See our great Peach and Blueberry Shortcake recipe to help you celebrate Earth Day!
The arrival of Earth Day on April 22 makes now an ideal time to review some relatively simple ways we can all make our kitchens greener.
The Green Hot wave was identified by CultureWavesâ„¢ trendspotters several years ago and the wave has certainly gone mainstream during the past 12 to 18 months. We’ve now all heard about our carbon footprint and melting glaciers, and it’s reached a point where a tote bag carried into the supermarket has become a new green status symbol. â€˜Greenâ€™ is a full-fledged movement and it’s here to stay.
Being The Food Channel, we’re going to keep this â€˜Earthy Dozenâ€™ food-related, as we try to help you make your kitchen more earth-friendly.
1. Plant a garden. What could be more sustainable than growing your own food? Tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, peppers and so many more wonderful vegetables can be easily harvested out of your own backyard. It’s good exercise, gives you a chance to get some fresh air, and if you grow more than you can consume, you can share it with your neighbors and become better friends. If your yard is too small or you live in an apartment or condo, you can still grow patio vegetable plants, or grow fresh herbs indoors.
2. Use appliances more efficiently. If you’re thinking about remodeling, look for appliances with the Energy Star sticker. The refrigerator is one of the home’s major users of energy. Those that have been built since July, 2001 have more efficient standards. Use the water- and energy-saving settings on your appliances as much as possible. Wait until the dishwasher is full before running it. And if it breaks down, fix it, rather than throwing it out and buying a new one.
3. Use compact fluorescent lighting. CFL bulbs can really cut down on your utility bill. They’re 75% more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. Yes, they cost a bit more, but they last much longer. We all know what a pain it is to replace the bulb in the refrigerator. LED lights are another energy-efficient choice.
4. Ditch the plastic water bottles. Americans buy more than 8 billion gallons of bottled water and some 22 billion empty plastic water bottles are thrown away each year, according to National Geographic magazine. If you really can’t stand using plain old tap water, get a filter, such as Brita, and fill up a reusable neoprene bottle for your H2O to go.
5. Buy from the produce bin. Try to avoid products with excess packaging. Instead of picking up the veggies that are sealed (and sometimes re-sealed) in plastic packaging, buy the stuff right out of the bins. You can purchase only what you need that way, too, so there’s likely to be less waste. Instead of buying the bagged lettuce every time, buy a head of lettuce or two, and chop it up the way you like it.
6. Buy locally grown. If there’s a farmers market near you, support those local growers. Their fruits and vegetables will be fresher, better tasting and better for the environment. Produce that is flown or trucked to your store results in greenhouse gas pollution. According to figures from the National Resources Defense Council, most produce in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles before being sold. If you don’t live close to a farmers market, ask your local supermarket to stock more locally grown products in season.
7. Use reusables, not disposables. Keep the use of paper plates, napkins and plastic silverware to a minimum, if at all. Buy some nice cloth napkins, and use real dishes, glasses and flatware. It adds more class to your table and less waste to the landfill.
8. Neither paper nor plastic. Bring your own shopping tote bags to the market. According to National Geographic, 500 billion plastic bags are used per year worldwide, and it takes a lot of trees to create all the paper bags we use. Plus, you’ll be a good green role model, and you won’t have to deal with that tiresome question at the checkout counter.
9. Conserve water. You can do easy things like waiting till the dishwasher is full before using, and feeding excess water to your houseplants instead of pouring it down the drain. And it’s not really that hard to install a tap aerator to your kitchen faucet, which will reduce the flow by 50 to 75%.
10. Clean green. Use reusable microfiber cloth towels instead of paper towels and clean with earth-friendly cleaning solutions. But read labels carefully. Linda Chipperfield is V.P. of marketing for Green Sealâ„¢, the largest U.S.-based ecolabeling organization. Green Seal provides independent, science-based guidance to manufacturers and consumers. Chipperfield says it’s not always easy to tell which cleaning products really are earth-friendly. “There are a lot of green claims being made out there today, and many are unsubstantiated,â€™ she says. Look for the Green Seal logo on the package, she advises, and watch out for ingredients such as phosphates, formaldehyde, and chlorine. â€˜Hydrogen peroxide, for example, is a better-for-the-planet cleaning agent than chlorine,â€™ Chipperfield says. â€˜Nonylphenol ethers (NPE’s) are other ingredients to watch out for,â€™ she says, â€˜and avoid products with warnings about toxins or hazardous substances.â€™
11. Eat more veggies, less meat. Cattle-rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases than driving cars, according to a 2006 study by the United Nations. Cattle raising is also a major source of land and water degradation. And plenty of studies have shown that consuming less meat and more fruits and vegetables is a healthier way to go.
12. Eat more home-cooked meals. Dining out frequently involves lots of disposable packaging and utensils. Not to mention the gasoline you’ll burn getting there. You’ll put less pollution into the air, and probably healthier foods into your body when you’re eating home cooking. When you do go out, try to patronize establishments that serve locally grown foods, and that minimize the use of disposables.
Also see our Plant a Fruit Tree article!
Got other earth-friendly ideas you’d like to suggest? Send them to Editor.