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Kitchens are wonderful places. They are the places where we like to entertain, where families congregate and catch up over breakfast, snacks, and dinners. They are where we nourish our bodies and store and prepare that nourishment. Of any room in any house, none quite feels so much like home as the kitchen, and for many, no place is as integral to life.
That said, in terms of consumption (energy and resources, not eating) and waste, few places are as gluttonous as the kitchen. We wash dishes and vegetables, and water swooshes down the drain. We make toast, coffee, and microwave burritos, and kilowatts of energy are zapped away. We chop vegetables, peel fruit, and open packaging, and garbage piles up at the landfills.
However, using the kitchen is not up for debate. Families who do it often thrive on sharing meal times. Making food at home is a healthier, less expensive, more aware means of sustenance. So, for those of us looking to make our lives a little greener, a good place to start is the kitchen, where so much of our time is rightfully spent.
Compost the Compostable
When it comes to kitchens and trash, composting helps to massively reduce waste. All fruit and vegetable scraps should go into a compost bin. Beyond that, most plant-based food, save for very greasy stuff, will work just fine in compost bins, as will cardboard, paper packaging, and napkins. Paper products actually help to balance the nitrogen and carbon levels in the compost pile.
Wash the Dishes
Paper plates, or worse, those plastic disposable plates, are absolutely unnecessary when there is a cabinet full of perfectly good reusable dishes. When at home, any kind of disposable cookware, plates, or utensils should be off-limits. They use up resources, create waste, and cost extra money. Washing dishes isn’t such a big deal, nor is waiting for the dishwasher to fill up.
Cook in Volume
Just as buying single-serving packages of things creates much more waste, preparing single servings of things uses up a lot of energy. Instead, cook meals for the family. Double up oven duty with some homemade cookies or roasted veggies when something is in there. Take advantage of the energy used to cook one thing up by cooking either a lot of it or multiple things. The same goes for coffee: for multiple cups, making a pot is better.
Reuse the Water
It’s true that extremely dirty dishwater, with excess soap and grease, might need some filtering before it goes to graywater irrigation. But, much of the water we use in the kitchen is just fine for watering the houseplants. When we boil pasta and drain the water off, when we wash vegetables or fruit, when we rinse out a glass, this water can be directly used in the garden or for houseplants. It is good practice, however, to do it within a few hours of creating the graywater.
Shop in Bulk
Much of our food, especially processed stuff, comes with an abundance of packaging. An eco-friendly kitchen does its best to avoid packaging. Take advantage of bulk bins for legumes, grains, nuts, and snacks when possible. Use reusable bags to buy these items and store them in repurposed glass jars at home. Otherwise, try to buy large, single packages of stuff rather than individual servings or boxes with multiple bags inside (such as with snack cakes or chips.)
Eat the Leftovers
Leftovers can be a wonderful thing. They are already there, and they’ve already been cooked. Lots of them are equally delicious cold. Unfortunately, they also often end up in the trash. To make the kitchen a little greener, it helps to plan out how leftovers will be used to be sure they aren’t wasted. What’s more, the leftovers, of course, should be packed away in reusable containers so as not to create waste.
Efficiency in Appliances
As electrical appliances go out and get replaced, it’s important to assess whether or not they are necessary, such as with electric can openers when a hand-cranked one is fine, toasters when there is also a toaster oven, or a Keurig when there is a coffeemaker. Otherwise, the appliances we do buy should be energy-efficient versions when available. Spend the cash now because it’ll mean saved money down the road and, more importantly, less energy to run them.
Obviously, there are many more things we can do in the kitchen (Don’t forget to grow some organic, local food!), but simply taking a few steps in the right direction will add up to a much cleaner planet. If we take some steps in the kitchen and other areas of the house, it will all add up to even more. That’s how we start truly shifting to a greener way of living. Changing our habits at home will change the global mindset.
Lead Image Source: Pixabay