there are no better places to start than in your kitchen. This part of the home generates more waste than any other, and there are many things you can do to make your buying and cooking ‘greener’. Firstly, there’s your physical kitchen and how you can design it to support the environment. Then there are the multiple aspects of running a kitchen that can be examined. Finally, there are the savings you can make on both energy and water, which will be a vital part of having a green kitchen.
The actual kitchen
Constant re-modelling of a kitchen is the opposite of protecting the environment. The less often you rip apart your kitchen to update it, the better. If you want a change, look to see if you can reuse kitchen cabinets that have been discarded. Also, try to recycle your existing units. A central island can be created by another piece of furniture that has been repurposed instead of building from scratch. With a little research you’ll find green countertops and flooring such as cork and bamboo, or concrete filled with recycled glass.
Running your kitchen
The pots and pans you invest in can make a difference to the environment. Always think of longevity of equipment when you buy. This might cost a little more, but you’ll be avoiding a disposable mindset. Ideally, you should invest in stainless steel or cast iron equipment, which could last a lifetime.
Buy local food wherever you can, and lower your carbon footprint. Buying food that is flown in and then left to rot is unforgivable! It is estimated that 40% of food in the US ends up in the garbage. If food has gone off, compost it, along with other organic waste such as cardboard. Experts say that 70% of household waste could be composted rather than thrown away. Also, some food goes off more quickly in the fridge, so you’ll save energy and lessen food wastage by not stocking a fridge to the limit.
Try not to buy pre-cooked meals, which generate endless plastic or polystyrene containers. If you can, avoid pre-packaged foods entirely by taking your own packets and having fresh food wrapped. When you do end up with plastic or aluminium containers, ensure that you recycle these.
Remember the mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Glass jars and plastic bags can often be reused or they should be recycled. Always try to avoid disposables such as paper towels, by using cloths instead, and washing these for future use. Be mindful of the cleaning materials you’re using. Petro-chemically based dishwashing liquids and detergents are toxic to the environment. You can easily find natural cleaning products nowadays, so look for cleaning materials that are biodegradable.
Saving electricity and water
There is an age-old debate between using gas and electricity. Electric stoves might be a healthier option than gas, but gas generates instant heat which makes it less wasteful. Another way to conserve electricity is to turn stoves off and let the residual heat cook the food, to cook more than one thing in the oven at once, and to do bulk cooking of meals. Of course, if you add more raw foods to your diet, you’ll be solving the electricity usage problem completely!
With respect to water, you can install a low-flow tap, can use waterless pots, or can boil food in as little water as possible. The water used in boiling often contains some of the most valuable nutrients, so conserving it or using no water is the best option. If you’re boiling potatoes or rice, place a vegetable steamer on top, which will conserve electricity and generate fewer dishes to wash. Also, remember that running a full dishwasher can save more water than hand washing.
These are just some of the many aspects you could consider when trying to protect the environment. The kitchen can be a place of great wastage, and the small steps you take to change your habits could have a significantly positive effect on the planet.