Please note that many of these articles were originally written for the old GB Wildlife site in between 2008 – 2010 and organisations may have changed since then.
Eco-Living – Green Kitchen
The kitchen is at the heart of family life, where all the meals are prepared and where everyone gathers at the beginning and end of the day. This room is also where the majority of the household’s waste is created and a large amount of energy and water is consumed. Making a few adjustments to the way in which we use our appliances and the space in our kitchen we can big savings and reduce our environmental impact too.
Locate your fridge and freezer in the coolest part of your kitchen and make sure the coils are kept clean and are well ventilated. Food is easier to keep cool than air, so keeping your fridge two thirds full is more energy efficient. Cool air can leak through the door if the seals are not tight – check by closing the door on a five pound note – if you can pull it out easily, the seal needs to be stronger. When replacing appliances, freecycle the old model or take it to your local recycling centre, and look for an energy efficient model, rated A+. Ask for a product that uses Greenfreeze technology, an ozone friendly cooling agent.
A gas hob is more energy efficient than an electric one and it costs half as much to cook using gas as it does with electric. If you need to use electricity, consider a model with induction hotplates, which are around 30% more efficient than standard ones. When cooking on the hob, always use lids on saucepans, turn the heat off halfway through and allow the retained heat to finish off the cooking. One pot cooking is a great way of reducing energy use, borrow some inspiring recipe books from the library.
About 8% of water usage occurs in the kitchen. Some people advocate a dishwasher to use water more efficiently but with the embedded energy use in manufacture, maintenance and disposal of the machine I don’t think this is the case. Besides washing up can be a time for reflection and even a Buddhist practice according to Thich Nat Hanh. When washing dishes, rinse everything in a bowl of cold water first. This water can be used on an established area of the garden. Use a washing up bowl rather than filling the whole sink. Choose eco friendly cleaning products to avoid contaminating local waterways such as those available at www.suma.coop.
Keep the amount of food packaging that you bring into your home to a minimum and then you don’t have to worry about how to recycle it. Buy loose produce and take your own cotton bags when shopping. Choose a vegetable box scheme and you’ll reduce the packaging waste still further. Reuse as much as you can – jars, bottle and plastic containers are handy for all sort of household uses. Compost all green waste and if possible cooked food waste (using a bokashi system) or Food Waste Digestion System.
Inside your kitchen cupboards you’ll find many useful ingredients for cleaning. For example, in the case of a blocked drain, enlist the help of baking soda – make up a solution of boiling water, baking soda, vinegar and salt, tip it down the sink and use a plunger. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral and can be used as an antibacterial cleaner on surfaces and also to rid the fridge of unwanted smells. Bicarbonate of soda can be used to clean the sink, a soapnut solution to clean the floor and a paste of baking soda and water to clean even the most encrusted oven. A green cleaning cloth is a worthwhile allie – the thousands of tiny fibres pick up dirt using only water and precluding the need for soaps or detergents. See www.enjo.com or eco-cover products.
MAKE A CUPPA
Almost all of us own a kettle and generally speaking they are the most effective method of heating a small amount of water. But we can still make improvements. According to the Energy Saving Trust if we all just boiled the amount we needed it would save enough energy over a year to light the UK’s streetlamps for seven months! Use a cup to measure out the amount that you need. If there is any surplus, use it to clean a surface or do a spot of washing up. When replacing an old model, look for an eco kettle – these can save around 30% in energy usage. See ecokettle.com for more info. Alternatively an investment purchase is the Quooker, an energy efficient boiling water tap that fixes onto a standard sink.
When choosing cookware it is best to look for the best quality product that will give the most use. Opt for cast iron or stainless steel and your pans could even outlive you! Where possible avoid non-stick products coated with Teflon as research has shown that when heated to very high temperatures these can release toxic gases. However over at www.green-pan.com they have created a range of pans that are coated with a lining made from sand and water.
A number of innovative products are coming onto the market, using strawboard (a recycled straw particle board) or recycled yoghurt pots to create a stylish kitchen unit. The recycled plastic worksurfaces are surprisingly durable and also stain resistant. See ecokitchensonline.com for more information including FSC wood kitchens, finished using non-VOC wood stain. Find handcrafted sinks at www.shawsofdarwen.com
Most items on our supermarket shelves travel 1000 miles to their final destination. In choose local food you can support the local economy and avoid unnecessary food miles and the resulting carbon emissions. Try farmers markets or farm shops (www.bigbarn.co.uk) to find produce that is grown locally land is in season. This means that you eat a healthier diet and invariably it costs less too.
Melissa Corkhill editor of The Green Parent magazine and author of two books on green living will be writing monthly articles for GBWildlife.co.uk She lives in rural Sussex surrounded by woodland and wildlife and is passionate about environmental issues.
The Green Parent magazine makes is an excellent, interesting subscription magazine and makes a lovely gift. You'll find lots of information and inspiration here, whether you want to read articles on natural parenting or try out guilt-free shopping. This gorgeous magazine covers all aspects of family life from birth to alternative education, eco house and garden to nutrition.