How to make your kitchen eco-friendly? It’s the heart of your home where friends and family congregate. But, it’s also where your energy consumption can be highest. To make your kitchen a whole lot greener, try these 18 sustainable kitchen ideas to save water and energy and reduce toxins in the environment.
What steps could you take at home to assure more eco friendly cooking? Steps to take at home to assure a more eco friendly kitchen include:
- Adopt one-pot cooking
- Buy Earth friendly products
- Be water wise
- Be energy wise
- Be aware of food wastage
- Say ‘no’ to toxins
- Say ‘no’ to plastics
…for how to make a kitchen more eco friendly and budget-wise!
1. Conserving Water
Steaming acts to lock in the flavor and goodness of foods, as well as conserve precious water and energy costs. This style of cooking suits vegetables, fish, chicken, shellfish, and certain Asian foods.
Some steamers sit on top of a pot containing food to steam your vegetables or other foods. This is an efficient way of cooking, as it saves on water and energy consumption since it only uses the heat from one stovetop element.
Another type of steamer is an insert that you place inside an empty pot with just enough water to steam the vegetables or foods placed in the steamer. The steamer sits above the water. You can get ones like these that fold and are compact for storing in your kitchen drawer.
Tip: you don’t need to cover the vegetables. Just add an inch or less of water, but make sure lid is on, and avoid high heat.
Extra tip: Cool any excess water after cooking the vegetables and keep for use as stock or to water your plants as it holds plenty of nutrients.
Another — when cooking rice in a pot on the stove, you’ll conserve water by using the absorption method vs boiling.
2. Save the Earth — Invest in Eco-Friendly Kitchen Ware
When replacing or buying new cookware or kitchenware think of the possible production, use, or discard costs to the environment, e.g., in water or energy consumption or toxins released.
Some things to consider…
- Is the product versatile? Being able to be taken from stovetop to oven, to the table for serving, and to the refrigerator for storage in the same pot for tomorrow’s reheating will save extra outlay.
- Is it recyclable? What about the manufacturing process? Some brands, such as Xtrema, recycle the water used during manufacture.
- Are there toxins potentially emitted from the product when heated or in production? Consider pots and pans that are free from toxins, e.g., PFTE and PFOA (I included the reasons to avoid these here).
If you prefer nonstick cookware, consider the ceramic coated type, which is PFTE and PFOA free.
Otherwise, check out my article on 100% ceramic cookware, for products made of material that is pure (no toxins), versatile, and should last you a lifetime with care.
Also good are stainless steel and cast iron cookware. I have an article on the benefits of cast iron skillets and review popular choices.
3. Save Water – Use Lids
Using lids on saucepans when boiling or steaming will prevent heat loss and save energy consumption and costs. Once the liquid in the pan starts boiling turn the heat down to low. With the lid on, it will simmer away nicely.
4. Save Energy – Right Sized Pan / Cooking Element
Having pots and pans match the burner of the stovetop will maximize energy efficiency and save energy consumption.
5. Clean Away Burnt Food
Keeping cooktops in good working order also maximizes energy efficiency.
6. Consider One-Pot Cooking
Stews or pot roasts require only one cooking element. Also, using a steamer that stacks on top of another pot will reduce the use of cooking elements, as I mentioned above.
7. Cool Food Before Freezing
You may have left overs from a meal done in the slow cooker that you intend freezing. Allowing this cooked food to cool first will reduce the energy requirements of the freezer.
8. Fill Kettles and Electric Jugs Just Enough for Your Needs
When heating water, fill the kettle or other container you’re using only to the level that equals the amount of water you need. This is smart because it conserves energy usage in heating water you are not going to use.
In countries with high voltage, e.g., 230 volt or above, such as in the UK, most of Europe, and Australia (compared to 120v in the US), it is best to boil water in an electric jug appliance. Because of the high voltage, this is more efficient than using the stovetop. In which case, when using it, make sure the electric kettle can turn itself off.
9. Refrain From Opening Your Oven Door
When baking or roasting, you’ll cook more efficiently if you refrain from opening the oven door.
Try setting a timer according to the cooking instructions.
Having ovens with timers, clear view doors, and internal lights will help with checking the state of the roasting and the baking dishes.
By refraining from opening the oven door as much as possible you’ll prevent heat loss and conserve energy consumption.
10. Efficient Use – Refrigerators and Freezers
Apart from buying new appliances with energy saving star ratings, you can form a few eco friendly habits with using refrigerators and freezers.
Refrain from unnecessary opening
Each time you open a fridge or freezer door cold air escapes and the appliance then needs to work to re-establish the temperature setting. This means it uses extra energy than needed.
Keep your refrigerators/freezers in good working order
Here’s the deal…Defrost regularly. Although, modern models are usually self-defrosting and you may not have this issue.
Nonetheless, frost should not be more than 6 mm deep. Another smart move is to repair broken seals to reduce energy leakage.
