The most eco-friendly way to store food is in a cool larder, but this is out of the question in most modern homes, especially those in areas with hot summers. Even though they consume power, refrigerators and freezers do have an eco-friendly advantage – they make food last longer, saving you the need to drive to the store every day. The key is to use these appliances efficiently.
If your fridge or freezer is particularly old or not running properly, it is likely wasting energy – and your money. Consider buying a new or even second hand model. While new appliances are designed to use less power, buying a "newer" second hand model or getting one through a reuse organization like http://www.Freecycle.org does save the energy and resources required to make a new appliance and keeps waste out of landfill.
When buying a new refrigerator or freezer, look for the smallest one that will suit your needs, and read the labels carefully to find the appliance with the lowest energy use. Picking a US ENERGY STAR qualified fridge means that it is guaranteed to use 20 percent less energy than an unlabeled appliance, and a labeled freezer uses 10 percent less energy. Replacing a fridge from the 1980s will save power worth about $100 a year on energy and replacing one from the 1970s could save as much as $200 a year! Replacing freezers from the 1980s will save power worth around $70 a year.
Fridges and freezers work more efficiently when they are full, but with enough room for air to circulate. Fill gaps in the refrigerator with containers of water, and pack spaces in the freezer with crumpled paper or loaves of bread. In addition, check the temperature of your fridge and freezer to make sure that the settings aren't too low (many new models have a mark on the dial for the optimal temperature).
Keep the fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible to save energy. You can even consider an alarm to warn when the doors have been left open – this might stop late night fridge raiders, too!
Dishwashers actually can be greener than washing dishware by hand, especially if you run them fully loaded and on lower temperatures or eco-cycles. When buying new dishwashers, ENERGY STAR models will use less energy and water than older dishwashers.
To save water when washing dishes by hand, use a washing basin rather than washing each dish or glass in the sink as you use it. A washing basin (or even keeping one side of your sink full of water, if you have a double sink) can save a day's use of dishes that can be done all at once. A washing basin will also keep your water warmer longer.
Whether washing by hand or using the dishwasher, hunt out a biodegradable dish soap or dishwasher liquid to reduce the impact of detergent on the environment, and try using less detergent than the manufacturer recommends. Lemon juice or vinegar will help cut through grease, and adding half a lemon to the dishwasher cycle deodorizes without using any chemicals.
Anything you squirt down the sink drain or spray onto a kitchen surface ends up going into the environment. Most stores, especially the larger ones, now sell biodegradable cleaning products, but homemade kitchen cleaners are cheaper and greener.
Here are a few homemade eco-friendly kitchen cleaners:
Many appliances in your kitchen still use power even though they aren't in active use. From the clock on the microwave and lights on the coffee maker to the radio or CD player that goes into standby, unplugging appliances can save a surprising amount of electricity.
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