Being eco-conscious is no longer just a hobby or a trend practiced by so-called “hippies”. It has become a lifestyle led by all types of individuals across the globe. Need proof? Just look at how many people are eager to roll out the welcome matt for “green” and ensure that their home is as environmentally friendly as possible. There are magazines, blogs, websites, and television shows all dedicated to the cause.
However, when faced with the steps that are hyped in the media, it’s all too easy to feel inadequate in terms of what you’re doing. After all, there are a lot of eco-friendly tips out there, many of which require time and money. Don’t get discouraged! First, always remember that no gesture is too small when it comes to protecting the environment; second, there are plenty of easy things you can do to bring some green into your home.
When it comes to your kitchen here are some quick and relatively easy projects to try your hand at:
Rearrange your appliances. If your refrigerator or oven is next to a window or each other, take some time to rearrange them. These appliances (especially the refrigerator) consume a lot of energy, and when they are right next to each other (or a window) they have to work harder to maintain their temperature.
Make sure the lighting is right. It probably comes as no surprise, but overhead lights can really suck up energy and generate heat. Try replacing traditional bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They use less energy and create less heat. You can also go au naturale – meaning skip the electricity and rely on natural light. If your kitchen feels a little dim, try:
- Scrubbing the windows inside and out.
- Removing anything that may block light such as shrubs, knick-knacks, or curtains.
- Creating a workspace near the window; for instance, purchase a butchers block or portable island. If you’re on a budget, you can repurpose a bookshelf – just clean it up and stick it under (or near) the window. Use the shelves for storage, and place a cutting board on top so you can prep food there.
Whenever possible, conserve water. There are a lot of things you can do in your kitchen to save water; a lot of them are simple and fairly obvious such as using less pressure (not turning the faucet on as much) and not leaving the water running unless you have to. Other options include:
- Reusing water. If you use water to cook paste (or anything) don’t just dump it down the drain when you’re done. Pour the water into a bucket or some other container and use it to water your flowers later on. Think creatively about how you can use water for multiple purposes.
- Installing an aerator to cut water usage. Do a quick Google search or visit your local hardware store to get instructions on how to complete this DIY project.
Add a new coat of paint. Want to do something green for your kitchen that will also make it look new again? Try buying some environmentally friendly (low VOCs) paint and giving the room a coat or two.
Use natural cleaning products. One project you can undertake that will not only help your kitchen be a little greener but also protect your family from harsh chemicals is to make your own cleaning products. There are tons of recipes online for all kinds of different cleaners. Do a little homework and look for reviews before getting started!
Add a recycle and compost bin. Do a little organizing in your kitchen and make room for a recycle bin and compost bin near your trash can. That way, when you’re disposing of something you have all the options right in front of you. To make this more convenient, add casters (wheels) to your three bins so you can move them around the kitchen or house with you. Here’s a great guide on selecting the best caster for the job.
Check the seal. As mentioned above, the refrigerator can be a real energy hog! If you don’t have the money to upgrade to the latest Energy Star appliance, you can still ensure that your current model is as energy efficient as possible. Using a dollar bill (or bill of any denomination) test the seal on your refrigerator and freezer. Place the bill between the refrigerator and door and close the door. If the bill stays in place you’re seal is fine. If it slides down or falls out you need to replace your seal. Repeat this test with the freezer.
Going green in your kitchen doesn’t require an extensive budget, vast amounts of time, or a complete overhaul of the space. There are plenty of quick and easy projects you can undertake that will make your kitchen environmentally friendly. Think outside the box on how to conserve, reduce, reuse, and recycle, and always remember that every gesture (no matter how small) helps.
Author: Lindsey Brickell
Photo credits: Eichlers in the San Mateo Highlands by Thomasfj, This little light of mine by Michael W. May, Corporate YAWT by Guerrilla Futures / Jason Tester (Note: shows three separate bins: trash, compost, recycle)