13 Ways To A Greener Kitchen


1. Buy Local and Seasonal

Eating local foods (to avoid transportation costs), wholefoods (to avoid processing costs) and organic foods (to avoid petroleum-based fertilizer usage) is a big step toward reducing our carbon footprint.  “Sign up to your local Community Supported Agriculture scheme. You’ll be helping small (and often organic) farmers survive, and you’ll get fresh, tasty food.”

2. Reduce Food Waste

Producing food, packaging it, and transporting it to points of sale consumes energy and fresh water; by not wasting food, you’re preserving those resources, too. Buy only what you need and as much , and challenge yourself to use it to the last crumb. Plan menus so you can buy the items on your list from the farmers’ market, cut down on extra trips to the store, and avoid waste.

Save vegetable and meat scraps (vegetable peelings, sad looking vegetables or parts you don’t like, meat bones) in a large resealable container in the freezer. When you have collected enough, use it to make soup or stock, which you can then freeze for later use.

You can also use whatever leftover vegetables you have at the end of the week in a stir-fry, a pasta dish, or a frittata.

Freeze leftovers if there is even the smallest chance that you won’t be able to use them before they go bad. Ice cube trays work well for small amounts.

Keep your pantry well organized, and all your supplies visible: this ensures you don’t accidentally let things spoil, and you can then buy ingredients in bulk without running the risk of wasting them.

Keep only a small garbage can in the kitchen; this will encourage you to monitor and reduce the amount of waste you produce.

Find uses for every last bit: beet/radish greens and carrot tops can go into green smoothies, over-the-hill apples can be turned into applesauce and stale bread into croutons, the rind of hard cheese can flavor a soup, used green tea bags can serve to make green tea rice, bruised fruits can be added to smoothies, citrus peel can be used in baking or salads.

Just before you go away for a few days, rummage through your fridge and window boxes. Collect all the half-used herbs, chilies, ginger, garlic, lemons, etc. and grate, chop, or zest them. Blend them (mix as you feel) with some softened butter, wrap up into sausage-shaped logs and pop into your freezer. Now when you come back you have flavoured butters to top your cooked vegetables, pasta, or grills.

3. Reduce Packaging Waste

Buy ingredients in bulk and bring your own containers or bags to the store where you buy them.

Make your own snacks and pack them in reusable containers. Ursula suggests “invest[ing] in a few reusable fabric bags; Etsy has great options if you search under snack bags.”

Make your own spice mixes. We have a tendency to buy everything pre-packaged and pre-made. However, there’s really no need to buy chili powder, steak rub, poultry seasoning, fajita seasoning, seasoning salt, and the like. For anyone who cooks regularly, chances are that they already have all the necessary spices in their cupboard.

Stop buying plastic wrapped cheese. Bring your own container or have them wrap it in waxed or parchment paper — if they don’t have that, ask for it, so they know you do care.

Instead of using the small (and rather flimsy) plastic bags for produce, use organic cotton mesh bags (available online). They are very durable, so I can stock up at the farmers market, reasonably priced and washable.

Avoid buying “pre-portioned products — individual disposable serving cups of pudding/applesauce/yogurt/juice may be handy but they are more expensive and create more aste. Get reusable containers in sizes you like and portion out of a large container.”

4. Reuse Packaging and Containers

It is impossible to eliminate packaging and containers entirely, but what you can do is make the most of those that do enter your kitchen, finding other uses for them beyond their original purpose.

Glass jars — inarguably the most popular of reusable containers — and take out containers can be used for food storage, leftover storage, and as pantry organizers.?- Food bags (bread bags, cereal bags, chip bags, produce bags…) can be used to store other foods or as trash/litter bags.?- Yogurt containers can be used to dispose of oil and cooking grease cleanly. ?- Old newspapers (not a food packaging, but handy nonetheless) can be used to deodorize food containers (just stuff a ball in it and leave it overnight) or to line bottom of produce bins to absorb excess moisture.

5. Eat Fewer Animal Products

The production cycle of meat consumes a lot of energy and generates a considerable amount of pollution (industrial livestock production is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions), so turning to non-animal sources of protein — for at least some of your meals, is an earth-friendly food habit to develop. And if/when you do buy meat, buy less of it, and favor local farmers that raise the animals humanely and feed them a natural diet.

Be careful what you replace it with. [Some] vegetarian ‘meat’ products are made from genetically engineered soy. The industrial farms these are grown on use pesticides that stay in the environment, waste energy, and deplete soil nutrients. Instead, up your intake of local, organic produce with occasional real, free-range meat!

Be mindful of your seafood consumption.

6. Grow Your Own

Grow what produce and herbs you can in your garden, but also on your balcony or window sills, where you can plant rucola, leaf lettuce, and all sorts of herbs. You can also grow sprouts indoors.

