The kitchen is the heart of the home and also the best place to find greener alternatives to food, appliances, utility systems, and cleanliness.
Reducing your carbon footprint at home is easier than you think; especially when you start in the kitchen. Eating green, using energy efficient appliances and cutting back on waste is only the beginning.
The more environmentally-friendly your kitchen, the more it benefits your family and Mother Nature.
Given that it is a major activity hub, it’s fitting to build and keep up a sustainable kitchen. You don’t need to be a genius Eco-warrior to make a greener kitchen, so start with these great tips:
1. Green Professionals
Consider making your next remodeling plan a green one. Ask a professional with practical experience and industry contacts to advise you on design elements and greener utility considerations.
The contractor should be LEED-accredited (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and have a proven track record for greener ideals.
TIP: Ask direct questions when hiring a contractor. Don’t be shy to ask about environmental concerns, accreditation, proof of green practices, and suppliers. If you are not comfortable with the contractor’s environmental policies, don’t hire them!
2. Green Design
When sourcing materials for a renovation, for example, do the research on the latest eco-friendly materials before you purchase anything.
Glass tiles, green countertops (made of paper) and cork are some alternatives. Consider the largest fixtures in the kitchen to go green: cabinets, countertops, flooring, appliances, lighting, and backsplashes.
Fashioned from sand, an almost limitless material, glass products are some of the greenest around. Glass tiles are the perfect choice for kitchen backsplashes, too.
They are easy to clean and reflect ambient light.
TIP: Look for products made from recycled glass for extra green points. Countertops made from pieces of glass mixed with cement, concrete or resin are a decorative and functional green product as well.
A recycled paper that has received FSC certification is mixed with formaldehyde-free and non-petroleum based resins, such as from the shells of cashew nuts.
Installed using standard woodworking tools, the product is resistant to both heat and stains and is available in a wide range of colors.
They’re beautiful and definitely worth checking out.
It is more correct to say the bark of a cork tree. It can be harvested every nine years without damaging a living tree.
Cork flooring is one of the easiest flooring materials to install, as it can be placed directly over existing flooring materials.
Once installed, cork flooring is treated with an acrylic sealer to make it resistant to spills and stains. Soft and warm under bare feet, cork flooring has a natural spring and a wonderful choice for family homes.
It safely and sustainably provides young children extra protection against slips and falls.
3. Green Energy
Anywhere you can incorporate green will make a huge impact on your home’s carbon footprint, particularly appliances.
This approach may also help you earn back the money invested through lower energy costs for the life of the appliances.
About 39% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions come from buildings like our homes, both from their construction and operation, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
But amazingly, up to 85% of the country’s electrical needs could be met if all buildings adopted energy-efficient practices. Consider these guidelines for energy efficiency:
Cutting energy use
- Replace existing appliances with green ones as the need arises. There is no need to go out and buy all the latest appliances when old ones are perfectly operational. Take it slow, and make good decisions about what you will buy next.
- Cheap options are not always good options. Sometimes slightly more expensive appliances will last longer and be more environmentally-friendly in their consumption and operation.
- Lower energy consumption is the aim. The U.S. Energy Information Administration revealed that appliances account for two-thirds of the energy consumed by the average home. Lowering our consumption at home will have benefits for the nation as a whole.
- Experiment with greener options before committing. A single refrigerator alone uses almost 14% of a home’s energy, for example, so when you choose large appliances ask the right questions. Test where you can lower consumption (repacking fridges, defrosting iced freezers more regularly, changing to solar options etc.) by keeping an eye on your consumption and trying different things from month to month.
- Low temperature doesn’t always mean lower energy consumption. Read the manual to find the optimum levels.
TIP: Also consider using a dishwasher for more energy efficient washing up (and less effort on your part!) Skip pre-rinsing as most dishwashers are powerful enough to remove food residue. Dishwashers use 37% less water and using the air dry setting will also cut down consumption.
4. Green Labels
Becoming more conscious about purchasing decisions can make a huge difference to your environmentally-friendly kitchen.
Read labels, and ask questions or take time to research anything you do not understand. If the information is not freely available on a certain product, choose one that is more Eco-friendly.
Products with an Energy Star label, for example, have been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as products that will save money over time through energy-efficiency.
Other labels like ‘Follow to Frog’ and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) indicate green products sourced sustainably, for example.
A Green guard label indicates low chemical emissions.
5. Green Eating
Eating green doesn’t have to be complicated; a few intentional changes make a big difference.
Eating less meat, doing more home-cooked meals, and shopping from local farmers markets and organic farmers are great practices overall.
