From recycling and keeping an eye on plastic consumption, to all-natural products and foods, many of us are doing all we can to reduce our environmental footprint. If you’re looking for even more ways to go green, a great place to look is in the kitchen!
The kitchen is the hub in many of our lives and provides quite a few ways to be more environmentally conscious. Try incorporating some of the following eco-savvy ideas into your life in the kitchen, and see how good it feels to go a little greener. Lets take a look at 15 tips for a greener kitchen:
1. Cut Down on Your Use of Plastic
Take a look in your kitchen and see how much plastic you find. You might be surprised! We think we’re doing the best we can by recycling, but recycling only goes so far.
Recycling plastic is problematic. The numbers on plastic containers (#1-#6) all signify different types of plastic which have to be recycled separately. If they aren’t, the whole recycling batch can be ruined. What’s more, much of the plastic you think your local recycling company is taking care of is shipped overseas to China, which significantly contributes to the use of fossil fuels.
If you really want to go green, it’s time to rethink your plastic consumption and start cutting down on the amount of plastic you use. This is pretty heavy when you consider we’ve become accustomed to the following items in the kitchen that are all contained in plastic:
- Single-Use Snacks
- Chips, Crackers, and Cookies
Many of these plastics aren’t recyclable, and contribute to the almost 200 pounds of plastic the average American throws away each year.
Cutting down on your plastic consumption is a huge commitment, but can be done. You can start by avoiding items that are packaged in plastic. For all the things you buy that are packaged in plastic, there are usually alternatives that can be found in glass, metal, or cardboard.
What else can you do?
- Stop drinking bottled water.
- Buy your food in bulk.
- Make your own cookies.
- Make your own condiments.
- Store leftovers in glass or stainless steel containers.
- Use aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap.
- Buy cheese and meats at the deli counter and have them wrapped in parchment paper.
- Buy eggs in cardboard containers.
- Buy eggs at your local farmer’s market and store them out of the fridge in a basket.
With a bit of planning and work, these are just a handful of ways to cut down on your use of plastic in the kitchen.
2. Ditch Paper Towels
To make one ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are used. Americans throw away 3,000 tons of paper towels every single day, and when those paper towels in the landfill start to decompose, they let off methane gas, the number one contributor to global warming.
Think it’s time you rethink your paper towel habit? Us too. Some awesome alternatives to paper towels include:
- Fabric Cloths
- “Unpaper Towels” (there are tons to choose from on Etsy)
- Recycled Paper Towels (made from recycled paper and 100% compostable)
- Newspaper (does a fantastic job of cleaning windows)
- SKOY Towels (one cloth is equivalent to 15 rolls of paper towels)
- Full Circle Clean Again Towels (they look just like paper towels, can absorb up to 7 times their weight, and are machine washable)
With so many eco-friendly options, there’s little reason to purchase paper towels again.
3. Get Rid of Single Use Plates and Utensils
Paper plates and plastic serving utensils have long been popular and convenient alternatives to regular plates and utensils. All the waste that is produced by these convenient items, however, ends up in landfills, contributing to the colossal waste problem already present.
What to do? Stop using them. Take ten extra minutes to do the dishes. If you need plates for a party or picnic, there are environmentally-friendly alternatives made of bamboo, palm leaf, potato, and cornstarch.
4. Invest in a Water Filter
People in the United States go through 1,500 water bottles per second, every single day. Of the 50 million bottles of water that are purchased each year, 80% end up in a landfill, and producing them requires over 17 million barrels of oil.
If you frequently purchase bottled water, consider investing in a water filter for your kitchen sink. It will supply you with all the clean drinking water you could possibly need. It’s also great for the environment and your wallet. Purchase an aluminum water bottle (which also cuts down on your plastic consumption and health risks) and fill it up as many times throughout the day you wish.
5. Conserve Water When Doing Dishes
Despite its convenience, using a dishwasher wastes more water than simply doing dishes by hand. On average, a load of dishes takes one gallon of water to wash by hand, and fifteen gallons to wash using the dishwasher.
Get in the habit of conserving water when doing the dishes by filling up a basin (or one side of the sink) with soapy dishwater. Instead of letting the water run continuously when washing, do them all first and then rinse. If you have to use a dishwasher, use it only for full loads to conserve as much water as possible.
