The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Green baking

Felila's picture

Green baking

I don't want to spend money on parchment paper, plastic wrap, plastic bags, and tin foil, only to throw them away after one use. It's a matter of frugality + wanting to be environmentally responsible.

I used to save the plastic bags from the supermarket and wash and re-use them as long as possible before they fell apart. However, the supermarkets are using thinner, sleazier bags, AND I've recently learned that my old freezing method (put the loaf in a bag and freeze it) was inadequate. I'm wrapping the loaves in tin foil and then putting them in heavier plastic bags. When they're needed, I let them thaw, heat them in a 375 degree oven ... and then throw away the tin foil. Which hurts.The bread is better (moister) but I've wasted the aluminum and the energy it took to make it.

I've also been experimenting with retarding bread dough, which seems to require lavish use of plastic wrap to cover bowls. The wrap then has to be thrown away.

I was recently given some Peter Reinhart bread books. Many of the recipes call for parchment paper ... which I resist using. Another use-once, throw-away item.

Are there any bakers out there who can advise me on environmentally-sound baking? I would like to bake using only reusable equipment.



davidg618's picture

I use silcon pads frequently for cookies, biscuits, scones, biscotti, ciabatta, and challah. Silpat is the most well known brand, but other manufacturers have started to produce them. I use them lining a half-sheet pan. I place the sheet pan directly on my baking stone, and still reap the benefit of its thermal mass.

I don't think silicon pads will slide on a peel, and all the ones I've seen are about 12" by 17", a bit large for handling a single loaf on a peel. You could, of course cut them.

They are a bit pricey (~$20 each), but they are nearly indestructable if you don't abuse them. I have a pair of Silpat pads I've used for six or more years, and a Caphalon one gifted to me about three years past. Except for a few minor stains they look and work like new. I think they are limited to 450°F.

You might try covering a peel with nylon netting material (old stockings, or panty hose?). Silcon pads would probably slide on nylon netting. Some TFL'ers advocate covering flipping boards with nylon netting. I've never tried it. I only use a peel when I can dust it with brown rice flour, or cornmeal, turn the loaf onto the dusted peel, and slide it onto the baking stone.

I'm not against using parchment paper entirely, but I only do it rarely when there is no better alternative.

David G

davidg618's picture

I just visited the Silpat site They state, on the home page, their pads are safe to 250°C (482°F).

David G

yy's picture

A shower cap is a good alternative to plastic wrap for covering up bowls. They're reusable and convenient. Plus, if you stay at a hotel, you can probably get some for free. Yes, it also takes materials to produce those shower caps, but think of it this way: someone who uses it just as a shower cap will probably toss it after one use.

As a replacement for the aluminum foil you use to reheat your bread in the oven, perhaps a stainless steel bowl covering the loaf would also keep your bread moist.

I applaud your effort to conserve materials. If you work out any tips or tricks, I'd love to hear about them on this forum.

bill bush's picture
bill bush

I've been putting a large plate over the bowl instead of plastic wrap for raising  my no-knead breads, but I'm thinking about a cambro food-service lidded container, perhaps a square one to hold dough in the fridge when I get going on sourdough.  So far I'm yeast-only.  

As far as parchment goes, I have been able to use pieces of it three times before discarding.  That really reduces/recycles it down to an infinitesimal impact.  Combining/planning for baking two or more items from one pre-heat would be a significant savings, I'd guess.  I also think one might be able to slow-cook in the cooling 500-degree oven, with perhaps a little 200 degree supplementation when it cools down.  Modern self-cleaning ovens are very well-insulated.

For foil, I recall that Grandma Lucy probably only bought one roll every 5 years, because she washed it and re-used it.  Come to think of it, I never saw a new roll in her house, so she may have just used one roll for all those years.  There was a drawer full of folded,crinkly squares of foil. Can you tell my grandparents raised housefuls of children during the Depression?  My other grandmother used tiny bits of tape in giftwrapping, so the same paper appeared at Christmas every year.  Packages were unwrapped, not torn open.  


