The kitchen is a good place to start going green.
IT has taken a while but weâ€™re slowly moving closer to being an environmentally conscious society. One positive step is the introduction of â€śno plastic bag dayâ€ť at supermarkets and stores in several states. More and more shoppers make an effort to bring their own cloth or canvas bags for their groceries. But what you do once you get home with your groceries is just as important.
Hereâ€™s an A to Z of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint:
Avoid paper towels. Itâ€™s amazing how much we use them in the kitchen: to wipe up spills, to drain greasy food, to line our food containers ... Itâ€™s unnecessary and bad for the environment.
According to Environment Protection Agency statistics, the US alone generates about 3.5 million tonnes of waste tissue, napkins and paper towels annually.
Why not use towels, old cotton or terry cloth towels to mop up spills and cloth napkins at the dinner table? If you do need paper towels (like to drain greasy food) opt for those made from recycled material.
Bamboo rules. Wooden cutting boards are a step above plastic boards, but bamboo cutting boards are even better. Why? It takes approximately just three to four months for most bamboo to grow to full height. It takes years and years for trees to grow and mature. It therefore makes sense to use bamboo. It may cost you a bit more but bamboo is very durable and absorbs less water and moisture than most wooden boards. And, it helps the environment.
Composting. To make compost, simply collect organic food scraps like coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable trimmings in a compost bin or pile. Then, with a little stirring and watering a few times a week, they biodegrade into a rich soil enhancer. To know more, visit life.gaiam.com/gaiam/p/GuideToHomeComposting. html.
Donate instead of discard. If you are thinking of upgrading your kitchen, donate your old oven, stove, fridge and such to a second-hand store or to an electrical repair store which might re-use some of the parts.
Enzymes. Instead of discarding your kitchen waste, why not turn it into garbage enzymes which can make great cleaning solutions?
Making enzymes entail fermenting kitchen waste (like, fruits and vegetables) in a solution of sugar (brown sugar, jaggery or molasses sugar) and water.
To make your own garbage enzyme, go to www.enzymesos.com/?page_id=527. You can also buy ready-made garbage enzymes at organic produce shops like JustLife.
Fridge smart. A full, well-packed refrigerator uses less energy than an empty one. Every time you open and close the door, the fridge has to work extra hard to regulate the temperature.
If the fridge is full, less outside air enters and therefore, there is less warm air that needs cooling. If youâ€™ve got very little in your fridge, you can fill the extra space with water-filled containers.
A good rule of thumb is to leave an inch or two of space between your food and the walls of the fridge. Also, donâ€™t refrigerate uncovered food as it humidifies the air in your fridge and makes the motor work harder.
Grocery bags. Hereâ€™s one area Malaysians are changing for the better. More and more consumers bring their own canvas or cloth bags, and increasingly, grocers are encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags by charging for plastic bags.
Hulk up your purchases. Purchasing in bulk means less packaging and fewer trips to the store. It may also help you save money. Bulk cooking is a more efficient use of energy and your time. Store leftovers for the week â€“ youâ€™ll still be eating home-cooked food and using your cooking appliances less, thus conserving energy.
Instil green habits in those around you. Get your family and friends to join you in your effort to green your kitchen.
Jams and juices that are made at home are not only healthier, theyâ€™re the greener way to go. Not only are they without preservatives, you can compost the fruit pulp and skin, so nothing goes to waste. The seeds? Well, perhaps you can start a little orchard in your backyard.
Keep separate bins for plastic, glass, paper and compostable waste. This will make it easier and you will find yourself automatically recycling your waste.
Lights off. As much as you can, make use of natural light. Open doors and windows in your kitchen and only use lights when necessary. Also, switch to energy saving light bulbs.
Make it last. Choose cookware and utensils that last so you wonâ€™t have to replace them all the time. Teflon may be trendy but a more durable option would be stainless steel or cast iron instead. Theyâ€™re a little more expensive but they last almost forever.
Sturdy utensils are also a good investment: a good wooden spoon can last generations (as long as you clean them well). High-quality knives and stainless steel and glass containers are other keepers.
Natural cleaners are so easy to use. Baking soda cleans almost anything in the kitchen, and vinegar is a great cleaner too. Another innovative and green cleanser? Lemon juice! Try cleaning a greasy countertop with baking soda â€“ youâ€™ll be surprised at the results.
Oil and grease shouldnâ€™t go down the kitchen sink as it will clog your drains. So, what do you do with an oily pan? Wipe the pan with an old rag, then wash it. You can also start a used cooking oil collection drive in your neighbourhood and send the oil to CGV Industries (03-5122 4399), which will turn it into biodiesel.
Pans make a difference too. Glass or ceramic baking pans help conserve energy. They warm up more quickly and retain heat longer than metal pans. This way, you can either lower the oven temperature by about 10ËšC or bake for a shorter period of time.
This may be great for casseroles and pies, but cakes are a little tricky and should be left to metal pans.
Quit eating so much animal products. This is by no means an attempt to convert the masses to vegetarianism.
The production cycle of meat consumes a lot of energy and generates a considerable amount of pollution. Industrial livestock production is said to be responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions! So reducing your meat intake for some of your meals is a huge step for the environment.
New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman has adopted a â€śvegan before sixâ€ť strategy where he eats only fruits, vegetables and legumes all day until 6pm. Meat is consumed only at dinner.
In his book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes, Bittman explains how increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and reducing dependence on processed foods will lead to better health not only for your body, but also for the planet.
Recycle and reuse. We discard many things without giving a thought to whether they can be recycled or reused. From plastic and glass bottles, to milk and juice cartons, to plastic wrappers and cans. Glass bottles can be recycled or used to store spices and stuff. This can apply to so many other things too.
Stop relying on take-outs. Do you ever consider the amount of plastic and paper used in food packaging? And the synthetic food you are consuming on top of it all?
Cook in batches: cook once and eat twice or thrice to conserve energy (yours and your appliances) and food waste.
Make a large batch of spaghetti sauce or home-made soup, then freeze portions for several meals â€“ youâ€™ll thank yourself on the nights youâ€™re too tired to cook!
Trash bags can be green too â€” just use biodegradable bags.
Unplug all electrical items when not in use. Blenders, kettles, ovens, fans, toasters ... they still suck energy from the power source even if they arenâ€™t switched on. This is known as vampire energy.
Vegetables: organic, local or grow your own! Why buy organic and why buy local? Well, truly organic vegetables and produce arenâ€™t grown with pesticides that harm the environment. Youâ€™ll be surprised that though organic vegetables might be smaller, and a tad more expensive, theyâ€™re a whole lot tastier and healthier.
Water, too, can be re-used. The water you used to wash your vegetables or dishes can be saved and redirected to the garden.
You can put in place a special plumbing system to do this or just collect the water in a pail. Rain water is another source of water we can make use of for this purpose.
Xplain to friends. The more people who practise environment-friendly ways the better â€” so share your experience with family, friends and co-workers.
Y should you change? Not only will these small steps help preserve our planet. Theyâ€™ll save you money in the long run.
Zero zip lock bags. Why use them when you can use reusable containers? Pack a sandwich in a lunchbox made of stainless steel or cloth like the Japanese or Furoshuki. You can make these yourself: go to angelolli.com or community.livejournal.com/naturalliving/3904866.html for ideas.