The prime object of greening the kitchen is a plan to reduce waste. This will make a significant contribution to saving this planet and reducing the carbon footprint of our industrial society. However, going green does take a commitment, it isn’t something that can be done will watching TV or taking a bath, although you can make those activities greener, too. But going green may take some research and planning. At the very least, it will take thought. And your thinking should be about changing up the kitchen first because it is the most waste producing room in your home.
The best way get started is to just do it slowly, making changes when they’re painless and making easy, budget friendly choices. The whole idea centers around sustainability which means you should only make changes you can sustain over a long period. If it’s too expensive or difficult to repeat, then don’t even go there. If you want to get started today, I have some easy, simple steps you can take to get the ball rolling.
Start out by ditching extra packaging. You can do this simply by buying in bulk. It is cheaper this way although the cost up front is larger; foods last longer and you don’t have to shop as much. Buying in bulk saves gas and time as well. And you don’t have to go to Sams Club and buy enormous boxes of food. The best and easiest way is to hit your local natural foods stores and produce shops and go to the “bag and weigh” section. Buy grains, flour, pastas, dried fruits, beans, cereal, candies, coffee and lots of other stuff this way. Bring your own Tupperware or cans instead of using the bags they hand out.
An even better idea: bring the boxes from your last load of food and reuse them for the new stuff. Have the cashier weigh the items in the store bags and then convert them to the boxes when leaving. This way, you leave the bags in the store instead of throwing them out. Or bring the bags along but reuse them the next time.. and the next. Heck, I have brought cereal boxes, coffee cans, flour and bean bags from home and filled them up this way. Reusing packaging is super green and buying bulk is a money saver. Give it a try. I really like it and I think you will, too.
Of course, not everything you buy is going to be a bulk bin. There are still packaged foods of all kinds just waiting for the landfill and for you to send them on their way there. What do you do? Buy the biggest box of anything you are buying, as much as you can afford to, that you think will be used. Now, buying huge boxes of food that doesn’t get eaten is not a good idea, so be careful. Buy products that come in reusable containers; there are lots of deli products, cheese and other refrigerated items that now come in reusable Tupperware type containers. I know because I have a lot of them. And then, of course, buy as much as possible that is recycled and in recycled packaging. This is as green as you can get.
So now that you have taken care of the packaging problem and have that in hand, you are ready to think about some other ideas. Even if you don’t garden or have a garden or would even consider a garden, you should consider compost. Almost everybody has a yard and compost is good for the grass and plants that just exist there. Also, bagging compost and selling it at a yard sale would make a great side business if you would like to pick up extra cash. So, how do you make compost? Simple. You just square off a section of your backyard near the kitchen and use it as a garbage pile. Seriously.
Onion peels, carrot trimmings, apple cores, and egg shells will all become nutrient-rich dirt in a few months if you toss them in the compost. Almost anything you eat, except for meat, cheese, milk products, chicken, fish or other animal products. To get started, you can either buy a compost bin at Home Depot or you can just start a pile in a corner of the yard. If you don’t have a yard, you can even do indoor composting using worms. Your finished product will feed houseplants, grass, landscape plants, gardens of all kinds and flowers, indoor or out. And just think of the plastic garbage bags you won’t be using so much of and how much money you will save on that. To get started composting, read my previous post on Making Compost .
So now you are finished with the food situation and can concentrate on other areas of the kitchen. One is the process of cleaning and maintaining the kitchen, where germs are almost as big a problem as they are in the bathroom. Consider using green cleaners or using homemade, safe and nontoxic cleaning methods. They make chlorine-free automatic dish washing powder, petroleum-free soap, and non-toxic floor cleaner and this stuff is easy to find in most grocery stores. These products are just as good as their conventional counterparts and are, most of the time, made by the same companies. They just have less toxic residue. They are better for your heath, your children’s health and they’re better for the planet.
You can also make your own cleaners with common household items like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, and washing soda. For recipes and ideas on making your own effective but safe cleaners, read my post on Green Cleaners. These homemade cleaners as well as the green cleaners are better also for people with chemical sensitivities and allergies. They are, overall, better for everyone.
Now, for your drinking habits. You should not be drinking bottled water, unless, of course, you reuse the same bottle over and over again. Buying bottled water every day or more often and then tossing the bottle in a trash can is not acceptable. Horrific fact: in the state of California alone, nearly three million used plastic water bottles wind up in the landfill every day. Even if you’re a saint and make a point of recycling every water bottle you purchase, remember that it takes a lot of energy and other resources just to manufacture, transport and deliver these products to the 7-11.
So, what is the alternative? Please do not stop drinking water, it’s good for you. But try using a filter at home, filtering tap water and filling reusable bottles with it. We have a freezer half filled with reusable plastic bottles filled with filtered water and other drinkables. Another alternative is to rent or purchase a water dispenser that comes with a refillable water bottles that you can have serviced or go to WalMart and buy new bottles full of fresh water. This is an expensive indulgence considering that most of this water is simply filtered tap water and not mineral water or spring water. You can produce the exact same thing for half the price by simply buying the filter and doing it yourself. Think this way: you’ll save tons of money filtering your own and save gas on trips to the grocery store and the 7-11 to get it.
Now, it’s time for the bigger choices. You should upgrade your appliances to Energy Star when it’s time to buy new. Energy Star means that the appliance has met the quality and energy-efficiency guidelines of both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
You should also monitor the family usage of appliances overall. Watching the temperature on the fridge, keeping at the highest possible number, saves money and energy. Only run the dishwasher when it’s jam packed and must be run; instruct the kids not to just run it for a glass or two. Schedule dinners and cooking around a central time; everyone eats breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same times. Multitask at the stove, too, making more than one food at a time and making extra for tomorrow to save energy. Buy space heaters instead of using central heat. Don’t pre-rinse when running the dishwasher, most new models don’t require it. When you buy a new dishwasher, get one with a built in garbage disposal. Use the microwave for as much food as possible; it is more efficient and less heat producing than the stove.