Going green, being eco friendly, sustainable living…… is rapidly becoming the norm and it should be no different in the kitchen! In fact, it is a good place to start making environmentally friendly changes in your life.
Reducing our carbon footprint is important for the environment, and as well as it being healthier, you will often save money too. Some changes are minor, whilst others will require more effort.
With this overview you should be able to make changes, one step at a time, for a successful outcome and a greener, more sustainable life.
1. Use eco friendly cookware and utensils
Pay attention to your cooking tools! Environmentally friendly cookware won’t make you a chef but it will surely help to reduce energy. This cookware is non-toxic and won’t release chemicals.
The forever loved Teflon pans are not the best choice anymore as they are known to release toxic chemicals. Instead, look out for long-lasting alternatives that are 100% free of APEO, GenX, PFBS, PFOS, PFOA, and the lesser known chemicals NMP and NEP. Cast iron, heavy duty stainless steel, glass, silicon or ceramics are good replacements.
Eco-friendly cookware products (affiliate link) are often made from recyclable materials and designed to heat food faster.
Select cookware that can be used for multiple purposes. If your pots and pans have lids, make sure they fit tightly so that little heat energy escapes while cooking. The size is also important because the less surface a pan has, the less it needs time to warm which saves energy again.
Switch to the wooden cooking tools. Choose reclaimed-wood products or utensils made from coconut and bamboo. We are using affiliate links, this will however not affect the prices your pay.
2. Energy-efficient appliances
Energy-efficient appliances can make a big difference towards making your kitchen greener. All kitchen appliances come with two price tags: the purchase price and the cost of operating the product. The energy star label helps consumers save money on operating costs by reducing energy use without sacrificing performance.
Keep those appliances in good condition for optimal use and minimum energy loss.
- Besides buying energy-efficient appliances, using the right one is also important. Just to give you an example, good quality microwaves use up to 80% less energy than conventional ovens because they don’t need pre-heating and they do the ‘job’ really fast. They are perfect to steam vegetables or heat up food.
- If you’re remodelling, consider that convection ovens cook 25 to 30% faster than conventional ovens, saving time and energy.
- A refrigerator is great to keep foods fresh if you use it efficiently. Always cool leftovers before storing them otherwise the fridge will have to work hard to stay at its optimum temperature.
- A freezer that is half full will consume more energy. Buy a model that suits your family needs.
- Keep your stove top burners clean so they cook more evenly and efficiently.
3. watch your water use
With lots of cleaning needed in a kitchen, the use of water needs to be discussed.
Sanitizing hands, cleaning dishes and utensils all add up to water use but fortunately there are ways to control and conserve it.
- Fix leaks and drips if there are any.
- Don’t run a dishwasher if it is not fully loaded.
- Use the correct amount of water needed to boil food, the larger the amount, the longer it takes.
- Install a flow-controlled aerator on your taps, they are inexpensive and can reduce water flow by 50%.
- Use the leftover water after steaming veggies to cook pasta.
- After cleaning veggies, fruit or other produce in a bowl of water, use it to water the plants.
4. Buy Your Ingredients Locally and in Season
It is general knowledge that produce used in season is of higher quality, has stronger flavours and a better taste. Besides, seasonal products are fresher and healthier, and the more affordable prices are another positive point.
Shopping seasonally supports local farmers and businesses. You will contribute to environmental preservation as well, since CO2 emissions are reduced by farmers not having to use pesticides and additives in their crops for preservation. On top of all the above you also reduce your carbon footprint since the produce will not need to be transported far to get to you!
Buying locally and seasonally can be family activities; picking apples or berries can be great fun and visiting a local cheese or wine maker is not only educational but also enjoyable, quality time together.
Eat more fresh food
Prepared and pre-packed meals are not environmentally friendly. The processing, packaging and delivery to your local shop or home consumes a lot of energy. After consuming, it will also cost energy to dispose and recycle the waste.
Buying locally and seasonally is easy for veggies and fruit. You can even grow your own as an alternative and even in a tiny space, small gardens are popular nowadays.
