Green Your Kitchen with Eco-Friendly Appliances and Cookware
Invest in Small, Energy-Efficient Appliances
Most of us have far bigger appliances than we need, from dishwashers to refrigerators. Not only do smaller appliances require less electricity and water, but they take up less space. Though holding on to what you already have is normally the eco-friendly thing to do, that is not the case for old appliances that have much more energy-efficient models these days.
In all of the appliances you buy - from refrigerators and dishwashers, to microwaves and stoves - look for the "Energy Star" certification. Also consider the following suggestions for your:
- Refrigerator - Since it can represent up to 15 percent of your household's electricity use, if yours is more than 10 years old, you should replace your refrigerator with a newer, more energy-efficient model. You may consider a smaller fridge that you supplement with a "cold box" for your fruits and vegetables - cold but requiring no refrigeration!
- Dishwasher - The smaller model you get, the less water and electricity you'll use running it, and the quicker you'll have a full load. For even smaller loads, you may consider supplementing your regular dishwasher with a "dish drawer" model.
- Stove - Electric stoves use more energy than gas, but cost up to twice as much. On the other hand, gas stoves emit nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, other harmful compounds.
- Exhaust Hood - A working exhaust hood is essential for helping to protect the air purity in your kitchen. Ideally, it should vent to the outside and move 100 cubic feet of air per minute.
For more details, see our comprehensive article on energy efficient appliances.
Green Your Water Usage
Faucets - Responsible for 15 percent of household water usage, a conventional faucet flows at 4 gallons per minute. Replace it with a WaterSense-labeled low-flow aerator faucet and you can cut that down to .5 gallons per minute! To go a step further, you may opt for a faucet controlled by foot pedal, knee or motion. Of course, you need not invest in a whole new faucet to reap the green benefits of low-flow aerators. You can very inexpensively install one in the faucet you already own.
Water Filtration - Instead of buying bottled water, filter your tap water instead with a built-in water filtration system that you install under the sink. It will be a bit of an investment, but one well worth the expense considering all the potentially dangerous substances that you must effectively remove from tap water if you plan on drinking it; water pitcher filters simply will not do the job. Look for a reverse-osmosis system that removes fluoride, heavy metals and contaminants. If this is an investment beyond your reach right now, you can fill refillable water bottles at reverse-osmosis water kiosks or have it delivered. Try to avoid purchasing new bottled water and simply keep refilling your containers for as long as they will last.
Sinks - The greenest thing to do is keep the sink you already have, but if and when it's time for a replacement, look for one made of recycled materials, such as copper, glass, porcelin, cast metal or plastic. Recycled stainless steel is an option; most are only 60 percent recycled content, but do a little digging and you should be find 100 percent recycled.
Hot Water Pumping System - Instead of wasting water waiting for it to heat up, you can have hot water from the first drop. An on-demand hot water pumping system immediately produces hot water until your hot water heater has time to pump it to you through the pipes. Or simply catch the water in closed containers while you're waiting for the heat and store it away for later use in cooking, cleaning and/or watering plants.
Designate Space for Recycling and Composting Bins
The greatest obstacle to home recycling efforts is convenience. If it's not easy to do, it probably won't get done. Even if you're personally adamant about recycling every jar or composting every scrap of food, other family members may not share your diligence. So instead of limiting your collection bins to recycling in the garage and composting in the backyard, set up bins right next to the trash. Clearly designate which bin is for what; different colors help. Then when it is convenient for you, empty the contents of your kitchen bins into your bigger recycling/composting bins.
Green Your Cookware, Dishes, Utensils and Storage Containers
Pot and Pans - If you're using Teflon, get rid of it! Contrary to what manufacturers want you to believe, Teflon is known to emit six toxic gases that release two known carcinogens and two global pollutants. And it need not be scratched to leech into your food. Teflon starts breaking down at 450 degrees and most stoves reach much higher temperatures than that. Though most of us already have Teflon running through our bloodstreams, it's not too late clean our plates!
Cast iron is the single best material for cookware. Not only is it ridiculously durable, but it heats food evenly and releases iron into your food which does a body good. Glass and ceramic are other good options. Though stainless steel is typically considered safe, it does contains metals that can find their way into your food. It poses nowhere near the kind of threat from Teflon or aluminum, but if your stainless pans are dinged up, it's best to replace them.
As far as non-stick goes, you don't need Teflon for easy clean-up. Just wash pans immediately after use, let soak if necessary and, for tough jobs, baking soda and an eco-friendly scrubber should do. However, if you have your heart set on non-stick, you do have some eco-friendly options. Look for ceramic-based non-stick pans or anodized aluminum cookware that uses an an "electro-chemical anoding process" to lock in the aluminum so it cannot get into your food.
Dishes - In this case, keeping what you already have is your best bet. But when you are in the market for new dishes, look for recycled glass or recycled ceramic. Secondhand is always an option too.
Utensils - Avoid plastic and wood (unless sustainably harvested), and opt for stainless steel or bamboo instead.
Linens - As with all other linens for your home, choose hand towels made from sustainable fabrics, like organic cotton. And instead of throwing out old towels, cut them up and use them as dish cloths or rags.