Cuttin’ in the kitchen

Photo: iStockphoto.com/Thomas_EyeDesign
7 tips for a lighter energy footprint

Find this article in A/J’s Food & Drink Issue!

THE KITCHEN is a great place to start greening your home. If you’re already stacked with Energy Star-certified appliances and low-flow fixtures, follow these smart and easy tips for a healthier, more conscientious space.

Choose durable, well-made cookware
Look for pieces with high heat conductivity; for instance, copper-bottom pans heat up faster than regular pans, and cast-iron pans hold heat longer so you can turn the burner off earlier. Since mining these metals can be energy and waste intensive, look for hand-me-downs or second-hand bargains. Use flat-bottomed pans – a warped-bottom pan can use 50 per cent more energy to boil water. Avoid products with harmful chemical finishes like polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). That means bye-bye, Teflon.

Size matters
Maximize your oven space by cooking more than one dish at a time, and don’t peek – the Edison Electric Institute says you lose 25˚ to 50˚F every time you open the oven door. Make large batches and freeze them in meal portions to enjoy later, and pick the best-sized stovetop burner for the job. Use a toaster oven, slow cooker or microwave for smaller dishes to reduce energy use – by up to 80 per cent, according to Energy Star.

Cook lighter
The most energy-efficient cooking requires no cooking at all – try new recipes for salads, sandwiches, cold soups, smoothies and more. Certain foods are actually more nutritious when raw, and cooking can deactivate their benefits. Fresh broccoli contains the enzyme myrosinase, which helps your liver detoxify carcinogens; raw garlic contains the DNA-protecting compound allicin. Get more raw inspiration and recipes from rawguru.com or rawmazing.com.

Reinvent recycling
Get creative with your used packaging and containers: brew your own kombucha in an old Mason jar, organize electrical cords with bread tags (so you can keep them unplugged), or scrub pots and pans (gently) with mesh bags. Or unleash your inner crafter and create a work of art – make wine bottles into tiki lamps, wooden crates into shelves or baby food jars into snow globes.

Waste not, want not
The Value Chain Management Centre estimates that 40 per cent of Canadians’ food goes to waste. Plan the week’s meals before you shop, and buy only what you need (you’ll save money, too). Get creative with food scraps. Old coffee grounds make great mulch for acid-loving plants like roses, hydrangeas and evergreens. Citrus rinds are high in citric acid; use them to polish metals. Many leftovers can actually be regrown, like celery, ginger, sweet potatoes, garlic and bok choy. Don’t have a backyard to compost your organics? For small spaces, check out vermicomposting (that’s composting with worms) or Bokashi composting (a compact indoor system).

Be water savvy
Modern dishwashers are water and energy efficient, provided you follow a few rules: scrape, but don’t pre-rinse dishes; only run the dishwasher when it’s full, and at night during off-peak electricity usage; and choose an energy-efficient setting whenever you can. If you don’t have a dishwasher, fill up two small containers in the sink – one with soapy water and one with rinse water – to avoid running the tap constantly. You can use kitchen greywater for plants: unsalted, cooled water from boiling or steaming veggies is nutrient-rich; water used for boiling eggs contains calcium (especially recommended for African violets); and diluted tea is a great fertilizer.

Switch to green cleaners
Get rid of the toxic and petroleum-based chemicals found in most commercial cleaners. Create inexpensive, versatile cleaners with all-natural ingredients like baking soda, borax, lemon juice, olive oil and white vinegar. A classic all-purpose reused spray-bottle mix: one tablespoon of baking soda, two tablespoons of vinegar, one cup of warm water and 20 drops of essential oil (recommended: lemon, peppermint or tea tree). Bonus: prolong the life of your kitchen sponge by microwaving it for one minute, effectively killing 99.99 per cent of bacteria.