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12 Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Kitchen

12 Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Kitchen

Having an eco-friendly kitchen is not just about eating green – it’s also about energy-efficient food preparation, non-toxic cleaning habits, and careful, thoughtful use of foods and supplies. Here are a dozen suggestions for turning your kitchen into a planet-healthy gourmet haven.

  1. Start by practicing energy-efficient cooking methods. Tailor your cooking style to make the most efficient use of both energy and time. When cooking on the stove top, match the pot size to the burner size and cover pans with tight-fitting lids to maximize heating. If you’re buying new pans, check out copper and cast-iron options for the most conductivity. If you’re cooking in the oven, keep the door shut as much as possible and don’t preheat longer than necessary. Use ceramic, glass or cast-iron bakeware for maximum heat retention, and try to cook more than one dish at a time while the oven is hot. Microwave ovens are a highly efficient means of cooking food, using two-thirds less energy than an oven. They also heat food quickly without making the kitchen uncomfortably hot. One more tip: try a pressure cooker. Not only are they highly efficient, reducing cooking time by cooking at higher temperatures and pressure, they often produce food much more flavorful than standard oven and stovetop cooking.
  2. Maintain your refrigerator for efficiency. The fridge and freezer actually use less energy when they are full rather than empty — I keep extra ice and cold packs in my freezer to keep it full when I don’t need the space. Check the seal on your fridge and freezer doors by closing a dollar bill into the door and pulling it out. It should slide out, but with effort. If it slips out easily, it’s time to replace the seal. For maximum energy efficiency, your fridge should be set to 35° to 38°F and your freezer should be around 0°F. Don’t forget to clean the coils underneath the fridge regularly — use a vacuum or broom to sweep the dust off the coils and keep it clean.
  3. Avoid Teflon-coated cookware — it contains perfluorochemicals that have been linked to female infertility and flu-like symptoms in people when heated in an enclosed area. Scratched Teflon pans are a potential health hazard — if you have scratched Teflon, get rid of it ASAP! Teflon-coated cookware is also nearly impossible to recycle. As you buy new pots and pans, look for copper or cast-iron options for maximum durability and heat conduction.
  4. Choose cookware and utensils that can stand the test of time and won’t have to be replaced often. Low-quality wooden spoons can rot, and plastic melts if you leave it on the stove too long. Buy high-quality knives that you can sharpen by hand. Make the switch to reusable cloth and microfiber towels that you can wash instead of buying paper towels. Go for quality items you’ll use often, and get rid of the gadgets that never see action.
  5. Use the dishwasher instead of hand washing. A dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and much less soap than washing dishes by hand. Wait until the dishwasher is full before running it, and open it up to air dry instead of using the heat dry cycle. For your handwash-only items, fill a sink or dishpan with warm water and wash everything at once, then rinse everything all at once, instead of letting the faucet run the whole time.
  6. Use natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies. Some of the most toxic household chemicals in the home can be found in kitchen cleaning products. Dishwashing liquids, dishwasher detergents, and other cleaners can contain chemicals that are detrimental to water quality in lakes and rivers. Switch to natural, eco-friendly options, and keep the toxic chemicals away from your food.
  7. Avoid purchasing prepared, frozen foods; make it yourself instead. You’ll know exactly what is going into your food, and, hopefully, where the ingredients came from. Buy local, and cut out the extra energy wasted in processing and transportation while supporting local farms and gourmet artisans. Grow some of your own fruits and vegetables, using your own composted kitchen waste as fertilizer. Cook with fresh, whole foods, and avoid preservatives and additives whenever possible for the healthiest, tastiest food.
  8. Reduce food waste and promote a healthy diet by creating a menu, or meal plan. Having a plan in place for the evening meal not only saves your sanity, it will save you money and give you an easy way to ensure a healthy meal at the end of a long day. Plan menus according to what you already have on hand and what’s local and seasonal to make the most of your budget and reduce waste.
  9. Reduce your meat consumption. Livestock production accounts for almost 20 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and almost 25 percent of water used globally in agriculture. Even if you’re not up for becoming vegetarian or vegan, simply try cutting back on the amount of meat you consume and try substituting one or two meals a week with vegetarian fare.
  10. Avoid cooking too much food — unless you regularly consume all your leftovers, pare back how much you buy and cook to reduce food waste.
  11. The kitchen generates the most waste of any room in your house, so take steps to minimize it. Buy out of bulk bins when possible, and take your own bags for buying fresh, unwrapped fruits and veggies (try reusable mesh produce bags or clean lingerie washbags). Reuse glass jars or bottles to hold leftovers and fresh foods instead of using plastic. Compost organic waste (including cardboard and paper), and use the compost to grow your own veggies and fruits.
  12. Buy a packable reusable bag and keep it with you for impromptu shopping trips. Many stores will credit you a few cents for bringing your own bag.
12 Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Kitchen

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