I've often considered home cooking to be one of the best things you can do on your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. Cooking gets you away from the very unsustainable industrial food system and supports good health. At our house, the kitchen is the joyful center of our universe since Mr. P and I spend time together laughing, sipping wine and preparing some very memorable meals along with some frightful disasters. When you use your kitchen as much as we do, it can become the most energy-sucking room in the house and produce a lot of waste.
If you're into home cooking, it can be a challenge to create a green kitchen. We're working on it and making progress every day, but we're not perfect. Opportunities exist everywhere from food storage, food waste, cooking and cleaning. If you want a green kitchen, here are some simple tips.
Cooking and Food Storage
When using your conventional oven, refrain from opening the oven door during cooking. Every time you open the door, you lose about 25% of the heat inside, forcing your oven to work harder to bring it back up to temperature.
Use your microwave for simple reheating since it uses only a fraction of the energy of a conventional oven.
If you are in a position to buy a new appliance, consider an induction cooktop. We love ours! The technology is unmatched and induction cooking is 90% efficient compared to only 55% efficiency for gas and 65% for traditional electric.
Keep your refrigerator temperature between 37 and 40 degrees and make sure the gasket that seals the door is secure. Any seepage of air around the door will make your fridge work harder to maintain the proper temperature.
Invest is some reusable mesh bags for storing produce. Bring them with you when you shop for food and bypass those plastic bag dispensers. The bags can be washed when needed and will last a long time.
When food shopping, don't ignore the bulk food section. Nuts, grains, dried fruits, and more are available in bulk in many stores and buying them is the best way to reduce food packaging in your kitchen. For a really green kitchen, bring reusable bags too.
Clean your green kitchen and eliminate toxic chemicals by whipping up an easy, inexpensive, all-purpose cleaner. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda or borax and 1/2 gallon of water. Decant the mixture into a refillable spray bottle and use it for wiping down all surfaces in the kitchen.
Reduce paper towel waste by buying brands that have the roll perforated into smaller or half-sheets. Oftentimes, one of these half-sheets will do the trick. Some brands, like Seventh Generation, use 100% recycled paper.
Invest in some good sponges and reusable cleaning cloths. Reach for these first, before going to that paper towel roll.
When you cook a lot, especially using fresh ingredients, you'll generate a lot of waste and trimmings from fruits and vegetables. If you throw it away, it will end up in the landfill. Consider a countertop compost pail that you'll empty periodically into your larger compost bin outside. Your kitchen scraps will be put to use improving your garden soil.
Take composting a step further and get into vermicomposting. Vermicomposting uses special worms to recycle kitchen scraps, paper waste, junk mail and more, and it's the ultimate way to get a green kitchen. Worm castings are considered to be the best garden soil amendment around. I just started a worm operation in our basement, and I'm so excited to use my fertilizer this spring!
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