An Eco-Friendly Kitchen for Anyone
Everyone knows you’re already observing the 3 Rs with religious zeal. You’re reducing waste by buying in bulk and reusing containers. Yes, yes, and you’re composting your scraps and peelings and such from your largely organic, locally-grown groceries. Face it – you’re perfect! If you like to eat, and we think you do, you probably have a kitchen brimming with stuff to make that happen, but we also know that the scullery can be drudgery. Well, there happens to be an Energy Star fridge full of more ways to make the grunt work greener!
Effort Expended Index
Ì Ì Come on, get your eco on!
Ì Ì Ì The Whole-wheat enchilada! (sorry!)
Eat, drink (and be merry!)
Ì Use your fruit and vegetable crispers the way they were designed! A general rule is that fruit needs more humidity, but veggies require less. Check out this guide at kitchn.
Ì You can store most things in reusable containers, preferably glass and metal, since many plastics harbour chemicals that leach into the food (ever had a plastic bottle of water that sat there for too long? Open it and raise a sceptical eyebrow at the odor that assaults your nostrils! What IS that, anyway?).
Ì Ì Make an effort to buy in bulk (let the kid do some of the scooping!), use cloth shopping bags, and purchase food that uses limited packaging. Don’t forget to recycle the package and put the bags where you’ll remember them next time. It happens!
Ì Ì Ì Cook at home as much as possible...it promotes bonding with loved ones, uses far fewer processed ingredients, avoids the cost and pollution of driving to eat out and reduces the consumption of factory-prepared food, cutting down on the need for transportation and packaging. Kids love to cook! Yes, it’s not always easy. Yes, it’s awesome when you can manage it.
Cook (with gas)
Ì If you use a microwave, use it for reheating only, use a low power setting to avoid destroying nutrients and don’t heat in plastic containers.
Ì Ì Gas stoves heat up and cool down faster than electric, using less energy. Even better, use your outdoor grill – not only does it not use electricity, but you take the heat outside, meaning your AC doesn’t have to work as hard. Mmmmm....baaarrrbequuue!
Ì Ì Speaking of pots and pans, let’s talk Teflon. You might think that this miracle substance has dramatically reduced your elbow grease budget, but it breaks down from high heat and scratches, and then enters the food you ingest. The generic name for Teflon is polytetrafluoroethylene ...mmmm.... you want fries with that? Stainless steel, anodized aluminum, cast iron and glass, ceramic or porcelain cookware are long-lasting and endure high heat with no ill effects. Health Canada has a good information page regarding cookware safety.
Ì Ì Ì Expensive initially, but best of all, induction stoves create heat quickly by magnetically accelerating the molecules in steel, cast-iron and some stainless steel pots and they transfer 90% of their heat to the vessel, whereas gas burners transfer 35-40% and conventional ones transfer 70%. Once the pan is removed, the burner cools very quickly.
Clean (bill of health)
Yeah, cleaning is for the birds. But if you MUST do it, do it so you’re not breathing or releasing further chemicals into the world or leaving them on your dishes.
Ì Some tried-and-true substances for basic cleaning that do no harm: baking soda, salt, club soda, vinegar and lemon juice. Also, fewer worries about the little ones getting into the cleaning cupboard.
Ì Dishwashers do, in fact, beat out handwashing for energy, water and soap consumption. Yay! It’s true! Run the dishwasher when it’s full and do it at night when electricity demands on power plants are lower. Use the lightest cycle you can get away with and don’t use the heating option for drying. Look for detergent that has a Green Seal or EcoLogo label. Energy Star, please. Here are some other ways to reduce water usage.
Ì To clean up those little human mugs, use cloth napkins (Cotton is best. Synthetic materials contain yet more chemicals!) or at least use post-consumer, recycled, and unbleached paper towels or napkins – these can be composted as well.
Ì Ì There is an ever-increasing variety of less toxic cleaning products available – right in your conventional grocery store. But be careful and educate yourself about what’s on the label. Ingredients that kill bacteria, viruses and mold are usually not necessary for everyday cleaning and can harm the aquatic life in the systems they drain into. For example, “Biodegradable” is an unregulated term and should be interpreted with caution, so learn some labelling terms to guide your choices.
Dishes, dishes, always dishes!
Ì Seek out non-toxic, BPA-free, wooden, bamboo, ceramic, glass, silicone and bio-plastic cookware, dinnerware and accessories (made from renewable material like corn, sugar and algae!).
Ì Try finding funky, recycled glassware and dinnerware at flea markets and yard sales. Modern place settings don’t need to be all matchy-matchy! You can be just as “with-it” with dishes that only have one feature running through them – say a colour or a motif – or be completely eclectic and unsystematic about your decor. Let your kids design the dinner party settings! Watch out for materials that may contain lead, such as some ceramics, china and terra cotta. Check here for some guidelines about what to look for at link #8 below. You can also get a test kit if anything you already have is suspect.
Ì Ì Avoid using Styrofoam and plastic dinnerware – Styrofoam never breaks down and plastic, though recyclable, often doesn’t seem to make it to the recycling bin. If you must go disposable, use paper and compost it afterward. If you’ve planned a picnic with the kiddos, take enamel dishes, which are light and reusable.
Ì Ì Ì If you’re handy with a glass cutter, you can make wine punts (wine goblets without stems) out of used wine bottles. You’ll then need to use a Dremel tool to smooth the cut edge. Google it!
One thing at a time, domestic gods and goddesses. Each improvement you make will quickly become habit and you'll soon be running the greenest kitchen in town!