When it comes to meat and other ingredients, you can for example opt to have one meat-free meal per week which will help to reduce your carbon footprint.
Choose organic products
Nowadays, there is control on chemicals and pesticides that are used on crops. It is however not always straightforward, and some companies are still using products which harm your health and the environment.
Our tip for you is to know where your food comes from and if possible, to eat organic products. Turn to your local farmers for all your produce and know who you can trust for good quality dairy, meat, poultry, fruit, and vegetables.
An extra tip – use reusable bags for grocery shopping, plastic is not very ecological.
5. Use leftovers wisely
Make tasty meals
Leftover meals often taste better the next day. That being said, you don’t want to eat leftovers every second day. If it happens often, maybe you should consider reducing portions, but everyone, including us, has to deal with leftovers now and again. To avoid eating the same dishes, you can make delicious food out of leftovers. Roast turkey meat or beef can be turned into soup or salad. You can make a sandwich or a delicious pasta with the rest. Boiled potatoes can be fried the next day which create a different side dish in no time! It might ask to come up with some creative ways to cook food with short shelflife but it will help the environment, and you get to save money.
When I was young, we always had a few chickens that we fed with leftover food or food scraps. They surely got maize but they never complained about variety in their diet.
Another way to use leftovers wisely is to make a natural compost for your garden. Food composters are not too bulky, and they turn food scraps into all-natural compost which is a green and healthy alternative to chemical fertilizers that may harm the environment. There are outdoor and even indoor models without having to worry about odours. If you don’t have a garden yourself, ask if your neighbour has a composter or if a friend can use it. You might get some veggies in return!
6. Find Smarter Ways to use equipment and Go Green
You may not be able to remove all non-eco-friendly out of the kitchen, but you can learn how to use them in smarter ways.
Consider switching to eco-friendly food storage containers such as items made of silicon, glass or metal. A food cover can seal the food properly and prevent exposure to air if your containers don’t have fitted tops. Reusable beeswax wraps are an excellent alternative to plastic wrap because they fit all sorts of sizes and shapes with the added benefit that they are sustainable and can be washed and reused.
This is such a product that is widely used and not very eco-friendly. However, it is used a lot in the kitchen and there are ways to use it more smartly.
- Firstly, there are aluminium foil brands that are made from recycled materials.
- Use it on baking trays. The tray will stay cleaner and you won’t need as much water to clean afterwards.
- You can rinse and reuse foil although we are not always convinced this is very hygienic.
The best way is to avoid using them but if you do then choose paper made from recycled materials. A good alternative are compostable sponge cloths that are very absorbent, durable and reusable. These are even 100% plastic free and vegan. They absorb better than paper and are compostable after use.
Clean with natural products
There are house cleaners which are plant-based and chemical-free. The sustainable products from Enjo make cleaning a breeze! Linda Harcus can explain you all the details and direct you to the right place in your country.
You can also make your own cleaning products. You will need to make an effort to use toxic-free products, and whether you make products yourself or you buy them, the impact will be fantastic for nature and your budget.
- Vinegar kills bacteria, mould, and mildew. You can use them to clean windows, sinks, and kitchen appliances. Mixed with sodium bicarbonate it is most probably the most powerful cleaner you can make yourself.
- Lemon juice helps to get rid of odours or stains
- Castile soap is another effective natural soap for dishes.
Opt for less packaging
It’s difficult to avoid food packaging completely but avoid excess packaging where you can. The less packaging you buy, the less garbage you create. Waste management is definitely challenging in the modern world, but only a few adjustments per person can help already immensely.
- Glass bottles are the new ‘old’ thing again. They can be washed and reused and are more eco-friendly than milk or juice boxes.
- Buy nuts and beans in bulk from a health food store or from a market.
- Cans are probably the worst to recycle. Cooking-spray cans and pressurized whipped cream cans can be avoided if you are willing to whip your own cream and make your own spray bottles for oil. It’s only a light workout for your muscles and so much better for the environment.