These 10 tips from The Daily Green will help you makeover your kitchen with eco-friendly kitchen and cooking tips.
2. DO Make Room for Fruits & Veggies
Half of each meal should be made up of fruits and vegetables. This means you’ll likely be buying and storing a lot of these items. Be sure your crisper drawers in the fridge are ideal for making these last as long as possible. Vegetables need higher humidity while fruits need lower humidity. Also, don’t forget to stock up on seasonal fruits and vegetables when they’re on sale and freeze them for later use.
3. DON’T Buy the “Dirty Dozen”
Modern agriculture often uses loads of toxic chemicals to grow fruits and vegetables. Buying organic can be expensive, so if you need to pick and choose when to buy organic, do buy organic when it comes to celery, tree fruits (like peaches and apples), berries, sweet peppers, leafy greens and other foods that make the dirty dozen list.
4. DO Filter Your Tap Water
We hear it often, and it’s true: Tap water in the United States is about as safe as it gets, by world standards. But even if U.S. cities are blessed with well-treated water free of bacteria, chlorination produces byproducts (chloramines and trihalomethanes) that may be unhealthy. And pharmaceuticals and some other contaminants may not be filtered out, even by modern water treatment plants. Finally, 15 million Americans rely on private well water that isn’t tested for contamination.
5. DON’T Be Fooled By Marketing
When shopping, look for third-party certifications you can trust, like USDA Organic, Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance. Don’t be fooled by marketing masquerades. For instance, fact-check phrases like “made with whole grains” and “made with real fruit” against the ingredient lists, and you’ll often find whole grains behind refined white flour on the list, and that “fruit” really means “fruit juice concentrate” – a euphemism for plain-old sugar. And you may be surprised to learn that the boast of “cage-free eggs” can mean that chickens were given as little five minutes a day of of access to a concrete pen outdoors.
6. DON’T Use Non-Stick Cookware
While super-convenient and easy to clean, most nonstick cookware is made with chemicals that can degrade at high temperatures; after entering the air in the kitchen, they’ve been known to build up to levels high enough to kill pet birds. Scratched-up pans are also more likely to leach chemicals into your food. Aluminum, too, can leach into foods if you cook acidic foods like lemon- or tomato-based sauces. Better options include:
- Stainless steel and “clad”
- cast iron (unseasoned)
- anodized aluminum
- glass and porcelain
7. DO Choose Fish and Meat Carefully
A rule of thumb for green eating is to eat low on the food chain: more fruits, vegetables, grains and beans than chickens, cows and hogs. Surprisingly, raising livestock, both in practice and because around the world it involves clear-cutting forests for pasture, is one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond that, generally the smaller the animal, the less environmentally intensive it is to raise for food; a chicken requires less feed and water than a cow to produce a pound of meat. Delving deeper, choosing humanely raised, organic meats ensures that artificial hormones, antibiotics, toxic pesticides or inhumane conditions aren’t a part of your diet.
For fish, choosing wisely is difficult: Many popular species, like tuna and swordfish tend to be contaminated with mercury, PCBs and other toxic chemicals; some farm-raised species (tilapia and barramundi) tend to be raised sustainably, while others (salmon) tend not to be. Meanwhile, some wild-caught fish are harvested sustainably (wild Alaskan salmon, Arctic char), but a great many (Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna) are not.
8. DO Compost
Now that you’re eating more vegetables, you’re probably creating more veggie scraps. Don’t throw them in the garbage, where they’ll just sit and stink: Compost them instead. Composting is a natural process that transforms organic wastes like vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, eggshells and yard waste like grass clippings and leaves into rich, nutrient-dense earth – perfect for potting plants, gardening or fertilizing the lawn. Of course, this is easier done if you have the luxury of a yard, but there have been great innovations in odorless composting indoors, if you can tolerate the thought of a worm bin. You may even be fortunate enough to live in a city that accepts compostable scraps along with household waste and recyclables at the curb. Whatever your method, try to compost as much as possible, because you’ll both cut down on your waste and produce gardener’s gold: Free fertilized soil.
9. DON’T Pollute Your Indoor Air
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air can be as much as five-times more polluted than the air outdoors. Several potential sources of indoor air pollution originate in the kitchen, so be mindful and you can prevent asthma attacks or other more serious lung illnesses. Some common sources of indoor air pollution in the kitchen include:
- gas ranges (make sure they’re properly vented)
- cleansers (choose nontoxic, green options, or make your own)
- newly installed cabinetry (steer clear of particle board containing formaldehyde glues if you’re remodeling)
- paints (choose low- or no-VOC paints, and be wary of lead-based paint lingering in older homes)
- pesticides (use nontoxic alternatives and integrated pest management)
10. DO Buy Energy Star Appliances and Use them Wisely
Refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens can be among the biggest energy hogs in the house, costing you every time they’re in use. When the time comes to replace older appliances, choose Energy Star-labeled options so you know that you’re buying a product that uses relatively little energy – and costs you relatively little to run. (When facing a big purchase, we tend to be good at comparing sticker prices, but bad at considering the long-term costs of ownership.) When using kitchen appliances, use them wisely:
- Use the smallest cooking device for the job: A microwave is the most energy-efficient cooking option, for instance, and a toaster oven is more efficient than an oven.
- Don’t run your dishwasher unless it’s full, and choose the economy setting to reduce its water and energy use.
- Particularly if it’s the height of summer, run appliances at night when demand for electricity is lower and power plants have excess capacity.
Organic Food is the Way to Go