint does not mean you have to alter every aspect of your life. Instead, Cassidee suggests being mindful and making small, easy changes. Being thoughtful about what you’re purchasing, how you use it and the effect on the environment. Cassidee offered her top tips and suggestions for making a small, positive change in your sustainability efforts. Challenge yourself to pick one and try it out! It’ll become a habit before you know it.

  • Be mindful of the packaging options when you shop at the grocery store. If you want to buy a bag of corn chips, pick the chips that are packaged in a paper bag instead of plastic. The chip is the same, but one of those bags will decompose in a much shorter time.

  • Another easy practice for shopping is bringing your own reusable bags. It may seem like a pain, but you just have to make it routine. The second you unload your groceries, put the bags back in your car. It will quickly become a habit, and you won’t even have to think about it. If you don’t bring your own bags, almost every grocery store offers paper bags. They’re a little harder to carry, but it’s a short inconvenience that is worth the plastic reduction. Finally, be mindful of using the extra bagging for fruits and vegetables. If you want to separate those items, you can bring reusable bags for that too!

  • When preserving fruits and vegetables, you don’t have to go through the process of canning them. Freezing is a great method for preservation, and preserving allows you to cut down on your food waste. Put what you want to freeze in plastic or glass reusable containers, store them in the freezer, and pull them out to thaw when you need them. Fun tip: You can do that with herbs as well – chop up your herbs, mix them with a little oil, and them in small jars to freeze.
    I made fun of my grandmother for having a freezer full of Country Crock containers, but she was reusing. She never bought plastic bags, and she used her paper bags from the grocery store to put her trash in. You can reuse so many things you buy and easily cut down on buying single-use plastic products. You can even research stores in your area that have refilling programs. There are stores that will refill everything from peanut butter to shampoo. You get the product you want, and you reduce your packaging!

  • Make an effort to recycle, even if you don’t have curbside pick-up. You don’t have to jump to sorting all your paper, plastic and glass. Pick one thing. Collect all your plastic, for example, and then make it a habit to make one trip to the recycling center per week, or even every other week.

  • Make, or buy, reusable wax wraps for food storage. You can easily make your own at home, and it becomes a fun little craft project, and kids would love participating. The wax fits around anything as a seal, you can wrap food in it like cheese – they’re so easy. By using the wax covers, you’re eliminating one-time use of things like plastic wrap and aluminum foil. You can reuse them so many times, and when you need to, you simply re-wax the fabric. Fun tip: I use them as a knife wrap when I travel for guest chef events. The wax keeps the fold closed, so I put my blade in and it protects my knife and my luggage.
Cassidee’s Challenge: As an experiment, collect all of your plastic for one month. Get a real one-month look at what you’re using and multiply that by 12 to see how much plastic you use annually. Then think about what you can do just to reduce that by a fraction. Change just one habit and see what a difference it can make!

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