Changing the way we consume food on television: incorporating plant-based options and promoting electric vehicles to combat negative effects on the environment.
When you access your preferred streaming platform and select a cooking program, it is probable that you are seeking some amusement – perhaps even to relax and not think for a while. However, if the content you are watching consistently features visuals of sizzling meats, roaring gas fires, and the latest extravagant kitchen gadgets, it could be promoting behaviors or standards that are not environmentally conscious.
Although there is insufficient data to determine the exact impact of TV and film on our actions, specialists suggest that what we view on screen can influence our perception of what is considered normal and permissible. Regrettably, the content displayed on TV is not a reliable source for learning how to mitigate the environmental consequences of food, which contributes to approximately 25% to 33% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Ellis Watamanuk, senior director at Rare’s Entertainment Lab, food systems play a crucial role in addressing climate change. Even if we were to eliminate fossil fuels immediately, our eating habits would still need to be altered.
How can we alter our eating habits? Here are some common climate concerns often featured in popular cooking shows – and ways to avoid them and improve sustainability in your kitchen.
Eat more plants
Shows like Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen have built entire episodes around the challenges of cooking the perfect steak, complete with opening shots of different cuts of raw meat laid out on a table. But according to analysis from Rare, switching to a vegan or even just a “climatarian” diet (which excludes beef, lamb and goat, and limits poultry, pork and fish) is one of the most impactful climate actions a person can take – more so than sourcing food locally, recycling or skipping a flight from New York to Los Angeles.
Simply replacing a single serving of beef with a single serving of chicken once a week could lead to a reduction of 0.71 tons of CO2 emissions.2
Annually, on an individual basis, as stated by Rare.
According to Watamanuk, the focus is not always on completely transitioning to a plant-based diet. It could simply involve incorporating more poultry or fish in place of beef. Although it may be difficult to remove items from your menu, trying new dishes that make you excited to eat a lower-impact meal is worth the effort.
If the content on television is not motivating enough in this aspect, there are numerous individuals on social media who are bridging the gap by demonstrating recipes using plants and fungi. According to Carleigh Bodrug, a cookbook writer and founder of PlantYou, “As a millennial, I primarily consume food media through social media rather than television. Currently, there is a significant focus on plant-based content on social media, which I am pleased to see.”
Bodrug has gained over 6 million followers on Instagram and TikTok thanks to her popular cooking videos featuring plant-based dishes. According to experts, these types of diets are more environmentally friendly compared to the typical American diet that includes a lot of meat. However, despite her success, Bodrug has been informed by TV producers that it is challenging to pitch plant-based cooking shows to networks because viewers prefer indulgent dishes with meat and cheese. Despite this, Bodrug’s own experience proves that it is possible to attract viewers to videos showcasing meat-free meals.
One option is to modify recipes from cooking shows by substituting meat and dairy with alternatives such as tofu, such as using tofu in tacos or vegan tzatziki. However, there are also numerous plant-based dishes available to try, like Bodrug’s butter bean dish.
Next Level Chef may have an abundance of gas stoves, with the occasional fire, making it seem like burning fossil fuels while cooking is a normal part of life. However, this only benefits big oil companies. The oil and gas industry has spent a significant amount of money to persuade the general public, as well as celebrity chefs, that using gas appliances creates a superior cooking experience. This marketing tactic, known as “cooking with gas,” originated in the 1930s and has been so successful that many people forget it is simply a ploy by the industry. These efforts continue today, with oil and gas companies paying popular figures to promote propane on television, from DIY home renovation stars to hosts of Netflix science shows.
In recent times, there has been a growing body of evidence suggesting that using gas for cooking has a significantly negative impact on both the environment and human health. Gas stoves release a high amount of harmful pollutants, reaching levels that would be deemed illegal if released outdoors. Studies have shown that gas stoves contribute to one in eight cases of childhood asthma and emit the cancer-causing chemical benzene. Additionally, these stoves continue to emit harmful chemicals even when not in use or when used in conjunction with a ventilation hood.
If you observe Rachael Ray using a gas stove, do not assume it is the optimal choice. Many professional chefs are now switching to induction stoves due to their accuracy, simplicity in cleaning, quietness, and lack of excess heat in the kitchen. Some television programs, including the Great British Baking Show, have also made the switch to induction in recent years.
According to Sarah Lazarovic, the head of communications at non-profit organization Rewiring America, replacing your oven and stove is a significant decision that comes with a high cost. Due to this, it may not be something that can be done immediately. However, in order to meet our climate goals, it is crucial that all future appliance purchases are electric, including stoves. When considering a new oven or stove, be sure to choose an electric option. The Inflation Reduction Act offers rebates up to $840 to help with the cost of making the switch.
Reduce waste by utilizing scraps and leftovers through cooking.
Quality television demands quality visuals, so cooking shows often feature contestants and chefs using flawless, freshly sourced ingredients arranged in visually stunning displays, like on Iron Chef. However, in reality, most people do not have the luxury of regularly shopping for fresh groceries every day. This often results in having to deal with less-than-ideal produce and stale bread towards the end of the week.
According to Dana Gunders, the executive director of ReFED, even though this type of food may not be showcased in cooking competitions, it is still important to save and consume.
According to estimates, approximately 38% of food in the United States goes uneaten, which has significant consequences. This amounts to over $400 billion worth of food and requires a substantial amount of resources for production, preparation, storage, transportation, and delivery to our tables. Furthermore, when this wasted food ends up in landfills, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In fact, the carbon footprint of food waste in the US is equivalent to that of 80 million cars each year.
Some cooking shows focus on using leftover food from the back of the fridge, such as Netflix’s “Best Leftovers Ever!” However, if you want more ideas for reducing food waste in your kitchen, watch Bodrug’s series on “scrappy cooking”. In this series, she transforms broccoli stems into “fries” and pomegranate peels into tea, among other creative uses for food scraps.
When it comes to kitchen gadgets, use what you’ve got
If you are a fan of Food Network programs such as Beat Bobby Flay, it is likely that you have seen chefs using unique or specialized kitchen tools, ranging from high-speed blenders to ice cream makers. As a vegan chef, author, and TV personality, Priyanka Naik has spent a significant amount of time cooking for TV audiences. She believes that one of the negative habits that TV shows can promote is the belief that you need the newest gadgets to replicate the dishes made by your favorite celebrity chef. While switching to an electric stove to reduce your child’s risk of asthma may be beneficial, feeling pressured to purchase the latest single-function kitchen tool just because a celebrity chef used it is unnecessary.
Moreover, the business of product placement generates a massive revenue of $23 billion. This implies that there is a high possibility of encountering these subtle advertisements in your beloved shows if you watch them for a considerable amount of time. It is clear that marketers utilize this strategy because they believe it to be effective. However, this can have negative consequences as it promotes excessive consumption by enticing us to constantly shop for unnecessary items.
Naik suggests avoiding trendy kitchenware and gadgets. Although air fryers are currently popular, they are not necessary for most recipes.
She stated that not everyone will own a luxurious mixer or three grills at home, and these items can be excessive and unnecessary. Instead of focusing on the kitchen equipment used in videos, she advised that it is important to remember that “you don’t need fancy tools – you can utilize what you already have available to create a delicious and satisfying dish.”