12 Simple Hacks for an Eco-Friendly Kitchen

Food waste. Energy-draining appliances. Toxic cleaning products. Your kitchen can be a very environmentally unfriendly room in your home — if you let it. Fortunately, it’s also a space in which it’s easy to go green. Here are 12 simple hacks for a more eco-friendly kitchen.

1. Switch to energy-efficient appliances

When it’s time for a new kitchen appliance, be sure to do your homework on the most energy-efficient models you can buy. For instance, refrigerators with top or bottom freezers often are more efficient than the side-by-side models, as less cold air escapes when you open the door, according to HGTV. And if you’re in the market for an oven, consider convection. “This type of oven uses a fan to drive heat rapidly from source to food so it cooks it 25 percent faster than a conventional oven,” HGTV says.

2. Conserve as you cook

Even if you have energy-efficient appliances, you still might be wasting energy. For example, cooking or reheating food in the oven when a microwave would have worked just fine uses a lot of unnecessary energy. “Even small things make a difference, such as using lids on pots to bring them to a boil faster and using as few burners as possible,” according to the DIY Network.

3. Clean with natural products

Lemon, baking soda, vinegar and salt as natural cleanersCredit: Geo-grafika/Getty Images

Choose natural cleaning products to tackle messes in your kitchen (and around the rest of your home). Natural cleaners can be just as powerful as their synthetic counterparts — but without all the toxins that are detrimental to your health and pollute the environment. Plus, if you make your own cleaning products, you’ll cut down on production and packaging waste. You might even have some ingredients already in your kitchen that can help clean it.

4. Swap paper towels for reusable rags

Towels and sponges are major sources of germs in the kitchen. So in that regard, single-use towels help to cut your risk of getting sick. But instead of turning to paper towels, choose reusable rags for a more eco-friendly approach. Have a stash of kitchen rags, such as small microfiber cloths, that you can use for one-time cleanups and then toss in a laundry basket. Once you have a full load of rags, throw them in a sanitizing wash. Yes, it’s a little less convenient, but you might be surprised by how many paper towels (and how much money) you save in the process.

5. Opt for a full dishwasher over handwashing

These days, being a dishwashing eco-warrior is as simple as filling your dishwasher, turning it on and walking away. “It may feel more virtuous to wash by hand, but it’s actually more wasteful: You use up to 27 gallons of water per load by hand versus as little as 3 gallons with an Energy Star-rated dishwasher,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. “And just scrape off the food scraps instead of rinsing each dish before you load it.”

6. Grow a kitchen herb garden

When you buy locally grown food — or better yet, grow your own at home — you’re helping the planet. “When you eat from your own garden, you eliminate the need to use fossil fuels to transport vegetables from a faraway farmer’s field to your plate,” the DIY Network says. “Even growing your own herbs on the windowsill helps; when you buy fresh herbs at the grocery store, you usually end up wasting leftovers and throwing away the plastic package.” Plus, the more plant-based your diet is, the fewer resources it takes to produce your food.

7. Buy in bulk

pantry glass jars filled with kitchen staples, including oatmeal, brown sugar and chia seeds on a shelfCredit: CameronAynSmith/Getty Images

Buying food in bulk often is better for your wallet and the environment — just as long as you actually consume the food you buy. Certain foods are usually easier to buy in bulk, thanks to their long shelf life. But it all depends on what you eat and how well you store the food. Make space in your kitchen to properly keep your bulk buys, and enjoy this simple way to do right by the planet.

8. Keep a full fridge

Sometimes your refrigerator needs a bit of help to run as efficiently as possible. For starters, keep the condenser coils free of dust and dirt. This allows the fridge to stay cool with less effort. Plus, make sure the fridge door seal is still strong. And if you don’t tend to keep much in your refrigerator, you might want to fill that space. The Kitchn recommends placing containers of water in empty fridge space to “keep things cold so your refrigerator doesn’t have to work as hard.” The containers help to reduce the amount of air transfer whenever you open the fridge door.

9. Store refrigerated food the right way

Besides maintaining the actual function of your refrigerator, how you store your food also matters for its efficiency. For instance, allowing hot food to cool (in a safe manner to prevent bacteria growth) before you store it in the fridge prevents the appliance from having to work extra hard to cool it, according to The Kitchn. Likewise, cover your food to stop it from releasing moisture. “When left uncovered, foods will leach this moisture into the air and the compressor in your refrigerator will have to work twice as hard to remove it,” The Kitchn says. And it should go without saying that storing food in reusable containers will score you major eco-friendly points.

10. Maximize efficient lighting

Bright lighting is necessary in the kitchen for safe cooking. So you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re using efficient bulbs to conserve as much energy as possible. If you haven’t already, make the switch to LED bulbs, which use less energy and last longer than standard bulbs. And don’t forget about the lights over your stove or in your fridge. Plus, maximize the natural light your kitchen gets by limiting window treatments and using bright colors that reflect light.

11. Start composting

woman using a kitchen knife to scrape fruit and vegetable waste into a compost binCredit: lucentius/Getty Images

Up your green game turning appropriate food waste into compost instead of tossing it in the trash. “It’s easy to get started with a small bin that you keep moist and mix the contents of about once a week,” Food Network says. “Then, after a few weeks, you’ll have nutrient-rich compost to perk up your garden — and much less food waste in your trashcan.” Even if you’re an apartment dweller, there are several composting options that could fit your needs.

12. Skip the full remodel

If you’re looking to renovate your kitchen, aim not to rip things down to the studs. “Think ‘refresh,’ not ‘remodel,’” DIY Network says. “New paint and updated hardware for cabinets can give you a new look without producing the landfill waste that a remodeling project generates.” Try to donate materials you don’t need anymore. And if you bring in anything new, look for sustainable options, such as countertops made from recycled materials.

Main image credit: jodiejohnson/Getty Images

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