6. Grow Your Own Herbs
There’s nothing quite like fresh, homegrown herbs to cook with. By growing your own, you eliminate the need for fresh herbs packaged in plastic. Growing your own herbs in a kitchen window is easy, rewarding, and will cut down tremendously on packaging consumption.
Fresh herbs purchased at the store are often bundled in plastic, and are often fairly expensive. By growing your own, you’ll save cash and save your local landfill from any unnecessary waste. Chives, basil, mint, parsley, oregano, and thyme are all super easy to grow, and will yield an abundant supply of herbs.
7. Shop Local
You may have heard about the benefits of shopping local, but have you thought about why buying local goods is so popular amongst eco-savvy shoppers?
The food you buy so readily available at the store has all been produced by huge food companies. Their food production methods are a far cry from how you think your food is actually produced, pollute soil and land, and waste fossil fuels being transported to your grocery store. According to the National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service, processed food travels an average of 1,300 miles. That fresh tomato? Not so fresh. The distance your food travels isn’t the only factor in pollution. 83% of the food industry’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from harvesting and production methods.
Shopping local is vital when looking for more ways to add more eco-awareness into your life. What are some ways you can do this?
- Buy your honey from a local bee-keeper.
- If you’re a meat eater, find out where you can purchase local beef, chicken, and pork.
- Get your produce at the farmer’s market.
- Start a small backyard garden and grow your own vegetables
Whenever you have the option to buy locally produced food items, you should do so. While it may cost a bit more, it’s worth it.
You might also be interested in reading food labels in order to make healthy food choices.
8. Get Rid of Toxic Cleaning Products
Those cleaning products you may keep under your kitchen sink happen to be full of toxic ingredients, such as:
Phthalates (the ph is silent) are known endocrine disruptors that are commonly used in products like dish soap. Phthalates are present in the residue left on dishes after washing, and are a poison that can enter your body. What’s worse is that companies don’t even have to label phthalates on their ingredients, so they could be there even if you don’t see them listed. Stay away from anything with “fragrance” and opt for all-natural dish soap that can be purchased online, at health-food stores, and some major grocery chains.
Found in common kitchen cleaners like anti-bacterial soap and liquid dishwashing detergent, triclosan is thought to be a possible carcinogen and may be an endocrine disruptor as well. The hand sanitizer you’re using may actually be promoting the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.
This ether-based ingredient is found in window cleaners and most multi-purpose kitchen cleaners. High levels of this toxic substance can cause pulmonary edema and severe liver and kidney damage. It’s also known to cause sore throats when inhaled. Stay away from those widely-available multi-purpose kitchen cleaners and tend to your windows with diluted vinegar instead.
Ammonia, commonly found in window cleaners, is a powerful irritant. Those who use ammonia based products on a regular basis often develop asthma and chronic bronchitis. It is especially dangerous to children with developing immune systems, and amongst elderly people with lung issues. People with asthma are also particularly sensitive to ammonia.
- Sodium Hydroxide
This dangerous chemical (also known as lye) is found in oven cleaners and drain openers. If it comes in contact with your skin or gets in your eyes, you can suffer terrible burns. If you inhale this toxic substance you’re likely to have a sore throat that lasts for days. An alternative is baking soda paste, which will clean even the dirtiest of ovens. Baking soda and vinegar can also be used to unclog stubborn drains.
Ditching these kitchen cleaning doesn’t have be expensive: there are many natural cleaners available that use plant-based solvents, or you can always opt to make your own. Baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap are all awesome natural cleaning agents that definitely won’t break the bank.
9. Buy in Bulk
Buying your food in bulk significantly reduces waste that ends up in landfills, and mitigates the environmental harm that comes from producing it, and can often be cheaper: on average, purchasing organic foods in bulk is almost 90% less expensive than buying pre-packaged organic foods.
Buying in bulk is also much better for your health. The amount of foods packaged in containers containing BPA is overwhelming. When you buy in bulk you eliminate these toxins from coming in contact with your food.
The amount of food that’s available to purchase in bulk is extensive and includes:
- Brown Rice
If you’ve never taken the time to shop in the bulk section of your local grocery or market, consider making a trip down that aisle.
10. Reuse Glass Jars
Think of how many items you purchase on a regular basis that come in glass containers. From sauces to condiments to jelly jars and salsa, much of the food you purchase is in a glass jar. Instead of recycling or throwing away these glass jars, make it a point to wash them when their contents are done, and reuse them for various things around the kitchen.
