Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | May 5, 2012

How is Your Kitchen Fairing

If the family room is the emotional centre of a house, the kitchen is its heart and soul.

It’s where we do a lot of our living. As such, it’s one of the more expensive areas of a home to build, to renovate and to keep running smoothly and efficiently. It’s also an area we can easily overlook in our quest to raise our environmental know-how.

Installing faucet aerators and shopping at Whole Foods are great for our eco-consciousness but there is so much more homeowners can do to lessen their impact on the environment and to save money in the meantime.

About 30 per cent of your household energy use takes place in the kitchen. Because energy guzzling appliances are a big part of the kitchen, it’s important to rethink or relearn how to use them.

Your overall cookprint – which can be referred to as ‘the environmental impact created when you eat and cook’ – is what we need to begin shrinking. You’ve heard this term elsewhere, more likely as ‘sustainable eating’.

The oven is an energy hog or the Humvee of the kitchen. Since only six per cent of the fuel used in an average oven goes toward active cooking, try using a slow cooker or a toaster oven or even a pressure cooker for those larger meals on your cook-top instead.

Try more passive styles of cooking.

Reconsider the length of time you preheat the oven and give it a try without any preheating time at all. Consider turning the oven off 10 or 15 minutes earlier than the prescribed cooking time, which allows the food to finish cooking from heat already built up inside the oven. Try softening noodles by soaking them first in boiling water.

There are so many positive ideas we can implement, that require little to no change in how we exist within our kitchens.

Many green foodies abhor microwave ovens, but they probably don’t know that they consume far less energy than a stove. The beauty of a microwave is that it doesn’t heat up your kitchen and lead you to turn up your air conditioning. Try not to use them to defrost foods, though, because that’s simply wasteful. Thawing food overnight in your fridge is best.

Did you know that convection ovens produce 30 per cent less greenhouse gases than conventional ovens?

Many kitchen faucets are controlled by a single valve. If you leave the handle tilted to the hot side (usually the left) and turn that on, you fire up the hot water tank even when you don’t want hot water. Simply leaving it turned to the right saves energy.

Teflon cookware and single-serving containers are two of Carbon’s biggest pet peeves. Teflon is not only toxic but often poorly made and easily disposable. Single-serving containers of yogurt and individual bottles of iced tea add needless waste to our landfill sites. Consider instead brewing your iced tea at home or eating your yogurt from a bowl or lunch-box container.

Since kitchens generate the most waste of any room in the house, start by minimizing the excess packaging you purchase at the supermarket. Buy fresh, unwrapped produce, avoid buying in bulk and huge portions unless you eat in bulk or have a big family to feed. Reuse plastic bags, glass jars and packaging. And don’t forget to compost your organic waste.

The toxins that go into dishwashing soap, floor and glass cleaners, detergents and the gamut of household cleaners we use in our kitchens is frightening. There are solutions with cleaning products that are non-toxic, biodegradable and plant-based. Or consider making your own household cleaning products from such kitchen staples as baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar.

Not only will the earth thank you for it, but our grandchildren and their children will thank you.

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