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How Can We Make Our Kitchen More Sustainable?

Tonette is a "Go Green" advocate, author, and environment-inspirationalist for over 15 years.

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We now live in an extra busy society where one aspect of living sustainably is how to manage natural resources and reduce waste, particularly those coming from kitchens.

Imagine the food trash per year produced by each household around the world, and we are just talking about food waste alone. So in creating a sustainable kitchen, waste management is an extremely hot topic.

How can we make our kitchen more sustainable?

There is a sense of achievement if we commit to creating a beneficial impact on the environment. To bring this movement into our own homes, I have listed down efficient ways to help us create a sustainable kitchen.

1) Let's Buy Locally

Buying local means getting organic produce from a local farmer's market. Other than it's cheaper compared to shopping in a grocery store, fresher food is available at local markets. We can pick our own strawberries, apples, onions, and more, compared to buying pre-packed goods from the supermarket.

We can purchase rice, vegetable oil, and vinegar directly from producers. Let's take pride in a homely pantry that keeps a variety of staples on hand like root crops, citrus fruits, butter, egg, cheese, soy sauce, herbs, and spices.

If we buy locally, we help support local farmers, businesses, and the local economy. Plus, it's a happy feeling to know we have purchased items from the farmer down the road, an old woman vending bananas, or a teenager selling homemade spices.

2) Try Buying in Bulk

Buying in bulk is cheaper than shopping in a traditional mass supermarket because it saves us from paying for unnecessary packaging and single-use plastic.

Also, one cause of garbage is food plastic wraps, foils, and boxes. If we buy in large quantities, it lessens the use of more containers to store and throw. Purchasing large bottles of milk and refrigerating is better than getting small packs. Glass bottles are reusable so they help free up landfills.

Switching to buying in bulk will make a considerable impact on weekly waste. It's a great relief having a kitchen with the least plastic bags and containers everywhere.

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2) Fix Homecooked Meals

Homecooked meals call us to cook from scratch. This inspires the use of locally-grown products which are fresh and natural. Plus, we are aware of what constitutes the meal we cook. Since any leftover is an opportunity for a new recipe, there will be less stale food that can end in waste.

Homecooked meals contribute to our health and the environment, too. Not only do we encourage healthy eating but zero hunger, as well. Additionally, we get plenty of occasions to fix the family's favorite meals within the limits of a budget. The best thing is we earn strength and joy from those limits.

3) Cook Smartly

To cook smartly means finding ways to cut down on energy consumption. We get our own share of saving mother earth by lessening the release of carbon from the cooking process that results in unhealthy air. Thanks to my boss Terry Retter, the owner of Your SMART Kitchen, he inspired me to have a smart kitchen.

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Consider an Energy-Efficient Cooktop

A gas stove requires less energy. It is cheaper and has better control over the amount of heat and speed. One with an electric ignition uses 40% less gas over a continuous energy-burning pilot light. However, when it comes to baking or oven use, an electric stove can be more economical.

For an electric burner, the most energy-efficient is an induction element that transfers electromagnetic energy directly to the pan, leaving the cook-top cool. A convection stove is another option as it distributes heat evenly, reducing the time and cooking temperature while using less than half the energy standard that coil elements consume.

Some use country-style "smokeless" stoves with open fire inside dwellings. These stoves are built with a special pipe or chimney to vent the smoke and reduce the health impacts of smoke inside the house.

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Wood stoves are efficient as they don’t need electricity to work. It also allows you to use them if the power goes out. For kitchens in the winter zone, here's an interesting read, "What's the most sustainable fuel to use on my fire this winter?"

what-is-healthy-cooking-what-is-a-good-meal

Use Sustainable Pots and Pans

Where we cook our food matters. Ideally, our pots and pans should be made of an inert substance that does not easily peel or chip, crack, or harbor bacteria, along with being a good conductor of heat to save energy.

  • Glass heats up more efficiently than metal in the oven, so, it saves time.
  • A multifunctional pot can divide into sections so you can cook several items at once.
  • Electric frying pans, woks, and slow cookers are alternatives to energy-intensive cookers like broilers.
  • Pressure cookers cook food 70% faster saving a large amount of heat.
  • Cast iron cookware holds heat longer. In spite of an uneven heat source, it cooks food evenly. Cast iron is a natural non-stick.
  • Stainless steel is a fairly eco-friendly material that can last for decades.
  • Terracotta cookware is the healthiest cookware on earth. Know more about this ancient pot.
  • The microwave uses between one-fifth and one-half as much energy as conventional stoves. So when it comes to reheating, defrosting, boiling a cup of water, or cooking a small meal for yourself, use the microwave instead of the stove.

4) Reduce, Repeat, Re-use, Recycle

Use Biodegradable Items

Biodegradable items use materials that break and degrade completely in the natural environment. They decompose in less than a year when exposed to certain microorganisms making them safe to dispose of in the soil. Composting is an example of biodegradation.

The world today strives to find sustainable ways to live. Since biodegradable plastics are made available for everything from personal essentials to food packs, our role is to support the zero-waste campaign.

Practice Composting

It is normal for the kitchen to generate waste. Fruit and vegetable peelings, meat, grains, bread, eggshells, plants cuttings, grass, paper napkins, and cardboard are just among the common things we throw.

