Nine Ways to Go Green in the Kitchen

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If you feel climate change is an overarching subject that you can’t personally impact, think again. Individuals can take small steps to be more eco-friendly and sustainable — and they can start in the kitchen. Take a look at nine ways to reduce your energy consumption, reduce landfill waste, and make an overall difference in your environmental footprint. 

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1. Water Consumption: Dishwasher vs. Hand Washing

Hand washing can give you a better sense of control over how clean your dishes get, but unless you’re a very eco-conscious hand-washer, it can also be very wasteful. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany found hand washing can use as much as 27 gallons of water and 2.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy to wash 12 place settings, compared with 4 gallons and 1.5 kWh used by a dishwasher to wash the same number of dishes. Because dishwashers are still a luxury for many, researchers recommend several ways a person can become “supereconomic” with hand-washing dishes:

  • Remove large food scraps from the dishes with a spoon or a fork.
  • Manual dishwashing is easier if the food is not dried to the dishes, therefore start washing soon after the meal.
  • Do not pre-rinse the dishes under running tap water.
  • Manual dishwashing is best done in two sinks: one with hot water and detergent, the other with cold water for a quick rinse.
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2. Energy efficiency: Gas vs. Electric Stoves

When you use a gas stove, natural gas enters your stove from a gas supply to your house. Once it reaches the burner, it comes into contact with air inside a mixer tube and is mixed with more air when it is released through holes in the burner. The ignition system lights the gas-air mixture, creating a blue flame and the higher you turn the burner control knob, the more gas is released. With an electric stove, electricity runs to a wire inside the coils on the cook top. When you turn the dial on the stove, the electricity flows to the coil and heats up the metal. When talking energy efficiency between a gas and an electric stove, the gas stove is a clear winner. It takes about three times as much energy to produce and deliver electricity to your stove. A gas stove will cost you less than half as much to operate, according to the California Energy Commission, provided you have an electronic ignition and not a pilot light.


3. Reduce Energy Consumption: Get to Know Your Refrigerator

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates your refrigerator takes up 14 percent of your household energy usage. While it’s our best friend in keeping food fresh, if you’re not using it efficiently, it can be a major energy hog.

Here are some quick tips about your fridge to help you stay eco-friendly:

  • Allow leftovers to cool for a while before putting them in the fridge. Hot leftovers raise the temperature inside your fridge, so it has to work harder and burn more energy.
  • Check the rubber seal on your fridge occasionally to make sure it’s keeping cold air in and warm air out. To check, slip a dollar bill into the door; if it slips out easily, you need to fix or replace the seal.
  • Keep your freezer as full as possible. You can fill an empty space with reusable ice packs so it will stay cooler.
  • Check how old your fridge is. If it’s more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with an Energy Star-qualified one. 

4. Reduce Landfill Waste: Buy in Bulk, Not Packaged

Purchasing and cooking in bulk means fewer trips to the store, less packaging, and less time using energy-consuming appliances. Many natural health stores carry hundreds of pounds of bulk food, spices, pet supplies, soaps, coffees, teas and other items that traditionally would sell in smaller packages, which would create more landfill waste. By buying and cooking in bulk, you can help save not only the environment, but your cash, as well.


5. Reduce Carbon Emissions: Buy Local

Buying local, farm-fresh produce is not only a great way to get organic and natural foods, it’s an eco-friendly step to end the oil-consuming transportation methods for carrying groceries to stores nationwide.

Wander around your community to find local farmers’ markets, independent retailers and fresh food stands. Or, you can simply go to to find sustainably grown food in your area. 

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6. Surround Yourself With Eco-friendly Design

While not everyone has the budget for a complete kitchen remodel, there are opportunities to consider sustainability when it comes to kitchen design. HGTV, the network that thrives on inspiring ideas for the home, offers nine design elements that can be environmentally friendly:

  • Bamboo surfaces
  • Salvaged wood
  • Fluorescents and natural lighting
  • Cork
  • Recycled stone-chipped composite countertops
  • Top and bottom freezer/refrigerator units
  • Recycling stations
  • Convection ovens
  • Natural fabrics

7. Be Eco-friendly: Eat Healthy

The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that if every American had just one meat-free meal per week, the carbon dioxide reduction would equal the removal of more than 5 million cars from the road.

Eating fresh not only promotes better health, it also conserves energy used in processing, packaging and delivering products. A great project for the gardening kind is to set up a vegetable and herb garden. If you don’t have the backyard space, check out a community garden in your area (or start one). 


8. Reduce Food Waste: Reuse Scraps for Additional Meals

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the U.S. Yet, 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten.

That’s about $165 billion each year that goes to waste. What can you do? Consider all the ways you can reuse food scraps, stems, leaves and leftovers. Cook with a whole head of cauliflower. Save veggie scraps for a broth. And taste the leafy tops of your favorite root vegetables. It’s almost like eating for free!


9. Cut Energy Costs With Alternative Cooking Methods

Ease the strain on your AC in the summer by getting outside to cook. Grilling is a great method that brings the heat from cooking outside, thus reducing the need to turn up the air conditioning. Outdoor grills also use less energy than your stove.

Better yet, according to Food Network, upgrade to induction cooking. An induction cooker is faster and more energy-efficient than a traditional electric cooking surface. Like gas burners, induction cookers allow instant control of cooking power, and they won’t directly heat the air around the vessel. 


This post was written by Jenny Ivy and is presented courtesy of Delicious Living Stop by the Co+op for your free copy of Delicious Living magazine which is filled each month with informative articles about health and nutrition, as well as product reviews, recipes and more.

Corinne WhitmillComment