Cooking Is More Pollutive Than We Thought — Here’s Why
What is the environmental impact of cooking? Depending on how you're cooking your food, you may be releasing aerosols into the atmosphere.
Everything we do has an impact on the environment, whether it's driving to the store, doing the dishes, or blowdrying our hair. But even the most seemingly innocent activities take a toll on planet Earth. According to a recent study that was published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, even cooking even impacts the environment, by releasing aerosols into the atmosphere.
This finding is important, in helping society figure out how to lower their environmental impact.
"Cooking aerosols account for up to 10 percent of particulate matter (PM) emissions. Finding accurate ways to predict their behavior will give us much more precise ways to also assess their contribution to climate change," the lead author of the study, University of Birmingham's Dr. Christian Pfrang said in a statement, according to Weather.com.
And they're still learning more about it everyday.
"We're increasingly finding out how molecules like these fatty acids from cooking can organize themselves into bilayers and other regular shapes and stacks within aerosol droplets that float in the air, and how this completely changes how fast they degrade, how long they persist in the atmosphere, and how they affect pollution and weather," co-author of the study, University of Bath's Dr. Adam Squires added, per Weather.com.
How does cooking impact the environment?
The study described above found that cooking releases organic aerosols into the atmosphere can last for several days. Fatty acids form large aerosol molecules, which are associated with poor air quality and climate change. Many different kinds of molecules are found in aerosols, and all of them interact with the environment in different ways. But one, an unsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid, was studied by experts from the Universities of Birmingham and Bath.
They look at the behavior of oleic acid, and used a theoretical model and experimental data to predict the activity of aerosols that are generated from cooking. They organize themselves into bilayers and droplets that linger in the air, failing to degrade and affecting both air and water quality. Previous studies had shown that gas produces more aerosols than electric, as well as nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde — which can all pose risks to the environment and human health.
And evidently, different cooking styles may have different impacts on the environment. But how do they affect the planet differently? Take a look below, to gauge how each cooking method affects the planet.
Baking or roasting
Not only do gas ovens use, well, the highly contested non-renewable natural gas, but when operating, they also release pollutants into the air. According to NPR, the Biden administration has proposed giving incentives to people to transition to electric ovens, so if you're designing a home at the moment, we strongly suggest shying away from those that run on gas.
Although microwaves supposedly aren't as bad for us as they were assumed to be when they first came out decades ago, the household staples emit 7.7 million tons of CO2 annually in the EU alone, according to a report from the University of Manchester. Equivalent to 6.8 million cars, this is definitely somewhat alarming.
A 2014 article from Mic unfortunately exposed the impact of your summer cookout — grilling with charcoal results in large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Charcoal are basically carbon nuggets, which release CO2 into the atmosphere when burned.
Frying requires large amounts of oil, and when not disposed of properly, it can impact the environment negatively. There are different types of cooking oils, though, that impact the planet in varying ways — so take note when you're planning to whip up your next batch of French fries.
According to Inverse, microwaves, slow cookers, and pressure cookers have the lowest environmental impact out of all the cooking methods, while ovens have the highest.
Cooking in general impacts the environment, and each method takes a toll on the planet in different ways — more research is to be done in order to figure out how we can keep it as low as possible. But we promise that doesn't mean you need to result to a 100 percent raw diet.