Many sourdough bakers and fermented food DIYers would consider themselves well versed in sustainability practices.
However with the recent IPCC announcements, Earth day was a gloomy green this year.
Everyone plays a small part in keeping our planet healthy.
As I recently reviewed my sourdough baking practice, I attempted to assess if I was being a good steward of the environment. I thought it was a good time to share some of my findings:
1. Your oven will be the biggest consumer of energy during the whole process, so let's start here. The first point is to have an accurate temperature measurement. Your oven temperature sensor may not be accurate so I recommend to use an external oven thermometer to double check. That way you can optimize the pre-heat period. You can also replace your oven sensor with a higher quality one, a simple DIY project.
Next, consider using an electric oven, if you aren't already. A new kitchen range is an important household investment but when yours comes at it end of life, it is a good time to switch from gas to electric. Alternatively, I have heard of very good results with countertop convection oven. If you don't mind the limited space, it could be the perfect option for a lesser cost. Now you have the option to use clean energy to power your appliance and be one step closer to carbon neutrality.
2. Use reusable plastic bonnets (shower caps graded for food) to cover your bannetons for proofing. They are much easier to handle than plastic wrap and will allow for expansion of the dough without sticking. They can also be reused hundreds of times Rinse them occasionally and let them air dry on a rack. Alternatively, use a hard cover or a towel.
3. The flour is the main ingredient you will have to purchase. Buy your flour in bulk and organic if possible. You will not only save money but save on packaging. The key is to store your flour in a closed plastic container, food grade, with a tight lid to avoid spoilage.
If possible, source your flour locally. This is not always straight forward, especially if you live in California. I did find a few options in neighboring states (Central Milling in Utah), but you will have to pay for shipping.
4. When it comes to sustainable practices, how you consume your bread is almost as important as the bread making process itself. Favor vegetarian spread or toppings rather than dairy based products. As a native French, and cheese lover, I would get a poor grade on that topic. There are simple steps that can also be healthier for your body, such as replacing mayonnaise with avocados.
The good news is that by using natural fermentation, you are already one step closer to nature. Every step counts!