Of all the rooms in the average home, the kitchen presents the greatest opportunity for big hits and bigger misses when it comes to green practices. Whether you’re building a kitchen, remodeling your existing kitchen, or just looking for new ways to “green up” your lifestyle, these great tips will help you knock your kitchen practices out of the park in favor of the planet.
Build Greener Kitchens
In the best case scenario, you start at the beginning and build your kitchen from the ground up with the planet in mind. There are plenty of options to consider that will make your kitchen a big winner for the planet, like those listed below.
- Install a pot filler faucet. These faucets are not only extremely useful, they help to conserve water. Think about it. How often do you leave water running as you move back and forth from sink to stove in order to get the right amount of water a recipe calls for? Not only is this option incredibly useful, but it helps to preserve one of our most precious resources.
- Invest in sustainable flooring options. Cork and bamboo are prime examples of sustainable flooring choices that are well suited for high humidity areas in the home, like kitchens. They both respond well to moisture and both come from renewable resources that grow fast and abundantly. Did we mention that both also make stunningly beautiful flooring selections?
- Consider radiant heat flooring. Because cooking often takes place in the kitchen and heat rises, it’s fairly easy to keep the air in this room warm. However, cold feet make the entire body feel cold sometimes leading people to turn up thermostats when that isn’t really necessary. Radiant heat in the flooring helps to keep the feet comfortably warm, even when bare in winter, so that everyone feels nice and warm all over without turning to the thermostat for an added boost.
- Take a look at recycled glass countertops. While granite is the “in” thing for kitchens these days, recycled glass presents a very stunning alternative for people who are interested in doing more for the planet. The great thing about recycled glass is that they come in a wide range of colors, making them very easy to work with almost any desired kitchen décor.
- Choose natural wood, sustainable cabinetry. While the price tag on these options is a little higher, their beauty, longevity, and versatility are unparalleled. More importantly, though, their impact on your health and that of your family and friends is simply priceless. Many inexpensive cabinets are made with particleboard or fiberboard that contains harmful ingredients like formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The savings are not worth the added risks.
- Don’t overlook the importance of ventilation in the kitchen. Additionally, adequate movement of air and elimination of moisture are extremely important in the kitchen, which can harbor mold and mildew if you aren’t careful. Additionally, failing to adequately vent moisture from the room can lead to warped cabinets, which can be expensive to repair or replace.
As you can see, there are many things to consider when it comes to building greener kitchens. The building process, though, is only the beginning. The steps that come next are equally important for having the green kitchen you’re dreaming of.
Cooking Green for Home and Planet
Cooking green is something most people don’t give a lot of thought to other than tossing in a few vegetables into the nightly mix. There’s a lot more to it than that though.
Appliances – Acquisition and Disposal
Cooking green begins with the appliances you bring into your kitchen. Don’t just walk into the local appliance store and look for appliances that match your desired décor or that fit into the allotted space (a bigger problem than many people realize when buying or renting an existing home) if greening your kitchen is your goal.
In order to find greener appliances, you must begin by searching for the Energy Star Seal. While residential ovens, ranges, and microwaves are not certified by Energy Star, residential refrigerators are, and choosing refrigerators with the Energy Star seal can save you between 9 and 10 percent annually on your energy bills.
Good for your kitchen, your budget, and for the planet. Talk about a triple play!
Green appliances, though, go deeper than the purchase. It’s also important to consider your method of disposal for said appliances. Landfill disposal should be a last resort and avoided if at all possible. These options are far more attractive from a planetary perspective.
- Donate to a charity that will give the appliances a second home.
- Give items to friends or family members that may be in need of new (to them) kitchen appliances.
- Hand down to adult children renting or buying a first home.
- Sell it.
- Consider a Habitat for Humanity (or similar organization’s) resale store.
See that! Outside of a landfill, there are plenty of options for your used appliances. Even if your appliance is broken, you may get traction by offering it to a local business that repairs and then sells used appliances. The options are nearly endless if you want to make a kinder, gentler planetary decision for your old appliances.
Food and Food Preparation
Greener meals are always welcome – for the sake of your family’s health and for the good of the planet. Everyone wins when people eat healthy foods prepared in a healthy environment.
For the large part, this involves choosing foods that are organically raised without the assistance of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. But, there’s a little more to it than that.
Consider shopping local through community farmers’ markets or local health or whole food grocery stores that offer locally sourced ingredients, produce, dairy, and meat. Doing this offer numerous benefits, including all of the following:
- Fewer fossil fuels expended in delivery process.
- Contributes to the local economy by supporting local farmers and the businesses that sell their products.
- Healthy foods for the entire family.
Yet another triple play! And we’re just getting started.
Even better, though, consider growing your own vegetable garden. That way, you know everything you need to know about how the vegetables were raised, pesticide use, and even the types of fertilizers used.
Plus, you cut out the middleman. There’s no need for farmers to deliver the goods or even for you to drive to your local store to pick up your produce. While this won’t work for all your nourishment, every little bit helps.
You don’t need a lot of room to grow your own garden, according to Social Moms. You can even start small with a container garden that focuses on favorite vegetables you just can’t live without.
Finally, consider lightening the strain of cooking on your ovens or range by giving them the occasional night off. We’re not talking fast food runs. Several options that will conserve energy exist (and help you have a great meal without heating up the kitchen) including these:
- Make one night each week a crockpot cooking night.
- Consider once a week or freezer cooking.
- Designate one night each week for cold foods like salads and/or sandwiches.
- Reserve one night each week for cleaning out the leftovers (a great idea the night before the garbage collection trucks operate in your neighborhood).
Little changes like these can help you save money on groceries, eliminate waste, and cut back on the costs of cooking altogether by consuming fewer fossil fuels to make dinner happen.
Cleaning Green in the Kitchen
There are so many products available in supermarkets across the country that promise to kill germs, eliminate bacteria, and leave your kitchen smelling like the rainforest afterwards. The problem with these products is that while they may make your kitchen smell clean, the destruction they’re causing to the planet, your home, and the air quality inside it are difficult to measure.
The EPA warns that consumers should avoid purchasing cleaning products that are labeled as poisonous or dangerous altogether as they pose significant risk to children and pets in the home. You should also avoid products that contain words like:
- Highly flammable
- Highly combustible
Instead, look for products have few VOCs and are made with natural ingredients like pin or citrus fruits.
Better yet, consider making your own. There’s a lot of cleaning you can do with baking soda, table salt, vinegar, and lemons and some combination thereof. If good scents are important to you, consider adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils for a cost-effective cleaning method for your kitchen.
Water, as mentioned above, is one of the most precious resources on the planet – especially good drinkable water. It’s something no one can afford to waste. These are a few steps you can take to eliminate the waste of water in your kitchen.
- Do not wash half loads of dishes.
- Reuse grey water.
- Fix leaks promptly.
- Don’t allow water to run unattended.
- Thaw foods in the refrigerator rather than a sink full of water.
Conserving water can become second nature with adequate practice and the benefits to a planet that cannot survive without clean, drinkable water, are beyond value.
Get Back to the Basics
Finally, don’t forget to go back to the basics of conservation: reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle. Buy products with less packaging or buy in bulk to reduce waste. Look for artful ways to repurpose things like used coffee container, bottles, etc. into new, useful items, and recycle all items in your kitchen that can be recycled.
The best part is that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition in terms of greening your kitchen: every step in the right direction has a positive impact on the planet. Then as more people adopt them, the impact multiplies making even greater things happen.
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