Gift Guide: For cooks with a craving for sustainability
This time of year can be a big gift-giving moment, with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, weddings and more. And whatever the occasion, if the recipient enjoys spending time in the kitchen, then food and kitchen-related gifts are a natural place to start.
More and more of us are shopping and cooking with an eye toward sustainability and eco-consciousness. So here are some cooking gifts and tips that fit that bill:
You can start by doing a little homework on the company you’re purchasing from. That job has been done for you if the company has gotten a B Corp certification. It shows that a business is meeting high standards in supporting a variety of community and environmental markers, with measurable metrics. The certification lasts three years before needing to be renewed.
Another accreditation to look for is 1% for the Planet, which means the company has committed to donate 1% of annual sales to environmental causes, and is transparent in its efforts to operate sustainably. Climate Neutral is an organization that measure carbon accountability.
Beyond such designations, visit a company’s website and see what they have to say about their practices and how the product was made. Customers are increasingly demanding transparency and accountability in companies they buy from.
Pantry staples like olive oil are a great present. Companies like Bona Furtuna are paying attention to nurturing their regions' biodiversity. Their farm is fertilized entirely with organic matter, including compost created through the production of their olive oils. California Olive Ranch has committed to transparency and sustainable practices in both growing and packaging.
Brightland partners with small, family-run olive farms in California that grow without pesticides or chemicals and pay fair wages to farmworkers. The brand is helping to convert land use from water- and chemical-intensive crops to drought-resistant, low-impact olive production.
McEvoy Ranch has a wide range of flavor-infused olive oils and likewise aims to create a self-sufficient and balanced ecosystem. That includes tending orchards in accordance with organic regulations, and converting all ranch waste products, including spent olives, into compost that then nurtures the soil.
Buying meat and fish in a responsible way has become important to many of us. Luckily, there are companies like ButcherBox, which makes use of the whole animal. ButcherBox delivers grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, humanely raised pork and wild-caught seafood to your door. Crowd Cow, Porter Road and Good Chop are similar options, with no added hormones or antibiotics.
Awareness of how fragile our oceans have become has been heightened. Organizations like SeaChoice and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch are good places to start investigating the sustainability of a particular kind of fish.
Think about buying a gift box or perhaps a monthly subscription to a company verified by one of these organizations. Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics says all its fish and shellfish are vetted and approved by a reputable third-party sustainability organization. Their orders are shipped with dry ice in corrugated cardboard boxes that are fitted with thermal liners made from recycled denim, which can then be recycled again. Offerings include a Wild Fish Monthly Subscription.
If you'd like to reduce food waste and also save money, consider another cool subscription gift: Misfits Market, which delivers produce and other healthy foods saved from going to waste.
How about a gift basket? Clif Family offers assortments of their small-production organic wines and specialty foods inspired by the flavors of Napa Valley, with a mission of bringing high quality with the lowest impact to the planet. Think honeys, wines, preserves and nuts. Frog Hollow Farm has lovely gift boxes filled with fresh fruits, sun-dried fruits, fruit spreads and more.
Or buy some pretty reusable jars and package up an assortment of granolas. Check out One Degree Organics from Canada (their motto is “all ingredients from farmers we know”) and Grandy Organics, made in small batches in a solar powered factory in Maine.
There are companies producing beautiful and functional cookware and tabletop items with a focus on sustainability.
Tag Home Décor uses natural and sustainable materials in many of their products, such as a handwoven sustainable jute rug and upcycled, salvaged-cotton kitchen rug made on traditional pit looms. It cozies up a space and provides cushioning for a tired cook’s feet. They also have a hand-crafted, onyx-marble board made from natural stone.
Goodee works with artisans who exclusively use naturally occurring materials, and works to enable them to earn a sustainable living through their crafts. The company offers many items for cooking and dining, including lovely Oaxaca-made tumblers using locally sourced recycled glass and alternative energy. There's also a beautiful pepper grinder made from sustainably sourced teak wood.
Loopy Products makes products from upcycled agricultural waste; their sustainable coffee mug, made with waste from coffee manufacturing, was a Global Innovation Award Finalist at the Inspired Home Show this year. Their coffee, flour and tea storage containers are an eco-friendly way to store staples.
For the cook who wants to compost, there's the very affordable Bamboozle compost bin. The filtered lid helps to absorb any smells caused from off-gassing. It’s made from biodegradable bamboo fiber and dishwasher safe.
Need items for a little basket of eco-friendly items for a kitchen refresh? Consider botanically infused papers from The Fresh Glow Co,. which are designed to keep foods fresher longer, and are organic and compostable.
Everyone can use a spiffy new portable drink container. Klean Kanteen makes a ton of them, and the company a long-standing B Corp. and is certified by Climate Neutral (a carbon-accountability designation). Their products are made with 90% post-consumer recycled stainless steel, which results in a significant reduction in steel greenhouse gases.
Dish towels are always in short supply in an avid cook’s kitchen, and are a smart, reusable alternative to paper towels. Tag makes textured dish cloths in lots of colors, so you can add a bright spot to cleaning up. Atelier Saucier makes lovely table linens, all sustainably sourced, rescued or repurposed.
Material Kitchen's reBoards are BPA-free cutting boards made of kitchen plastic scraps and renewable sugar cane. They come in a variety of beautiful colors.
Sustainability means different things to different people, but these days it’s easier than ever to shop with purpose and give gifts with meaning.
Katie Workman, who writes frequently about food for The Associated Press, is a cookbook author and founder of TheMom100.com.