In the kitchen

Page - January 9, 2007
Your kitchen combines many of today’s environmental concerns such as energy consumption, waste, toxics and genetic engineering. Here are some tips for a healthy lifestyle and a cleaner environment.

Green your kitchen by choosing environmentally friendlier cleaning products.

Appliances

Your refrigerator uses more energy than any other appliance in your home, but there are a few things you can do to keep energy consumption to a minimum:

  • The fridge should be kept at 3-5°C, the freezer at -17 to -15°C.
  • Try to open the fridge door less frequently and for a shorter duration to conserve energy.
  • Don't place your fridge in a warm spot - near a heater or in direct sunlight.
  • For efficient operation clean the condenser coils on the back or bottom of your fridge at least once a year.
  • Keep the door gasket clean to make sure the seal isn't broken by dried food.

You should also:

  • Check and compare energy ratings before buying large appliances. These tell you how many kilowatt hours of energy it uses per month.
  • Use electric kettles to boil water, they consume half the energy needed to boil water on the stove.
  • Cook food in glass dishes which are quicker than metal pans. The bottom of your pan or pot should be the same size as the burner to use the minimum amount of energy.
  • Use pressure cookers which use very little energy and are best for food that is "low on the food chain".
  • Don't waste energy preheating your oven, most ovens don't need it. For pastries and cakes, preheating 10 minutes is plenty. You can also turn your oven off 15 minutes early for major items like roasts and casseroles - the heat left in the oven will finish the job.
  • Turn down the heat after water boils. Lightly boiling water is the same temperature as a roaring boil.
  • Water will boil more quickly if there is a lid on the pan.
  • Cooking frozen foods uses more energy - thaw them out first.

Food

  • Eat lower on the food chain - fruit and vegetable production requires far less energy than meat production.
  • If you do eat meat, buy free-range, organically raised meat and poultry products. These have been raised humanely and on untreated feeds.
  • Grow your own vegetables, fruits and herbs without using pesticides.
  • Eating organically grown fruits and vegetables doesn't just reduce the amount of pesticides getting released into the environment, it's also more healthy for you, the farmers and food handlers. Just look for the "certified organic" label.
  • Cut excess fat off of meat and poultry and avoid high fat dairy products. Many chemicals released into the environment are stored in fat tissue and are cumulative.
  • Avoid storing food in plastic. Use reusable glass containers for storing food in the refrigerator, but be careful, not all glass containers can be frozen.
  • If you use plastic for storage, use containers specifically designed for this.
  • Never microwave food in a plastic container. Even plastics that are approved for food storage and are 'microwavable' may leech chemicals into your food when heated.
  • If you must use plastic wrap, do not let it come in direct contact with your food and make sure that it is not made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl).

Waste

  • Buy in bulk. It's cheaper and it uses less packaging.
  • Buy vegetables loose, not in plastic bags.
  • Take your own bags to the shop and supermarket.
  • Avoid plastic containers, they are made of different types of plastic which are costly and difficult to separate and recycle.
  • Choose products in refillable or reusable containers.
  • Compost your food scraps.
  • Look for products made from recycled materials.
  • Use cloth instead of paper napkins and towels.

Water

  • Keep a covered container of water in the fridge for drinking - you won't have to run the tap until the water is cold every time you want a drink.
  • Keep a bowl of water in the sink while preparing food for quickly rinsing your hands.
  • If you must use a dishwasher, only do full loads and use the econo setting. To save energy, stop the machine after the rinse and open the door to let the dishes air dry.
  • Don't let the water run while doing dishes.

Cleaning

  • Rinsing dishes before food residue hardens makes cleaning them easier and uses less detergent. Commercial dishwashing liquids are designed to create unnecessary suds.
  • Dissolve pure soap flakes in hot water and use in place of your commercial detergent.
  • Add vinegar for really tough, baked-on grease.
  • Burnt pots and pans? Coat the area with a thick paste of bicarb and water and leave for several hours before washing.
  • Prevent baked-on grease: don't overfill pans and scrape up spills as soon as they're cold enough to handle.
  • When spills seems unavoidable, put a baking tray on the bottom rack to catch the worst of it.