The Green Kitchen: No-Cost Ways to Reduce Waste

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    tigger2
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    Being environmentally conscious isn’t just a good way to help save the planet. When we use less, we waste less, and in the process, often save ourselves money. Thirty percent of our household energy use comes from appliances, and those in the kitchen are the biggest culprits. Kate Heyhoe, author of Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen the New Green Basics Way, shares her no-cost tips for reducing your “cookprint” — the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process.

    The Hot Zone: Your Oven

    Stop using your oven
    “Ovens waste up to 95 percent of the fuel that they consume,” explains Heyhoe. Whenever possible, prepare food on your stove top, in your microwave oven, in a toaster oven or in a slow-cooker, all more energy-efficient methods.

    Cook smarter
    If you have to use your oven, try to cook multiple items at the same time. If you’re cooking a casserole, divide it between two pans so it will cook faster, and turn off the oven 10 to 15 minutes early — you’ll maintain enough heat to finish the job.

    The Cold Zone: Your Refrigerator and Freezer

    Set your fridge to the right temperature.
    The optimal temperature for your refrigerator is 37 to 40 degrees. This will keep food cool enough without wasting electricity.

    Fill it up.
    “A full freezer or refrigerator is more efficient than one that’s empty,” says Heyhoe. Fill up jugs of water and keep them in the fridge. Put extra freezer packs in the freezer to fill space.

    The Wet Zone: Your Sinks, Dishwashers and Garbage Disposals

    Wash the dishes right.
    “Dishwashers are wonderfully efficient these days,” explains Heyhoe. “Most use only 6 to 7 gallons of water per cycle, which is less than the equivalent of washing a full load of dishes in the sink.” Scrape plates instead of rinsing to conserve even more water, and run the dishwasher outside the peak hours of 4 to 8 PM.

    Forget the disposal.
    If you have a garbage disposal, don’t use it. They waste water and electricity (and fuel, too, during back and forth trips to the landfill. Compost if you can, and if you can’t, toss food scraps in with the regular trash.

    Waste not.
    Rinsing off vegetables? Do it in a tub, instead of over the drain, and use the water you collect to water plants.

    Keeping the Zones Clean

    Not all bacteria are bad.
    “We’ve become germophobic,” says Heyhoe. “We keep using antibacterial soap, and generation by generation, the bacteria are becoming immune to things that kill them.” Stick with soap and water, or:

    Make your own green cleansers.
    Mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part water and use the solution to clean countertops, ovens, refrigerators and freezers.

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