Monday, December 3, 2012

Greening Your Kitchen

With all of the talk about global warming, carbon footprints and the often dire predictions associated with them, creating a greener, more eco-friendly home has finally become a more mainstream conversation. It can be difficult to visualize how small, individual changes can have much impact on such a problem of, quite literally, global proportions. But it’s those changes that really matter and many can happen right in your own kitchen.

In general, the process of growing food, getting it to the consumer, preparing it, eating it and disposing of what’s left can have an enormous impact on global warming. Who knew that we had the power to change something that has such a huge effect on the world we live in? With that in mind, here are some simple steps you can take to make that change happen today.

1. Save those scraps.
Instead of throwing away those left over vegetables, set them aside and freeze them for later. These scraps can be used to make a delicious vegetable stock for your favorite recipes.

2. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Reduce the number of disposable products you use. For example, replace paper napkins with cloth napkins at your table. Reuse products whenever possible. Aluminum foil can often be safely reused. (Never reuse foil that has been used for raw meat). Recycle paper, plastic and glass as much as possible. See how much you can reduce the amount of garbage you put out at the curb each week. You’d be surprised how easy it really is!

3. Drink Locally.
We’ve suspected this all along. The water in those plastic bottles really is no better than the water from your tap. Yet, we spend billions of dollars on bottled water and then those empty bottles are at best recycled and at worst thrown into the landfills, and those bottles will each take over 1,000 years to biodegrade.

4. Eliminate the Plastic.
Using plastic wrap to store and preserve food may be convenient but it’s a not an eco-friendly choice. Instead of reaching for the plastic wrap, start buying reusable containers to store food. Another tip: Use glass containers and your refrigerator will use less energy to keep the contents at a safe temperature.

5. Clean Green. Read those labels on your favorite cleaners. Avoid those that with harsh chemicals, bleach and phosphates. Instead, switch to more eco-friendly choices. Look for natural cleaning agents like baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and citrus oils. A good rule of thumb to use? If your home smells like a chemical plant after you’ve cleaned, chances are you’ve used products that are not only harmful to the environment but also harmful to your family’s health. Remember, real clean does not leave any traces of smell!

6. Keep the Fridge Stocked.
Your refrigerator will use less energy to keep its contents cool when it is near capacity.

7. Change the Bulbs
One of the easiest ways to green your home is to switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs. The compact fluorescent bulbs will use about 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer.

8. Look for the Energy Star
When you are in the market for a new appliance, look for a label that indicates its energy efficiency, proving that the product has been tested and approved – this ensures that you will pay less for a more effective electric appliance!

9. Precycle
Buy food in bulk whenever possible and opt for products with less packaging. Whenever possible, avoid single-serving prepackaged foods and instead create your own “single serving” and refrigerate or freeze them. Not only will you create less waste, you can prepare more healthful meals with less sodium and saturated fat. Another bonus: You have more control over food miles and where your food comes from.

10. Choose Local over Organic
Organic food choices are more available than ever and that’s a good thing. But if you have the choice between buying products from local farmers vs. organic products that were most likely trucked hundreds or thousands of miles, go local. In the long run, keeping our local farmers in business will keep us in tune with our communities and the source of our food. Bonus: That money will go to your local farmer who will, in turn, spend that money within your community. It’s a win-win!

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