How to go Green with Silv: Room by Room Challenge - Part I by Silvia Milanova, February 01 2012, 0 Comments

Photo courtesy of Alan Crawford via Flickr.

As the New Year is well underway now, some New Year’s resolutions are slowly dissipating from people’s plans, as others are taking permanent residence. If hitting the gym six days a week didn’t work out for you—no pun intended—why not vow to be greener instead, and re-vamp your house into a more efficient, green machine? It’s possible, even if you just change some little things, from room to room.

Each month, we will focus on one room in your house and give you tips and easy-to-follow steps on how to make it more eco friendly and energy efficient, which can save you money and help preserve the environment. This month, we will focus on your kitchen.

'Cooking' green

1) Re-think your pots and pans—some cookware may contain metals, like chromium and nickel, which may leak into your food while you’re sautéing and frying. Instead of buying pots and pans made from a mixture of metals, invest in anodized aluminum cookware, made by a process that locks in the aluminum and prevents leakage. One popular maker is Calphalon. Other alternatives are also cast iron and ceramic cookware; both safer than mixed metal options.

2) Stop using disposables—limit your disposable utensil, dish and cup use. These one-time use products are very wasteful and harmful to the environment, as they end up in either landfills, where they take (many) years to break down, or the ocean, where they add on to the Atlantic or Pacific Garbage Patch. Instead, use glass or ceramic plates, cups and bowls, and metal utensils, and invest in a dishwasher, which actually saves water when cleaning your ‘reusables’.

3) Choose glass over plastic—if you’ve been transferring leftovers into plastic containers, think about buying glass ones instead. When heating food in plastic, Bisphenol A (BPA), may leach into your food. This toxin is known to increase the risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, liver and reproductive system problems. Use glass containers to stash your leftovers, to ensure that they stay not only yummy, but also safe to eat.

4) Use eco friendly materials—when purchasing tablecloths, setting mats, furniture and even cabinets, look for eco-friendly materials such as hemp or bamboo for tablecloths, and recycled wood for furniture and cabinets. Countertops can also look extra glamorous with shiny, recycled glass, or steel. The same could be said for the floor - if you are looking to renovate, look for recycled tiles or wood, or again bamboo, which is renewable, and can be just as durable as hardwood flooring if manufactured properly.

5) Eliminate bags—very simple, just bring home groceries in reusable bags. This eliminates plastic waste and extra trips to the store, just to recycle your old bags. Want to go beyond that? Use biodegradable trash bags, too. Or better yet, compost your ‘trash’.

6) Clean green—when cleaning your kitchen, use eco friendly detergents that use plant-based cleaning power. Or better yet, make your own. Here are some easy tips and ideas. Also when cleaning, make sure you're not letting the water run while scrubbing or rinsing countertops and other surfaces. If you can afford it, install a low-flow faucet to ensure that clean, unused water is not being washed down the drain for no reason. This will also save you water and money while washing your dishes, if you don't own a dishwasher.

7) Create a windowsill garden—need basil for your pesto? No problem. Just reach and grab some from your own garden; your windowsill garden that is. Growing herbs such as basil (full sun), cilantro and parsley (light sun), is one of the easiest ways to save money and flavor your meals.

8) Invest in 'green' appliancesis your oven in need of a replacement? When purchasing a new oven, refrigerator or dishwasher, look for appliances that have the Energy Star seal of approval. This warranties that the appliance has been reviewed and labeled as "green"thus using less energy/water. Also, check your refrigerator for leaks and suction around the door. You want to make sure that the door is tightly shut and closed at all times, so cold air doesn't escape. This way, the refrigerator won't have to work overtime to cool your food down.

One quick tip: when cooking hot dishes, allow time for them to cool before putting them in the refrigerator. Hot pots and plates force your appliance to work extra hard to cool something that is extremely hot—once again using more energy and draining your wallet. What else saves you money? Turning off appliances when not in use. Microwaves, toasters, dishwashers and blenders, especially, don't have to be on all of the time if you don't use them numerous times a day.

Have more tips and ideas for keeping your kitchen green? Please share them with us!