Whether you spend a lot of time in your kitchen or the only thing you know how to make is microwave popcorn, there are steps we can all take to make our kitchen a little greener and save a little money in the process.
- Eat lower on the food chain - fruit and vegetable production is generally better for the planet than meat production.
- If you do eat meat, buy free-range, organically raised meat and poultry products. These have been raised more 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.
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 38-42°F (3-5°C), the freezer at 0-5°F (-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.
- Remarkably, energy consumption by the most efficient refrigerator models is largely unrelated to their size. The most efficient 14 cu. ft. fridge on the market today only consumes 106kWh/y.
- These efficient refrigerators are about 5-15 percent more expensive to buy, but will save you loads of money and energy in use. In general, they are also high quality products that will last longer, will need less repairing and make less noise.
- Buy a high efficiency refrigerator that consumes around 100 kWh/y. This is 10 times less than the average in the US, and four times less than the EU average.
For most home consumers it is better to buy a two door refrigerator/freezer combination with separate compartments, than a separate refrigerator and freezer. Refrigerator/freezer combinations where the freezer is at the top or bottom of the unit are generally better than ones with side by side doors. Of course, you should always compare energy consumption ratings, pay attention to energy efficiency labels (see above).
- Chest type models are more efficient than uprights.
- Unlike refrigerators, with freezers size does matter. Larger freezers do need more electricity. So don't buy a freezer that is larger than you need, especially if you live close to the store.
- The most efficient models on the market will only use 180 kWh for a 300 liter chest, and 240 kWh/y for a large 10 cu. ft. freezer chest. The best upright models range from 170 kWh for a 6.7 cu. ft. litre model to 220 kWh for a 10.9 cu. ft model.
- 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 which 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.
- An efficient dishwasher consumes no more than one kWh/washing cycle, compared with 1.4 kWh for an average model.
- Consider a 'hot fill' model which connects directly to your efficient gas fired hot water heater. That way, gas is used to heat the water instead of electricity, thereby reducing electricity consumption by 50 percent, or even up to 90 percent for the top models. This is because gas is almost twice as efficient as electric.