Imagine how these food wastes can rot and smell in the garbage can. The problem is they emit methane gas which is more harmful than carbon dioxide. So instead of heaping them in your bin, do compost. You'll be happy that the waste can transform into something that makes your garden flourish.

Collect Recyclables

The manufacture of packaging materials is a huge environmental concern today. It makes use of forest trees, dumps trash into our watercourses, and utilizes more energy causing CO2 emissions thrown into the atmosphere.

It's true that buying food packs can't be avoided so we tend to get a collection of plastic pieces and wrappers. Let's sort them out for recycling, or fold up the boxes so they can be reused. This is our chance to be creative. There is fun in utilizing packaging waste for something good.

For example:

  • Food cans can be transformed into seedling pots.
  • Use tissue rolls as DIY materials for pen organizers or as an art tool.
  • Turn chip bags inside out and use them as utility pouches, gift bags, or create a shopping tote bag, or home decor out of them.
  • Even fruit and vegetable peels can be soaked in beauty oils or add them to compost.
  • Stale bread? Bake pudding out of them or toast them for a fondue treat.

Don't worry about some packaging wastes at home. We can search for a recycler near us and bring all recyclable materials. Saying no to the throwing of these recyclable items helps us build a sustainable home.

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6) Use Eco-Friendly Cleaners

The kitchen must be the cleanest part of the house.

Of course, this is where we prepare food so keeping the place fresh, clean, and bacteria-free is important. There are environment-friendly cleaning solutions that clean, cut grease, remove stains, sanitize, and deodorize safely. You probably are already using vinegar, lemon, or baking soda?

Look for cleaning products that are EPA-certified. This mark is found on product packaging to help consumers identify products that meet environmental performance criteria.

It will also help if we take into account the manner we clean our kitchen. For example, it's easy to wipe away spills with a paper towel, but why not shift to using cloth or microfiber cleaner from now on?

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5) Grow Herbs at Home

Planting parsley, oregano, basil, mint, tomatoes, peppers, and other wonderful vegetables redefines fresh alternatives. It provides unprocessed garden-fresh flavors and adds variety to our dishes. So on top of seasoning our food, beverages, and salads, a garden of herbs at home lead us to the goal of sustainability by conserving our time, money, and effort.

The interesting part is that they can be easily planted and harvested out of our backyard. As green cooks, let's find it a good start to the day watering the garden. When the harvest is abundant, we can share fresh produce with our neighbors.

7) Shift to LED Lighting

It's time to consider shifting from fluorescent or incandescent to LED lighting. All of them provide the same level of brightness, but LEDs use less energy and offer significant energy savings. In fact, they are designed to last up to 50,000 hours. So that means 50 times the life of an incandescent bulb and 5 times that of a fluorescent lamp.

Classic bulbs heat a wire filament to produce light energy. Other than they give more heat in the kitchen, these lighting type is higher in terms of operating costs. So shifting to LED lighting renders a low-cost and more energy-efficient option.

Summing Up

To various people, the concept of a sustainable kitchen can mean different things. Some may think about using only environmentally-friendly stuff, others concentrate on reducing operating costs, getting an all-natural eating lifestyle, or all of the above.

Achieving a sustainable kitchen requires patience, discipline, and determination. The moment we master saving energy in the kitchen, we begin saving money. When we practice reducing trash every day, the environment will thank you, me, and us all.

So if we can apply all of the approaches on getting a sustainable kitchen, the better. Are you too ready to be the next green cook? I am!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Tonette Fornillos

Comments

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on May 23, 2012:

Yes, cutting on food waste is the most convenient to begin with. When I too learned cooking from scratch, I realized how leftovers can make two new meals with just a little add-ons such as beans and veggies. I also learned new recipes no one could imagine coming from leftovers. Glad you find the tips on saving money on fuel useful. Cooking green is always wonderful, thank you 2patricias. Now there are many of us to help the Earth go healthy. Thanks for voting!

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on May 23, 2012:

We both gradually turned into green cooks when our income decreased. As out budget decreased, we knew we had to do things differently. Cutting out food waste was the first step, then growing our own.

Your tips on how to save money on fuel are helpful.

Voted this hub up and useful.

Tonette Fornillos (author) from The City of Generals on May 17, 2012:

Hi Fennelseed, thank you very much. I know you've always been a green cook yourself, wish I had a bigger backyard so I could also grow my own garden like those ones you have. I'm so happy I've convinced someone whose a lot better than me, I can't believe, THANK YOU! When it comes to going green, I'm your big fan Annie! Cheers!

Hello Hecate-horus. So nice you have stopped and read. I really enjoy sharing things I think are worth learning about :=) glad you liked the tips. Thank you and best regards.

hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on May 17, 2012:

Good tips! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

Annie Fenn from Australia on May 17, 2012:

This cook is a little green, but planning to become a whole lot greener thanks to your tips here! Little things like turning the heat off 10 minutes earlier and leaving the contents to continue cooking, buying local produce, reducing food miles, and buying staples in bulk, reducing packaging. Easy changes that make a huge difference. You have convinced me, thank you, my votes to you Tonipet, and sharing!!

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