I love pumpkin. I know loving pumpkin this time of year is a little bit stereotypical, but there’s no shame in liking what we like. Besides, pumpkin is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and zinc. Both vitamin C and zinc help to keep your immune system strong. So before you jet off for the holidays in a metal tube surrounded by sneezy people you can make this recipe and know you’re doing your immune system a favor.
My problem with pumpkin is I never seem to use the whole can. Food waste is frustrating. You’re basically throwing the money you spent on that food into the trash. But not only is it bad for our wallets, it’s also bad for the planet.
ReFed estimates that in the United States, 43% of food waste happens in the home. Roughly 1/3 of all food produced globally is lost to food waste. As I’ve mentioned before, food left to decompose in a landfill releases methane and contributes to climate change.
Decreasing our food waste is something all of us can do that will make a difference. If you have some extra pumpkin sitting in your fridge this recipe is a great way to use it up. If you open a new can to make this recipe, try mixing some pumpkin into your oatmeal or yogurt for a festive treat.
I’m not really sure what to call these. They have more of a cakey texture than most brownies and cookie bars, but you can definitely eat them with your hands. So we’re just going to call them Cakey Pumpkin Bars. Regardless of what they’re called, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Cakey Pumpkin Bars
1 cup pumpkin puree
1.5 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of ginger
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 3qt (2.8L) casserole dish. Mix pumpkin, sugar, and butter together.
2. Once those ingredients are creamed, add eggs and vanilla and mix.
3. Mix in flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. When thoroughly mixed fold in nuts and chocolate chips if you want to add them, be careful not to over mix.
4. Pour into the greased dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
5. Cool and enjoy! Full disclosure, I did not cool, I cut into them almost immediately and enjoyed, but I did burn my tongue a bit. So the cooling is optional, but recommended for safety.
Hi, I’m Taryn McPherson. I’m a Registered Dietitian, climate activist, and healthy soil advocate and I’m here to teach you how to eat in a way that improves your own health and also helps combat the climate crisis.
How I eat contributes to climate change?
Unfortunately, yes. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the way humans use land contributes to roughly 23% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This includes agriculture, deforestation, and converting wetlands into useable land. While deforestation and wetland conversion does happen for development and building, it’s also a common practice in agriculture.
Current farming practices are not restorative or even sustainable. Use of nitrogen-heavy fertilizers not only releases nitrogen (a GHG) into the atmosphere, it contaminates our water, making our oceans unstable. The use of fertilizers also decreases the nutrient content of soil. Less healthy soil means less healthy food! The loss of nutrients from soil that food is grown in is resulting in food that is less nutrient dense than it was in previous decades. Healthy soil is actually able to help fight climate change by pulling carbon from our atmosphere.
We also waste a lot of food - 40% of the food produced goes to waste. Food that is thrown away not only wastes all the energy and resources that went into making it, but because landfills are anaerobic environments (meaning there is no oxygen) food decomposes differently. Instead of redepositing nutrients into the soil, food that decomposes in landfills releases methane gas, a major GHG contributor. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest contributor of GHG, behind only China and the United States.
That’s awful, but what can I do?
There’s actually a lot you can do! We all participate in the global food system, and small changes can add up to a big difference.
Reduce food waste. As I mentioned above, food waste is a massive contributor to climate change. Simple changes like eating leftovers, planning out meals, and composting can drastically reduce the amount of food we send to landfills.
Eat a more varied plant based diet. That probably sounds like something you’ve heard before. People in the health and wellness field have long been advocating for people to return to more plant based, whole food diets. Study after study shows diets like the Mediterranean diet, which fits the description of plant based and whole food, have numerous health benefits. The bonus is these diets also make our planet healthier. When we choose more plants were both decreasing the amount of space factory farmed and monoculture foods take up, while also diversifying our food choices and therefore our purchases, encouraging more growth of a diverse agricultural ecosystem.
That sounds overwhelming/I don’t want to/I can’t go vegan
The climate crisis is overwhelming. Climate grief and ecoanxiety are real and we’re just starting to talk about them. But don’t let this stop you from being part of the solution. While vegan diets can be sustainable and good for the planet, they’re not always the best or right choice for individuals.
You don’t have to be vegan to fight climate change. Implementing changes like the ones I discussed above go a long way to decreasing your carbon footprint. Something as simple as swapping your beef intake for beans can have a major impact. If done by everyone in the United States, this would actually get us at least halfway to the reduction goals set in 2009.
Where do I start?
Right where you are! By opening yourself up to learning about our current food system and how your diet affects the planet, you’re already taking the first step. Where you go now is up to you. Where do you feel you can start to make some small changes to the way you eat and live? If you feel like you need more help and guidance getting started, that’s what I’m here for.
Taryn is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist passionate about eating food that nourishes all life on the planet.