All that food you’re now buying in bulk has to go somewhere, right? When you reuse your glass jars you’ll have somewhere to put it. They’re also great for a number of other uses around the house and make a great alternative to plastic food storage containers. Put your leftovers in a glass jar rather than a plastic container and you’ll be doing one more thing to help your health and the environment.
11. Start a Compost Bin
The typical household throws away almost 500 pounds of food a year. In fact, food waste accounts for the third largest portion of all waste generated next to paper and plastic.
If you’re ready to do more, starting a compost bin is a huge step forward. All that food waste in your kitchen doesn’t need to go in the garbage. Starting kitchen compost is easy and will save hundreds of pounds of your food scraps from ending up in landfills each year.
Starting a compost bin isn’t hard, is a commitment. When it becomes a part of your everyday kitchen routine, however, you’ll find how easy it can be. The following foods can all stay far from your local landfill by being composted in the comfort of your own home:
- All vegetables and fruits (even if they’re moldy)
- Grains (rice, quinoa, barley, etc)
- Egg Shells
- Coffee Grounds
- Tea Bags
Meat, fish, dairy products, bones, and grease or oil of any kind should be kept out of the compost. Meat will attract maggots (definitely not something you want) and adding any of these items will cause imbalance to the nutrient-rich structure of the other food waste.
There are a number of different ways to compost even if you don’t have a ton of extra space, with a number of different bin sizes and types available.
12. Keep The Fridge and Freezer Full
If you’re looking to save a few dollars on your utility bills, consider keeping your refrigerator and freezer stocked full. When the freezer is full and the fridge is good and stocked, the energy used to keep your foods cold is regulated, and needs less power to maintain.
If you don’t have the food to fill your fridge and freezer, consider putting bags of ice in the freezer or pitchers of cold water in the refrigerator. As long as you keep things 2/3 full, you’ll be doing a big part to cut down on excess energy consumption.
13. Save Energy While You Cook
Whether you’re cooking on a gas or an electric stove, we use a lot of energy when we cook. One pot boils water, a pan sautés veggies, another pot cooks rice, and dessert is in the oven. As long as we’re cooking and baking we’re consuming energy.
Short of going raw, here are some things you can do to save energy in the kitchen while you cook:
- Put a Lid on It
Putting a lid on pots and pans when you cook will save the amount of time it takes to cook them, and therefore use less energy. Water boils faster with a lid, and food cooks faster with a lid on the pot or pan.
- Turn Off the Heat
Try turning the heat off a few minutes before what you’re cooking is done. The pot or pan will be warm enough to continue cooking the food thoroughly, and you’ll save a few minutes’ worth of unrenewable energy. While it may not seem like much, it adds up, and makes a big difference in your energy consumption.
- Prep Food Before You Cook It
If you’ve gotten in the habit of turning the pan on before chopping veggies to sauté, it’s time to think again. Preparing ingredients beforehand will save a great deal of energy.
14. Cook and Bake with Eco-Friendly Kitchen-Ware
While non-stick pans such as Teflon are convenient, you’re doing your health more harm than good by using them. The fumes released by Teflon when cooking are toxic at high temperatures, and have been shown to kill pet birds and cause flu-like symptoms in humans.
You may be surprised at how much of your kitchenware is finished with chemicals that leach into your food and environment. From cupcake tins and cookie sheets, to non-stick frying and baking pans, we’ve all got our fair-share of chemically coated cookware.
Switch out the cookware that may be posing harm to your health and replace it with stainless-steel, glass, green non-stick cookware, ceramic, and cast-iron. While it would cost a fortune to do this all at once, try replacing one item a month with a greener alternative.
15. Invest in Energy Efficient Appliances
Kitchen appliances are responsible for much of your energy use. If you’re a homeowner with the resources to invest in new appliances, making the switch to energy-saving appliances with the Energy Star Label could significantly cut down on your energy use.
If you’ve got older appliances in your home, the advanced technology in newer models helps to conserve energy, cut down on greenhouse emissions, and in the long run will save you money. Refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washers, and dryers are all now available in energy-efficient models and are a great way to go a little greener.
It’s Easy Being Greener
Taking your eco-conscious actions a step further by adopting some of these habits in the kitchen is an excellent way to do more. Many of these tips are easy to add into your daily routine, and when put together will make a serious impact. What are some of the ways you choose to go a little greener? Let us know in the comments below!