Extra Tip: If a piece of paper placed between the door and the seal moves in and out easily, the seal isn’t working. Check whether the door might need adjusting or if not, replace seals.
11. Have a Drink Dispenser on the Bench
Fill it with iced-water in summer. Add slices of lemon for refreshment.
A large container of cool water saves on energy loss with repeated refrigerator opening.
Everyone loves the easy access to refreshments during hot weather. Great with visitors or children.
Just the thing for entertaining.
Drink dispensers with a spigot for easy access are ideal.
12. Use Smaller Appliances
Here are some examples of how to do this, to save on energy costs…
In countries where voltage is high enough, use toasters instead of the stovetop or grill to toast bread and buns.
In slicing foods, use manual knives that stay sharp for longer rather than electric knives where suited.
13. Turn Off Lights on Leaving the Room
Make turning off lights, when not in use, a habit in your kitchen.
14. Wait Until the Dishwasher is Full Before Running
It’s more water-efficient to run a full load rather than multiple smaller ones. Keep your dishwasher in good working order to save having to redo the load and also to conserve energy usage.
Clean the filter of the dishwasher regularly, is another tip.
15. Use Timers on Appliances
Use timers to save burning your stuff and having to do it again! darn. You will not only avoid overcooking but also save on energy use by using timers.
16. Avoid harsh cleaners
Keep your kitchen sparkling using ways to clean that are more eco friendly. Harsh cleaners often contain chemicals that can harm the environment, especially once they get into the waterways.
Here are a few cleaning tips I’ve accrued from sources with this in mind:
Microwave steam clean: Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice into a cup or two of water in a microwavable bowl. Place it in the microwave. Heat to bring the water to boil. Let sit so the steam goes to work. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the inside walls (Source: Woman’s Day Home Hacks).
De-gunk a sponge: Place it beside the bowl in the microwave when you do the above treatment.
Oven: Use distilled white vinegar and baking soda instead of those harsh cleaners. First, remove racks, trays, and all else that’s removable. Make a paste of the baking soda and water (just a few tablespoons and about 1/2 cup of water). Use rubber gloves. Coat the oven interior with this paste working around the heating elements. Leave to dry overnight or several hours at least. Then wipe the gunk away with a damp cloth. Use a rubber spatula if you need to scrape any stubborn bits. Then spray down with the vinegar. Continue wiping and spraying until the cleaning shows no more signs of grime. You’re done! (Source: Woman’s Day Home Hacks).
Dishwasher: Once again using vinegar and baking soda, we’re giving the dishwasher a regular clean to get rid of odors and grime. Use a dishwasher safe bowl and place it in the top rack facing upwards. Fill it with plain white vinegar and then run the dishwasher on the hottest setting. After you’re done, sprinkle baking soda inside over the bottom of the dishwasher. Then run it on a short cycle. (Source: Woman’s Day Home Hacks).
Refrigerator: To rid odors, place a small container with baking soda on one of the shelves. The baking soda absorbs odors, so you don’t get that tainted taste in other foods or unpleasant whiff on opening the door.
17. Plan ahead and avoid food wastage
Food production is important, but it takes a lot of resources in the way of water, area of land, use of agrochemicals, and transportation, which all leave a footprint on the environment. Thus, an eco friendly kitchen avoids adding to this cost to the environment by avoiding food wastage.
Use both a shopping list and a meal list and you’ll find you’ll avoid food spoiling in your refrigerator and food going to waste. This helps the budget conscious also.
Freeze left overs for later or repurpose them for the next meal. There are recipe books devoted purely to using left overs that might inspire you here.
Compost organic waste
One of the ways to make your kitchen more sustainable is to compost your kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable scraps only). A small ceramic compost bin for the kitchen bench is a perfect solution for collecting compostable scraps as you prepare fruit and vegetables for your family meal.
If you’re worried about odors, look for an indoor compost bin that has a charcoal filter, which will eliminate this problem.
18. Reduce the use of plastics
Avoiding single-use plastic containers and utensils is an important move if you’re wanting to know how to make a kitchen more eco friendly.
Not only can you not reuse these but they’re also not recyclable and so end up in landfills, our oceans and waterways and become the micro-plastics that end up in our food web.
Their manufacture requires the use of toxic chemicals that potentially impact animal life.
A better alternative is to use reusable containers made of ceramic or stainless steel or products made from sustainable bamboo.
Reusable shopping and produce bags are also ecofriendly.
Final Thoughts on Eco Friendly Kitchen Ideas
For one reason or another, our kitchens become a place of sharing wisdom and stories – sometimes over a cup of tea, coffee, or a glass of wine. Taking steps to reduce consumption, even small ones, and making them everyday habits can contribute overall to not only your budget but the wellbeing of the planet for tomorrow.
If you are wanting to know more, you can measure the impact of our energy use on the environment here at USEPA. There is also a section on reducing your impact.