We did it! We survived the dreaded end of the Mayan Calendar.
We lived to tell the tale but now what? Here we are on the cusp of a new year and a fresh start. NOW is the time to motivate yourself to make those little changes that will make a big impact for 2013.
Last week as we prepared for the end of the world, we talked about some tips on getting your home green. This week, we zone in on getting our kitchen green.
Skip the non-stick
Non-stick pans are coated with with polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), aka Teflon which can break down when heated, releasing toxic fumes and particles. These fumes are part of the perfluorinated chemical “family” (PFC’s) and are considered a danger to our health and the manufacturing process of this coating also causes environmental hazzards so they are best avoided. PFC’s are also widely used in many everyday products like microwave popcorn and paper plates. If you want to learn how to avoid them, visit EWG’s Guide to PFCs for a list of products that contain PFCs.
I know, I know, you love your non-stick pan but before you swear off cooking forever consider these alternatives.
- Stainless steel is a popular one because of its ability to brown food better than non-stick surfaces since you can cook at a much higher temperatures (most can go in your oven as well!)
- Cast iron is another great alternative to non-stick pans and is extremely durable, sometimes lasting through generations of cooks! Like stainless steel, these pans can be heated to much higher temperatures than non-stick and can safely be placed in the oven.
- For baking, use glass or ceramic pans. Not only are they safer to use but they also conserve energy. Since they warm up quicker and retain heat longer than their metal counterparts, oven temperatures can be lowered by 25 degrees without changing bake time….bonus!
Skip the plastics
Small amounts of toxic chemicals like BPA and phthalates can leach into food and liquids when stored in plastic containers. This is especially true when reheating food in a microwave. Even if the plastic container is considered BPA Free or Microwave Safe your best bet is to completely avoid these chemicals completely by storing and re-heating your food using ceramic or glass food containers (e.g.Pyrex).
Keep your cool
Every time you open your freezer, the cold air escapes and warm air is introduced. Most of the energy your freezer uses goes towards cooling this warm air down. If you keep your freezer well stocked, less warm air can enter and whatever does enter will be partially cooled down by the freezer’s contents. If you can’t fill your freezer up with food, consider filling the void with newspaper, bags of shipping peanuts, bags, containers or milk jugs filled with water or even bags of ice. When filling your freezer make sure it is defrosted and dry. Place the non-food, void fillers in the middle and keep your food items in the front/sides where they can be grabbed quickly, keeping about an inch or two of space from the top and walls. This will help the thermostat work properly.Fill your fridge using the tips above and add few more steps to ensure maximum efficiency.
- Keep food covered. Your fridge’s compressor works harder if there is moisture inside of it. Covered food reduces your refrigerator’s carbon footprint.
- Clean your compressor coils annually. (see your manual for cleaning recommendations.
- Keep the correct temperature. 35 F to 40 F is considered optimum run temperature for a fridge (see your manual for manufacturer’s recommendations0
- Check the seals To test, close the door on a strip of paper and see how easy it is to pull out. If it slides out easily, your refrigerator door is probably leaking cold air.
- Move your fridge Keeping it out of direct sunlight and away from your stove ensures it doesn’t have to work as hard.
Avoid dishpan hands
Washing a load of dishes in a dishwasher uses about 37% less water than washing dishes by hand. A new, Energy Star qualified dishwasher will save, on average, 1,300 gallons of water over its lifetime. To save even more energy and resources:
- Replace your dishwasher if its more than 10 years old
- Skip the heat-drying option
- Run the washer only when it’s full
- Don’t prerinse in the sink.
Bring your own baggage
Each year the United States consumes 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper grocery bags only to end up in our landfills. Next time you go to the store, BYOB and keep all that plastic out of our landfills. Some stores will even give consumers incentives like a few cents off when you bring your own re-usuable totes. If you are like me and need some help remembering to actually BRING them to the store, check out 10 ways to remember your bags
These are just a few of the many changes you can make to go green in 2013. Little changes equal BIG impact. Have a happy, healthy GREEN New Year!!