The kitchen is not only the heart of most people’s homes, it is also the place where you can make the most difference in reducing your carbon footprint and contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for both your family and the planet.
In Part, I shared some sustainable building options for constructing a green kitchen from the ground up. This included some suggestions on flooring, construction materials, energy efficient appliances and lighting. I’d now like to share some tips on using the kitchen in the most eco-conscious in terms of what you buy, tips for cooking and then finally cleanup.
What to Buy
Most people are already aware of the benefits of buying fresh produce from local farmers. By buying locally, you are able to enjoy seasonal foods (which are better for your health and coincide with nature’s plan to provide us with the right foods at the right time of year) as well as contribute to reduced fuel usage required for food transport from other parts of the world. It’s also important to choose organic foods that are produced without synthetic chemicals typically used in conventional production practices. This protects the soil and water from contaminants as well as the workers themselves.
When buying fresh vegetables and produce, make sure to buy only what you need to avoid food waste. Buying frequently may seem like more of an effort, but fresh foods will also greatly benefit your health as they contain more of the live, vital nutrients your body needs when initially harvested. However, just the opposite pertains to dry goods that can be stored. It’s much better to buy in bulk and store your dry goods in glass containers. This not only decreases food costs for your family, it also eliminates the excessive packaging that is used for small portion buying.
Shopping with cloth bags or carrying your fresh vegetables and produce home in a cardboard box will also greatly reduce your plastic bag consumption. Along these same lines, it’s better to invest in a water filter then buy large amounts of bottled water. When you have no other choice than to use plastic, make sure to reuse your bags and bottles as much as possible before discarding.
What to Cook With
When cooking your food it’s best to avoid Teflon coated pots and pans. Teflon contains a carcinogenic chemical called Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). This causes Teflon to emit toxic fumes into the air that can be detrimental to one’s health over time. This is especially true as the Teflon begins to scratch with use, increasing its toxic release. Better options include stainless steel, cast iron, and other types of non-chemical coatings.
Another good tip for cooking is to cook in bulk. This decreases the amount of energy consumption required to heat the oven multiple times throughout the week. Food can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freezing cooked foods is another option. When you are cooking, a good practice is to turn off the stove or oven early and let your food finish cooking while the oven is cooling. Convection ovens are also a great option to avoid excessive preheating.
Of course, consuming more raw foods is great for the body and for the environment. Raw foods are nutrient rich and packed with all their wholesome vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and vital life energy, much of which is lost in the cooking process. You’ll also find that your overall food consumption is less when consuming raw as it’s generally more filling due to its high nutrient content.
If you’ve bought your packaged foods in biodegradable or recycled paper containers, you are on your way to supporting a greener environment. Either way, make sure that you find a way to recycle your non-reusable cardboard, metals, plastics and glass bi-products. Fresh foods scraps can be composted, which improves soil structure, prevents erosion and provides nutrients back into the earth. If you don’t have a home garden, there are companies who will pick up your food waste and do the composting for you.
In terms of kitchen cleanup, choose non-toxic cleaning products and recycled paper products if napkins or paper towels are necessary. An even better option is to make your own cleaning products using ingredients like baking soda, distilled vinegar, lemon and water, which are easy, inexpensive and free of toxins.
Published On: November 12, 2012