Best Investments in Sustainability

 

 

 

 

 

by Laura Parker Roerden

What if I told you that there was a cheaper, faster, healthier, safer, less energy intensive, cleaner, and lower carbon footprint way to cook than using an electric or gas stovetop and range? You’d wonder why you never heard of it before, right?

Stephanie Cmar, Top Chef alumna and former chef at Stir of Barbara Lynch Gruppo, demonstrates induction cooking. Photo by Colleen Brannen.

I know I was stunned when recently attending an event put on jointly by Mother’s Out Front and HEET at my dear friend Claire Corcoran’s house to learn about induction cooking, an electromagnet method of cooking that has been around for a decade. My family had just months before bought a new cooktop, but even as long time greenies who have spent the past year buying two electric vehicle cars and converting our house to solar, we did not come across this option in our research. After learning more, I’d say induction cooking definitely meets the criteria for a best investment in sustainability.

Healthier
Numerous studies have linked gas stoves in homes with increased asthma, bronchitis, and wheezing in children. Additionally, if you live in Massachusetts and cook with gas, there is better than  50% chance that you are using fracked gas, which contains health-threatening chemicals used in the fracking process. Pollutants involved in fracking have been linked to pediatric neurological issues, lower birth weights and increased asthma. So by taking a pass on fracked gas, you are keeping your own family from being exposed and are also helping the communities where fracking has had the greatest negative health and environmental impacts.

Cheaper, More Energy Efficient and Safer
When you turn on an induction burner, an electric current runs through the coil, generating a fluctuating magnetic field, but no heat on the burner itself. Then once you set an iron or stainless steel pan on the burner, the magnetic field induces many smaller electric currents in the pan’s metal, creating heat in the pan. Because there is no transfer of heat from the stove to the pan, 95% of every dollar you spend on energy goes right where you want it – in the pan! Gas delivers only 35% to the pan and traditional electric about 56%. Also, once the pan leaves the burner, the burner goes into standby mode, so no electricity is used in between periods of cooking or shifting pans.

Induction cooking is also faster, (2 to 4 minutes faster to bring a 6 quart pan of water to boil). While the speed isn’t life changing, the energy saved does aggregate over a year significantly.

So what do they cost? Currently, Consumer Reports recommends a Kenmore brand range that is $1,000. But you might consider a 2-burner counter top version for $100-200 to test out if induction might work for you. As consumers and commercial vendors discover the benefits of induction, the prices will no doubt come down.

If induction becomes the standard for cooking, the old adage of “touching a hot stove” will no longer make sense: an induction stove burner is only hot if there’s a pan on it. The potential for leaving a stove on is also lessened, which is an additional safety benefit over gas and electric.

Photo by Colleen Brannen.

Lower Carbon Footprint
Here in New England, many of our homes use natural gas. This gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Because a significant amount of that methane leaks into the atmosphere all along the system from where it’s produced to where it’s used, natural gas damages our climate more than coal. You can always green your electricity source, but you can’t green fossil fuel.

Induction stove tops and ranges are slowly becoming the norm in restaurants and professional kitchens, because of all of the benefits. Though it does take some adjustment to new cooking speeds and settings, it’s probably no more difficult to learn than transitioning from gas to electric or vice versa requires.

Cooking by the animated glow of a fire is deeply encoded in our mythology and DNA. I’m quite sure that’s why I have in the past preferred using gas over electric. But lessening our carbon footprint and energy usage can truly help us feel a different warmth inside: that of knowing we walk gently on our bountiful earth.

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Learn more about From the Shaker: Best Investments in Sustainability.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.

 

 

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