It is also better to do ‘fresh’ meals rather than meals that cook for hours on end and chew up electricity as they go.
- Less Meat. Cutting back on the amount of red meat you consume is recommended. Cattle release methane gas into the atmosphere, and they also contribute to environmental pollution. It also uses so much water to produce meat products.
- More Veggies. Committing yourself to two vegetarian dinners a week is a healthy and delicious alternative to a meat-dominated menu.
- Fresh meals. While pre-packaged meals are convenient, they aren’t good for you and they often generate a lot of waste.
- Efficient cooking. Reserve a few hours on the weekend and create several meals at once (to use and to freeze). Cook a double batch and freeze half, rather than chopping, peeling, preparing, and cooking on two different days.
- Toast it. For small dishes, using the toaster oven or microwave can save energy by as much as 80%.
- Pressurize it. Using pressure cookers, especially for meat, reduces cooking time.
- Measure it. When cooking on a stove, make sure to use properly sized pans and pots so the heat is not wasted.
6. Green Groceries
The easiest way to reduce the waste coming out of your kitchen is to cut back on the amount of packaging you buy at the grocery store.
For example, purchasing a large box of goldfish, rather than individually packaged snacks, is a smart way to save money and avoid a lot of potential trash.
Seek out unwrapped produce whenever possible.
Rather than using the plastic bags that the store provides, purchase reusable produce bags and bring them with you on each trip to the grocery store (or reuse your plastic bags until they are holey and brittle).
You can’t eliminate food packaging entirely, which is why it is also important to commit yourself to recycle.
It may also be wise to adjust your shopping strategy if you find you aren’t able to eat all of the food you buy before it goes bad.
Not only will you hold true to your greener ideals, but you will be creating healthy, balanced habits for life in general.
TIP: By purchasing local foods, you’ll be reducing what is known as “food miles.”
7. Green “Feng Shui”
Placement of kitchen equipment and appliances can make a huge difference to the carbon footprint and energy efficiency of your kitchen. Try these suggestions:
- Make sure to clean the coils yearly for more efficient fridge pan.
- Move the fridge and freezer away from the walls and the cooking range.
- Plug in appliances where it is easy to reach so that you can unplug any appliances not in use during the day or night.
8. Green Fingers
Food scraps are inevitable, which is why composting is so essential to an environmentally-friendly kitchen.
Leftovers and food residues can be turned from waste to valuable soil by the process of composting.
There are compact composters you can use indoors if you do not have the luxury of a yard or garden.
It is also amazing to incorporate a mini garden in your kitchen. Herbs and simple veggies are the best for the kitchen. Need basil? Just pick some.
A garden in the kitchen will not only give you fresh and tasty produce, but it also helps you foster a healthier family, fight stress, save money and save the earth!
9. Green Hygiene
Eco-friendly cleaning solutions remove a stain, disinfect, eliminate smell, and make things shine. Pretend it’s only the beginning of the 19th century and all you have is baking soda, vinegar, and some lemon juice.
These terrific cleaning agents have stood the test of time, and they are good for the environment, too!
Instead of using bleach for stains try a solution of baking soda and lemon juice instead. Lemon juice contains natural bleach and if you soak off-white items such as teacups which are marked with tannin, in this mixture you will notice that the results are excellent.
The same solution may be used for sinks and drains.
The kitchen is often one of the most bacteria-ridden places in the home. Poultry can leave potentially lethal bacteria behind but creating a natural disinfectant is very simple.
Mix the following in a container and add it to a spray bottle for your very own germ blasting spray which won’t harm the environment at all.
- 20 drops of lavender oil
- 20 drops of tea tree oil
- Around 2 cups of distilled water
Spray it mixture on countertops and wipe with a damp cloth…you can also use it on bins and in the sink.
Follow up your treatment with a wipe down of white vinegar. White distilled vinegar is especially potent in the battle against the germs.
10. Green Habits
Lastly, reassess your cooking, cleaning, and storage habits to create and environmentally-friendly kitchen. Habits are often formed before we realize how unhealthy they are for the world around us.
Here are six suggestions for greener habits in the kitchen:
- Use paper and plastic products that are biodegradable or compostable.
- Avoid plastic wherever possible.
- Cut down on linen. Ditch the tablecloth, runner, or seat cushions to save water for washing.
- Organize. Set aside a part of the kitchen to disposing of your unwanted objects and section them off into recyclables and waste items.
What other tips have you discovered for a more environmentally-friendly kitchen?
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for freshness and consistency.