By Jennifer Landis:
The kitchen is one of the easiest places to target for sustainability. It’s the heart of any household — you do most of your cleaning and washing and all your cooking here. You can see how your eco-footprint can quickly expand with numerous appliances using energy. However, you have plenty of options for downsizing and reducing your influence on the environment.
Sustainability is straightforward and stress-free — all you have to do is take the chance. Here are eight tips for making your kitchen the greenest spot in your house.
1. Use Safer Cleaning Supplies
Many commercial cleaning supplies contain a myriad of dangerous chemicals. You may not see the effects immediately, but being exposed to these substances over time can cause significant harm to your family’s health. Strong cleaners are useful for tackling tough stains, but they do little to preserve your health.
Substitute these for low-toxicity, biodegradable cleaners. If you love a good DIY project, whip up some of your own with everyday household supplies. Baking soda and salt are great for stains and odors, while lemon and vinegar handle rust.
2. Decrease Food Waste
Store your food inside airtight, glass containers to keep it fresh for longer. Doing this will reduce the amount of food traveling to landfills. Plastic containers are less durable than glass, and they absorb stains and odors. There’s also the issue of carcinogens leeching into your food, which can put a damper on any meal. You want your family to have clean, tasty meals, so opt for solutions that avoid chemicals and plastic pollution.
Use the entire vegetable or fruit when cooking. You can plant pineapples and potatoes in the garden and collect pumpkin seeds to roast as snacks. People often remove the leafy greens when preparing celery, but these provide a flavor boost to any meal. Coffee grounds work well as body scrubs, while food scraps can go into a compost bin for later use.
3. Buy Long-Lasting Utensils
The better your cooking utensils are, the less often you’ll replace them. Use metal tools instead of plastic or wooden ones — although wood is sustainable, it degrades easily. Cast iron and stainless steel last for decades with proper care, and many brands offer affordable options. Non-stick cookware is convenient, but scientists warn non-stick users to be aware of its carcinogen risk. It contains perfluorooctanoic acid, a human-made chemical that can potentially cause cancer.
The right knives can reduce food waste by cutting ingredients efficiently. Your food cooks better when it’s cut uniformly, which makes for more delicious dishes and less food heading to the trash bin.
4. Replace Conventional Air Fresheners
You probably use air fresheners in your kitchen often. They’re excellent at removing unpleasant cooking smells, but they score poorly on the sustainability scale. Plug-ins sap lots of energy, while aerosols emit a mix of chemicals ranging from formaldehyde to phthalates.
Replace your air fresheners with soy or beeswax candles. Essential oils provide a range of lovely fragrances, and you can put make a room spray or put them in a diffuser.
5. Switch Paper Towels for Cloth
Stifle deforestation by replacing your paper towels with cloth options. You can use these repeatedly, which reduces waste and gives you a long-term cleaning solution. Many cloth towels feature fun designs and patterns for spicing up your kitchen aesthetic. Try a minimalist look with black and white, or go all out with multicolored dish towels.
If you need to ease your way into making the switch, use recycled paper towels and napkins instead. Many brands offer unbleached kinds, meaning they undergo less chemical processing.
6. Look for Energy-Saving Appliances
Energy Star appliances are built to last, and they save you tons of money while reducing your energy consumption. Consumers saved over $18 billion in 2017 by purchasing Energy Star products. The next time you replace your fridge or dishwasher, search for appliances proven to offer substantial energy and monetary gains.
Take notice of the EnergyGuide label on appliances like deep freezers and dishwashers. It allows you to compare products to see which ones are the lowest in energy usage and cost. You’ll find an estimate of how much you’ll pay annually to run your new appliance.
7. Buy Local Foods
Head down to the farmers market and purchase local, in-season ingredients. Seasonal foods appear in stores during their natural harvest time, while others come from across the country or overseas. Transporting goods over long distances creates fossil fuel emissions, which contributes to the planet’s rising temperatures. Manufacturers often spray these foods with preservatives to help them last through the trip, exposing you to unsavory substances.
If there are no farmers markets nearby, buy vegetables and fruits from the grocery store only when they’re in season in your area.
8. Invest in Reusable Bags and Bottles
Everyone knows the disadvantages of plastic bag usage, and if you live in an area that applies taxes to them, you’ve felt the effects firsthand. Keep more money in your purse by switching to reusable grocery bags. These bags reduce the amount of plastic polluting the environment and threatening ecosystems. They’re also cost-efficient, with many stores selling them for a few cents apiece.
Say goodbye to plastic bottles and hello to reusable containers for more environmental gains. They’re convenient and stylish, and many types come with filters for guaranteed water safety.
Turn Your Kitchen Into an Eco-Friendly Oasis
Maintain a healthy and safe environment for your family by transforming your kitchen practices. Take it slow or dive straight in — there’s no wrong answer for revamping your home. You’ll be glad you made the change when your utility bills and carbon footprint decrease.