Friday, July 19, 2013

Going Green: 9 Steps to a Greener Kitchen

As part of a "Going Green" series on this blog, I wanted to share my "9 Steps to a Greener Kitchen" article below, originally published on the Examiner website in March 2011.

 Quite literally, a green (and very cute!) kitchen.  

The kitchen is the top contender in most homes for the largest waste-producing and energy-using room of the house. However, there are many easy steps that can be taken to make the kitchen greener and reduce waste. This article will not suggest that you remodel your entire kitchen, replacing all your appliances with energy-efficient ones, and installing sustainable bamboo flooring in place of that old laminate flooring… doing so would produce even more waste and would defeat the purpose of trying to make your kitchen greener. Below is a list of easy, relatively painless changes that every household can implement to have a greener kitchen.

1. Unplug all small kitchen appliances when not in use. Why keep that coffee maker, toaster, or electric mixer plugged in when you are not using it? These appliances all use energy when plugged in, regardless of whether you are operating them. Unplug them to decrease wasted energy.

2. Use your dishwasher. Believe it or not, dishwashers actually use less energy and water than washing dishes by hand. Dishwashers typically use between 4-6 gallons of water per load, while washing by hand uses water at an average rate of 2 gallons per minute. Unless you can wash all those dishes by hand in four minutes or less, you’re better off using the dishwasher.

3. Use biodegradable products.
·         Dish soap: Most dish soaps contain ingredients that persist in the environment, polluting our waterways after being washed down the kitchen drain. Read the labels, and choose phosphate-free dish soaps with biodegradable surfactants.
·         Garbage bags: Less plastic in the landfill is always a good thing, so the next time you are purchasing garbage bags, scan the shelf for biodegradable bags, most of which are made of corn starch and are priced comparably to plastic bags.

4. Compost all food scraps, paper towels, pizza boxes, etc. Decrease the amount of garbage you take out to the curb every week by composting your food waste scraps, either in a bin provided by your waste pick-up service, or in your own backyard compost bin. If you compost your own food scraps, you’ll have the added benefit of a constant supply of fertilizer for your garden or flowerbeds. Click here to see what can be disposed of in your Waste Management yard waste bin. You might be surprised at what can be composted!

5. Buy locally-grown, in-season produce. Washington State produces a variety of great produce crops throughout the year, so why buy produce from far-flung regions such as South America? It takes a lot of energy and fossil fuels to transport that produce and keep it fresh during such a long journey. The fewer miles your food has to travel, the less energy will be used, and less pollution and greenhouse gases produced as a result. Click here to see what Washington produce is in-season now!

6. Buy food with minimal packaging, or buy in bulk and divide the food into servings yourself. Individual one-serving pre-packaged snack foods and frozen microwavable meals have a lot of unnecessary packaging that just ends up in the trash, and takes a lot of energy and fossil fuels to produce in the first place. Buy snack foods in bulk, and portion them out into reusable containers. Produce and foods prepared at home will have less packaging and waste, if any.

6. Invest in reusable food storage containers. A green kitchen should produce only a minimal amount of waste, so eliminating those plastic sandwich baggies is a must! Instead, use hard plastic or glass food storage containers that can be washed and reused… added bonus here is that your peanut butter and jelly sandwich will be much better protected against squishing in your lunch bag! There are also reusable baggies such as Lunch Skins, Snack Taxis, and Fresh Snack Packs, which can be washed and reused over and over.

7. Use cloth napkins and rags instead of paper towels. In the spirit of reducing waste, it only makes sense to use cloth napkins instead of disposable paper ones, and rags instead of paper towels. Napkins and paper towels not only add bulk to the landfills, but keep in mind that it also takes a significant amount of fossil fuels to produce them, package them, and ship them to stores. Ditch those paper plates and plastic utensils as well!

8. Use reusable grocery bags. Most stores even give you a small discount for using them.

9. Get Creative! What items in your kitchen can you recycle, repurpose, or do without altogether? How can you minimize energy use and the amount of waste/garbage your kitchen produces? Feel free to contribute ideas in the comments below!


  1. The suggestions you have provided are great reminders and so easy to follow. We've always kept our coffee maker and toaster unplugged unless we're using it. I've heard stories of plugged in appliances catching fire - even if they're not turned on - so that was reason enough for me to pull the plug. Keep on writing!!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      It's amazing how the little things can add up to make a big difference! Unplugging an appliance or switching to reusable containers doesn't seem like enough to save the planet, but if everyone started taking steps to reduce waste and decrease their energy consumption--even small steps--the results would be noticeable and our environment would be the better for it.