Going Green in the Kitchen

This week, we focus on going green in the kitchen. From saving water to saving electricity, the kitchen has endless options to get an eco-friendly upgrade. Check out these 11 tips to help the environment and make your kitchen a planet-friendly place.

The second-biggest energy users in the home after heating and cooling systems, refrigerators are especially ones to watch. Buy the smallest one you can. Know a full refrigerator uses less energy, so try stuffing that extra space in your fridge with crumpled newspapers or water bottles to improve cooling and reduce electric use. And avoid browsing in front of the fridge as it wastes energy.

Conserve Water
Install a low-flow water faucet to cut back on your water use. Aim for a flow rate of at most 2.2 gallons per minute. Turn off the faucet when washing dishes and only run full loads in the dishwasher. You can also save water by using a dishwasher instead of washing by hand. The latest models use far less water than hand washing – about 37 percent less – due in part to sensors that customize the amount of water to the number of dishes. Look for an “economy” cycle and turn off the heat dry choice and let your dishes dry naturally. Add in a foot pedal to control your sink and save even more water.

Energy-Saving Cooktops and Ovens
Electric-induction cooktops, which heat food by moving electromagnetic energy directly to the pot, can cut your energy usage by half versus conventional cooktops. Look for an Energy Star label when choosing an oven. Cooking in the microwave whenever possible uses less energy, saving up to 80 percent. Grilling your food on an outdoor grill also reduces energy use versus stovetop cooking, plus it avoids straining your air conditioning.

Skip Water Bottles
Put in a water-filtration system or a filtering faucet and drink tap water instead of bottled water. Purchase a refillable bottle to cart around with you everywhere that is constructed of glass, aluminum or recycled plastic.

Go with Locally Produced Organic Food
We all know this one. The food in your grocery store probably travelled thousands of miles before it ended up on the shelf. Shopping local at farmers markets and food co-ops cuts fuel waste and emissions from long-haul shipping. In addition, it takes a lot of paper and plastic to keep food fresh while transporting. Choosing organic items reduces pesticide and herbicide use. Plus you get fresher, healthier foods. Look for the number nine on the sticker on your fruits and vegetables to find out if they are organic. And be sure to bring your own reusable bag when shopping and forgo the cheap plastic supermarket one. If you forget, reuse the plastic bags on your next trip.

Put in a Recycling Bin
Clean out your cans, jars, bottles and boxes and throw them into a recycling can for pickup on trash collection day. Be sure to know what can and cannot be recycled in your area and sort your trash appropriately. If it can’t be recycled, perhaps it can be reused.

Go Energy-Efficient
Appliances with an Energy Star label are great for saving energy. This is an easy step as 80 percent of appliances have been awarded this distinction. The label signifies that the appliances meet stringent guidelines determined by the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, using 10 to 50 percent less energy than conventional models.

Green Lighting
Put as much natural illumination in your kitchen as possible and avoid flipping on the electricity. Try installing an inexpensive tubular skylight. LED lighting or compact fluorescent lights are vastly preferred to incandescent bulbs and fixtures because they use less energy and generate less heat.

Cut Back on Waste
There are a number of ways to reduce your trash output. Buy items like beans and nuts in bulk, purchase large-sized products instead of individually wrapped items, and choose goods with less packaging or recycled containers. Go with cloth napkins over paper and purchase paper towels and napkins that are recycled and unbleached. Start composting fresh food scraps with baking soda to cut odors and recycle them in your garden.

Go with Green Cleaners
You can make a variety of eco-friendly cleaning products from products right in your pantry: baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and club soda. Quite a few brands sell nontoxic, biodegradable, plant-based products free from phosphates.

Eco-Friendly Cooking
Microwave ovens use half the energy of conventional ovens. When preparing large meals, the stove is typically a better choice. When stovetop cooking, choose the smallest pot or pan you can and match the size of the pot to the size of the burner. Be sure to cover your pot with a lid as cooking without lids can run through up to three times the energy. And skip the preheating of the oven when broiling, roasting or baking for a long time as unnecessary.

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