There’s more to a green kitchen than green food. From stainless steel food containers to environmentally sound cooking practices, here are a few creative ways to turn your into an eco-centric habitat.
Greening Your Kitchen
We spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We eat, we cook, we nosh; sometimes we even gather around the stove to share stories. It may be the single most important room in any house. It’s definitely the least eco-friendly room in the house.
Think about it. How much trash goes into the kitchen waste bin—paper towels, old meals, napkins, food packaging, tin foil, plastic bags? Between the refrigerator, the stove, the dishwasher, the toaster oven, and the sink, the kitchen is practically a black hole for water and energy. That doesn’t need to be the case. With a little planning and the right attitude, you can turn your kitchen into a green haven.
Tip #1: Easy Does It
Before revamping the entire kitchen area, remember to keep it simple. Adopt one new green practice at a time. Slowing things down will also give you the time to gradually ease yourself into each new habit. That will increase the chance that you make green living a lifelong practice. Finally, choose materials and products that fit your lifestyle; things that you’ll actually use.
Suggestion: Choose selectively at first, and you stand a better chance of choosing wisely.
Tip #2: Buy Sustainable Cookware and Eatware
Some cookware stands the test of time. Others … not so much. Go with the former. Throwing away your favorite pot with last night’s stew is hardly a recipe for environmental (or financial) sustainability. The same goes for utensils. Plastic and cheap wood degrade easily. Buying sturdier items at the outset will cut down on the need buy new ones every few years.
Suggestion: Stainless steel and cast iron are great alternatives to materials like Teflon, which tends to wear out relatively quickly (and also has dubious health reputation). A good steel or iron pan will last you for your whole life. The same is true for plates and cups—stainless steel is far superior to plastic or paper and often more convenient than heavy ceramic.
Tip #3: Choose Reusable Storage
Conventional food storage options leave much to be desired. Plastic is one of the most environmentally unfriendly materials on the planet. Untreated plastic is also harmful to our health. Glass, on the other hand, is heavy and prone to breakage.
Suggestion: Instead of traditional Tupperware, try stainless steel instead. It’s not only easier on the environment; it’s also more people-friendly. Free of toxic chemicals that can leach into your food (and, thus, into your body), it’s the perfect material on which to eat meals, store leftovers, carry lunches, and pack up dinners. The same containers also work great as lunchboxes and takeaways.
Tip #4: Ditch the Paper Towels and Napkins
Paper towels create a lot of waste. That used-up paper will pile up in the garbage and eventually the landfill. Why waste resources when you can use a reusable towel? The same goes for napkins. Think of how many napkins you go through in a single day. It’s no wonder the garbage bin fills up so quickly.
Suggestion: Nothing beats the age-old solution of cloth. Take advantage of towels and napkins that you can throw in the wash at week’s end.
Tip #5: Build a Sustainable Kitchen
Sometimes we worry so much about the little details that we forget the big picture. While it’s important to stack your kitchen with sustainable tools, you should also pay attention to the cabinetry and floors.
Suggestion: Bamboo is a sustainable material that also adds taste and interest to any kitchen. Light and airy, it’s perfect for many contemporary homes. Recycled materials, such as repurposed wood or reused cabinets, are also green alternatives to consider when remodeling your cooking and eating area.
Tip #6: Install the Right Stove
Should you opt for gas or for electric? Should you buy a stove that includes induction elements, which use less energy yet cost more money and require special cookware? From an environmental and financial perspective, there are pros and cons to each type of stove. With the jury still out on the most eco-friendly stovetops, it can be tough to choose wisely.
Suggestion: Do your research. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of each type of power. Natural gas is, of course, classified as a fossil fuel. Electricity, on the other hand, is often generated by burning coal at power plants. Many modern stoves boast energy-efficient features. All too often, the positive features are offset by a negative quality. Take the time to grasp the benefits and drawbacks of each. Finally, ask lots of questions. In the end, settle on one that you know you will be comfortable with and that will last you through the years.
Tip #7: Replace When Needed
With so many new energy-efficient appliances on the market, it can be tempting to rush out and buy the next best model, thinking that you’re doing yourself (and nature) a favor. Swapping out an old, water-guzzling dishwasher with a brand-new model that boasts incredible efficiency (some are better than washing by hand, even), can certainly decrease your environmental footprint, but it does no good to make a premature purchase.
The idea of buying shiny new appliances every time a company comes out with bigger and badder features (however beneficial) is the very type of consumerism that sustainable thinkers try to avoid. Repair your old unit first, and then shop for a new model when it no longer serves its purpose.
Suggestion: When the time comes to purchase a newer and better appliance, whether it is a refrigerator or a dishwasher, then shop for the most efficient models that fit your budget. An Energy-Star rating is a must-have for environmentally conscious consumers. A sturdy build should also be a top priority.
Tip #8: Change the Way You Cook
It’s not only the materials you use, but also the way you cook that has an impact on the environment. If you cook your vegetables on the stove and then throw the meat in the oven for a nice roast, you might be wasting energy unnecessarily. Why not roast both and use up all the energy the oven has to offer? There’s no reason to let energy go to waste. Think of ways to stretch your existing resources.
Suggestion: Want to maximize resources? Try the crock pot. Throw all the food in one pot and let it all slowly cook together. No need to fire up the stove or preheat the oven. Cold meals that don’t require any energy use are, of course, ideal when it comes to slashing your energy footprint.
Tip #9: Change the Way You Clean
If you’re not yet using green cleaning products, start now. Many surface cleaners contain toxic chemicals that are harsh on both the human body and the surrounding environment. The good news is that you won’t be short of choices. These days, there are plenty of eco-friendly cleaners on the market.
Suggestion: Plant-based cleaners are always preferable to heavy chemicals. You can also create your own cleaning products at home using items that are already in your pantry; ingredients like baking soda, white vinegar, and olive oil. Nowadays, there are also plenty of online resources that offer recipes for do-it-yourself cleaning products.
Tip #10: Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
All the new-fangled technology out there is wonderful for eco-conscious homeowners—but don’t let it distract you from the basics. When reusable materials are out of the question, recycling is still the most important thing you can do to ensure you’re doing your part to keep the planet healthy for future generations.
Suggestion: Make space in your kitchen for a dedicated recycle bin. If possible, place it next to your normal trash bin. You’ll be more likely to use it if it’s in a convenient location. That way, you won’t have to do extra legwork or think about which way to go when you’re throwing something out.