In terms of total energy/materials consumption, reducing the cleaning requirements of water and detergent by using parchment may be a wash anyway.  Washing  your tinfoil would permit easy reuse, so that is easliy solved.  I also reuse zipper freezer bags as long as they have not had meat in them.  The heavier ones made for freezing are quite durable for re-use.  Your frozen loaves would become far more environmentally low-impact, and you would eliminate the grocery store plastic bags by being able to use reusable grocery bags, a big environmental plus.

Baking has made me more aware of thriftiness by using up everything I make instead of throwing out scrappy items.  I had turkey soup with leftover hard bread crusts yesterday for lunch.  Delicious!  (I like the flavor of crust especially, so win-win!)  Aging bread that becomes croutons has turned out to be very welcome as a part of my contributions to pot-luck dinners.  Just a little skillet-toasting with oil or butter and spices and people eat it like a fancy hors-douvre if any is left after the salad course!

You can probably make one roll of parchment go a long way, so don't deny yourself a tool that has proven helpful to so many who mention it (and reusing it) on this site.  The more you bake and spread knowledge about it, the more people you will make aware of how traditional skills are environmentally sound and resource-saving.  Happy baking!


Brot Backer's picture
Brot Backer

Aluminum foil is one of the few directly recyclable products, meaning it needs no processing before being added back to the melting pot.

scottsourdough's picture

For all rising dough, soakers, levains, etc. I use damp cloth towels. Keeps everything from drying out, and you don't have to waste plastic wrap.

criscarile's picture

Hello, I must applaud your efforts in looking at all of our waste from our "Throwaway Society".  I, too, cringe at my foil and plastic wrap use.  Like others here, I've started to use a dish to cover my proofing bowls, and I always use Silpat for my baking sheets.  But the freezing of bread is an enigma -- I do the same as you, wrapping it in foil and then a plastic grocery produce bag, but I'm wanting to change that....

I found a link to make resusable produce bags that one would take to the market, so if I take the plunge and make them, I will then need to devise another solution for the freezing of breads.  I like the idea of washing and drying the foil, which I definitely should be doing as bread is only "dusty" (this was a *duh!* moment). If I weren't on a quest for perfecting my breads, I would only have to bake what we need for the week, and not have to freeze any....

If you're interested in the reusable produce bags, here is the link:

Am looking forward to what you discover works for you, as I would like to do the same!

Janknitz's picture

I cut as small a piece as possible so that the dough covers most of the parchment and with "good" parchment paper I can reuse the same piece about 6 times.  I use a brand called "If You care" available at Whole Foods and some other retailers.  It is made of recycled paper in the first place, unbleached, and coated only with silicone which is not as hazardous to the environment as some other parchment coatings.  It's rated to 450 degrees F.  I find it pretty economical to use.  Stay away from that bleached white paper coated with "Quilon" they sell in most grocery stores!

You can use grains instead (i.e. flour or cornmeal) to slide your dough from peel to oven, but these grains burn and bother my asthma.  This parchment paper is a good compromise for me and I feel like it's not too hard on the environment with multiple reuses. 

I buy plastic shower caps 10 for $1 at the dollar store and use those to cover bowls of dough (actually we cover a lot of things in the kitchen with them).  I wash and reuse them many times.  I also have some cambro containers for dough fermentation, and I often overturn a big bowl over a boule rising on a peel.   

Foil used to wrap bread for freezing is not really dirty and can be reused many times.  The outer plastic bag is reusable as well. 

I have a refillable pump oil spayer used to keep dough from sticking.  There's no propellant and the container lasts for ever. 

It may be a toss up between the carbon footprint of mass produced white junk you buy in stores and homemade bread, but the taste and lack of chemicals in home made bread pushes making it at home into the winner's circle in my book. 

hanseata's picture

I also reuse parchment paper until it falls apart, depending on what I bake, 3 - 4 times. Though Silpat is great for pastry, I don't think it's recommended for really high temperatures.

I buy the clingiest plastic wrap and reuse it until it tears, when it doesn't cling anymore, with rubber bands (shower caps are a great idea, I will get some, too).

Same for aluminum foil, since bread usually is not greasy, I use it until it tears.

When I bake my breads for sale, I start with those baked at the lowest temperature, and end with the pitas at 550 degrees. Afterwards we often have pizza, since the baking stone is already really hot. That keeps the electric bill pretty low.