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Seven Easy Ways to Green Your Kitchen
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By Contributing Editor Kristina Strain
Check out Grow and Make's Green Kitchen Guide.
If your family is like my family, the kitchen is the center of your home life. It's where the most decisions are made, where the most time is spent, and where the most meaningful interactions take place. If you're someone who's recently begun living more sustainably, or if you're itching to start, why not begin with the kitchen? This guide will show you seven simple things that will make your kitchen a greener, more enjoyable place to be.
The guiding principle behind most of the tips you're about to read is this: consuming has environmental costs. Everything, from manufacturing to packaging to shipping, costs resources and makes waste. One way to bring this idea into your everyday shopping habits is to consider an item's "life cycle" before you plunk down your bucks. Ask yourself, is this item disposable? Is its entire useful life over in two minutes of wiping up a spill-- in the case of paper towels-- or will it continue to serve its purpose for decades-- like a cast-iron pot. Bringing yourself into that mindset is probably the best overall thing you can do for the planet, right now. For the rest, break your kitchen habits into small, manageable steps with these seven basic tips.
1. Bag the bags. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this one, from reusing plastic zip baggies (check out our tutorial for making a plastic bag dryer), to keeping plastic bags out of your kitchen to start with by sewing your own cloth bags. Plastic bags are darn convenient things (let's be honest here) but they're also ubiquitous landfill-cloggers with plenty of eco-friendly alternatives. We also carry a variety of plastic bag dryers in our shop at GrowandMake.com. Ditching plastic bags-- or at least reducing your consumption-- is a great first step to making a smaller impact.
2. Start an indoor garden. Needing a pinch of basil for a recipe shouldn't require a separate trip to the store, should it? Circumvent the gas, time, and money you'd spend by using part of your kitchen real estate as growing space. It's not as involved as it sounds. Start with one of our indoor garden kits, or try your hand at growing sprouts or windowsill garlic right in your own kitchen. The trips to the store you'll save-- along with the packaging, time, and money-- will really add up over time.
3. Start composting. Though carrot peels and coffee grounds have reached the end of their "useful life" for humans, they still have plenty of use left for your houseplants or garden. Make them into fertilizer by composting. You'll not only keep these things out of the landfill (reducing your waste in the process), you'll give new life to the kitchen scraps you used to throw away. The good news: even apartment-dwellers can compost. Find what you need to know in our how to compost article. Additionally, the store at GrowandMake carries a wide array of compost solutions, some of which can be used indoors. A sleek, attractive compost pail with an activated charcoal filter will keep everything smelling sweet before you contribute your scraps to the heap.
4. Improve your appliance efficiency. Here's a tip that requires an up-front investment of a little time, as opposed to constant vigilance. Take a few simple steps to ensure you're getting the most out of your kitchen appliances. Your fridge is likely your home's biggest electricity user, and taking a few simple steps to improve its efficiency will save resources, and money. We've written a number of appliance efficiency guides here at GrowandMake: Refrigerator Efficiency Guide, Dishwasher Efficiency Guide. More to come!
5. Green your lunch. Whether you're eating out for lunch or bringing your own from home, greening your daily lunch is an easy, manageable way to make a difference each day. Skip the paper coffee cups, chip bags, and juice boxes in favor of more eco-friendly solutions. Tips like bringing a reusable water bottle or mug, using a sturdy "mess kit" for leftovers, or bringing your lunch from home can be found, in greater detail, in our handy Green Lunch Guide.
6. Ban paper towels. Even if you're using 100% recycled-content paper towels, you're still giving in to the disposable mindset. There's so many costs, even with eco-friendly towels: shipping, packaging, manufacturing. If it sounds daunting to give up paper towels cold-turkey, you can gain insight and confidence with our article. It's not as hard as it seems, and pretty soon paper towel dependence will be history.
7. Get toxics out of your kitchen. Naturally, your kitchen is the last place you'd want toxic substances, but believe it or not, there's lots to be found. The best place to start is by choosing non-toxic cleaners. Take it one step further and make your own (common ingredients: lemon, baking soda, vinegar) with our green cleaning guide. Then, read up on Teflon and learn why non-stick pans aren't the healthiest choice. Fortunately, you can find plenty of teflon alternatives in our store at GrowandMake.com.
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