Growing plants provides habitat and food for animals large and small: bugs who seek shelter, butterflies and bees who polinate flowers. If you have a fruit tree you provide perches for song birds and nesting habitat as well as shade and protection.

Food plants help absorb CO2 and produce oxygen. And, you can reduce your carbon impact by reducing the distance your food travels to get to you. If you can grow your garden plants without pesticide or chemical fertilizer, you’re also reducing the load of chemicals that go into the atmosphere, water, soil, and your body. The best part though is the wonderfully fresh and nutritious food you get to eat!

Of course, it’s important then “not to let the produce go to waste. Roll up your sleeves and preserve them by canning and freezing (there are tons of tutorials and instructions online that are easy to follow) or simply share with neighbors and charitable food organizations!

Coffee grounds make great fertilizer for your garden: and if you’re living in a city-centre apartment, they can help your window box flourish, too! You can either sprinkle the grounds (cooled, please!) around the base of your plants (or mix into the soil if you’re creating a new window box/planter) – every time it rains or the plants are watered, nitrogen will be released into the soil, or you can add some coffee grounds to your watering can, and create instant liquid fertilizer.

7. Compost

If you have a garden, start a compost heap or bin, and home-compost your organic waste (vegetable and fruit peels and cores, coffee grounds, egg shells…). These debris will decompose faster and more safely there than in a landfill, where their decomposition generates methane, a greenhouse gas. And once broken down, they will turn into natural fertilizer for your garden, thus returning the nutrients to the soil.

Those who live in an apartment can consider vermicomposting or Bokashi composting. And if you have no use for the fertilizer, or for that much fertilizer, you can give it away or dispose of it — in a nearby park, for instance (provided the city okays it).

8. Avoid Using Disposable Paper and Plastic Products

Use real napkins when you eat, and cloth rags (cut out from old t-shirts, torn sheets, etc.) instead of paper towels.

Use saved glass containers to keep leftover food or bring food into the office, instead of using plastic wrap or foil. If you take your lunch to work on your bicycle like I do, and you’re worried about breakage, just wrap the glass jars in a tea towel: it protects them and you can use it for an elegant napkin at lunch!

Unless the water from the tap is not safe to drink where you live, avoid buying and drinking bottled water, both in your house and at the restaurant. You can get a water filtering pitcher instead (make sure the cartridges can be recycled) to purify tap water, and get a reusable water bottle for when you need portable water (at the gym, at the office, when you travel).

9. Bring Your Own

Bring your own reusable silverware and plates on picnics, on camping trips, and for lunch at the office.

Bring a real mug for tea or coffee at the office, rather than use a plastic or paper cup. And bring your own reusable travel mug to coffee shops: not only do you save a paper cup, but most coffee shops give a free upgrade (size, flavor shot, etc) or discount.

Bring reusable shopping bags when you run errands. Keep them wherever you may need them when you go shopping: Try keeping a small one in your purse and work bag at all times.

10. Save Energy

When buying a new appliance, make sure you opt for the most energy-efficient model.

Use [the] electric kettle to boil water rather than the stove — it’s much faster and uses less energy.

When cooking for one or two, use a toaster oven instead of a conventional oven. The compact space requires less energy to heat.

Plan ahead of time and defrost items in the fridge instead of using the microwave.

Use a pressure cooker for beans and stews. It cuts down on electricity usage by shortening cooking time and keeps the kitchen cooler which means you’re using less electricity if the a/c is on. Plus it means that you can get dried beans instead of canned which cuts down on packaging and other stuff from the manufacturing process.

Use your hands. Leave the food processor alone; use a knife. Use a whisk, not a mixer. Let your food prep be slower, but more hands-on, and more satisfying.

Clean your refrigerator coils. They dissipate heat, so if they’re clogged with dust, your refrigerator is less efficient and uses more energy to keep itself cool. This is a big deal since refrigerators use a lot of energy — about 15% of a home’s electricity. You can clean the coils twice a year with a vacuum and/or brush.

11. Conserve Water

It is generally considered more water-efficient to use a (modern) dishwashing machine than to wash dishes by hand. But if a dishwasher is not an option, make sure your dishwashing technique is optimal.

When you wash salad leaves and vegetables, save the water in a bucket and use it to water your plants.

When you steam vegetables or soak beans and lentils, don’t drain the water. Reuse the water. With the beans and lentils you can use it as cooking liquid and with the vegetables, you can use it make light broths or use in soups. This way you don’t waste water and you retain all the nutrients in the food.

12. Use Natural Cleaning Products

Use eco-friendly cleaning products with no phosphates in them, and consider making your own, using age-old ingredients such as white vinegar, sodium bicarbonate, lemons, real soap, essential oils, etc.

13. Share

Share information, advice, recipes, share ingredients bought in bulk, share what extra produce your garden may yield, share CSA shares, share appliances, share rides, etc.

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