If you are interested in making less of an impact on the environment, why not start in your kitchen. Your food buying habits, the cleaning supplies you use, your water usage, your appliances, and many kitchen-related activities can all affect Planet Earth and home sustainability.
This means that each day, you have an opportunity to make a positive difference. The other good news is that many of these action steps can be friendly to your health and wallet as well.
- If you are in the market for an appliance, choose one that has been tested to be more energy efficient (look for the government-endorsed Energy Star — www.energystar.gov). Many older appliances use a lot more energy than newer models. Is it time for an upgrade?
- Purchase an appliance that is the appropriate size for your needs. For example, if there are only two people in the house, consider buying a counter-top convection oven that you can use instead of your large wall oven that requires more energy when cooking only small amounts of food. Match the appliance you use with the amount of food you are cooking.
- One-pot meals can also save energy (and cleanup). When using the oven, try to avoid preheating when possible. When just heating foods, wasting the energy required to preheat is usually not necessary.
- Transition kitchen lighting to the most efficient form and switch to energy efficient bulbs. These bulbs also tend to last much longer than traditional bulbs.
- Be aware of your water usage. Globally, clean drinking water is at a premium. Do your part by limiting water use. Make sure you maximally fill the dishwasher before running it. When hand-washing dishes, do not let the water continue to run. Consider using water-saving devices in your faucet.
- Take a look at what is in your trash can. Are there items there that can be composted, reused, or recycled? Did you purchase any unnecessary packaging? Imagine what it would be like if you had to dispose of all the trash you generate on your own property — how would that change your purchasing and kitchen habits?
- Composting can save a lot of space in the landfill. It can also add nutrients back into the soil in your garden. Keep a compost bucket next to the sink for non-meat food scraps.
- When it comes to food purchases, the more processed foods are not only less healthy, but they tend to be over-packaged. Processing also uses more resources. Many of these foods do not save you much, if any, time over the more basic foods in the grocery store.
- When buying produce, reduce plastic bag use when possible. Two or three pieces of fresh fruit generally do not require the use of a bag. Take advantage of locations that recycle plastic bags, but keep in mind that not using the bags in the first place is even more environmentally friendly.
- How about your cleaning supplies? Are they environmentally friendly? Do you use more than you need? Remember that all those chemicals end up in the water supply.
- Plan meals and food usage to reduce food spoilage. And food waste Uneaten food or eating more than we need nutritionally, wastes the resources used to grow, package, and transport it. Use the freezer to extend the life of foods when applicable. Buy only what you think you will need until the next grocery store trip. Rotate foods — first in, first out. This not only means you use the food before the expiration date, but also follows food safety rules.
These are just a few of the many possible steps you could take toward a “greener” kitchen. Think about what changes you might be able to make in the weeks ahead to make your kitchen more eco-friendly — and maybe even benefit your health and wallet.
Information Via: Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine, and Portsmouth. She is also the nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy. Visit www.pamstuppynutrition.com for nutrition information, some healthy cooking tips and recipe ideas.