5 Eco-Friendly Kitchen Tips from a Chef

by | Updated: April 11th, 2017 | Read time: 4 minutes

Living a greener lifestyle means making Earth-friendly choices in many areas of our lives, from the cars we drive to the mattresses we sleep on to the household products we purchase—and the bags we use to tote them home! Many of us already are aware that food choices can make a difference. Buying local, in-season and organic foods, and supporting food companies that use sustainable manufacturing practices, are important ways we can all support the well-being of the environment.

Woman Arranging Plates in Dishwasher | Vitacost.com/Blog

Beyond our plates, there are other habits we can adopt to create a more eco-friendly kitchen. Remember: every small, consistent change you make in your daily actions can lead up to a big impact over time. Here are a few simple suggestions to get started.

1. Plan your weekly meals

According to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Americans throw away approximately $165 billion worth of food each year, and for the average American family, that can be up to $2,200 per household.” 

Having a meal plan can greatly reduce food waste due to overbuying, especially for those perishable items that tend to get lost in the back of the refrigerator. 

Set aside a few hours during the week to clean and prep vegetables, make a soup or stew, marinate some chicken to cook later in the week and package a few meals to store away in your freezer.

Cooking in bulk can be a big time and energy saver. When you turn on your oven, cook more than one thing at a time. Put aside that extra casserole for later in the week, and reheat it in a smaller, more energy-efficient toaster oven.

2. Review your water usage

Water is something many of us take for granted, we turn on the tap it’s just there. How many times have you left the water running to thaw out food or fill up a pot—or turned on the dishwasher when it was only half full? It’s time to change those habits!

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home, with approximately 70 percent of water use occurring inside the house.

There are several things you can do to start conserving water at home. First, make it a goal to use only what you need! It can be helpful to post a sign near the sink to help family remembers to turn off the faucet when it’s not in use. For scrubbing and washing produce, fill a bowl rather than keeping the tap running while you clean.

Invest in a water filtration system for your kitchen to reduce your consumption of harmful pesticides and environmental toxins. This will also allow you to ditch the disposable plastic water bottle habit! If you’re taking water to go, fill a glass, stainless steel or a BPA-free reusable bottle with water from your filter.

3. Compost and reuse kitchen scraps

To reduce waste, save your kitchen scraps and vegetable trimmings. Start by designating a freezer-safe, glass container for vegetable scraps. When you have enough, you can add the scraps to your slow cooker to make a batch of vegetable stock.

For food scraps that aren’t stock worthy, consider adding them to an indoor kitchen composting container (either one that you purchase, or make your own from a recycled container). Compost is a nutrition-rich addition to add when planting your garden or can be used to fertilize your houseplants.

For apartment dwellers, seek out the nearest composting facility or reach out to local farmers and nearby community gardens. Chances are, they’ll accept your food scraps and do the composting for you! All you need to do is store the food scraps in your freezer in a stainless steel bowl until you’re ready to drop it off.

4. Reduce or eliminate use of paper products

According to The Energy Co-op Blog, 3 billion pounds of paper towels – that’s over 45 pounds per person – are used by Americans each year. They note, “If every American reduced the number of paper towels they use by just one per day, we would divert 571,230,000 pounds of paper waste each year.”

If you don’t want to be a part of this frightening statistic, replace paper with reusable cloth towels. Go the extra mile by using old cotton sheets and T-shirts to clean your kitchen (and the rest of your house).

If ditching paper towels seems impossible for you at first, choose paper towels that are made with renewable resources such as bamboo, or are compostable and free of chemicals and dyes.

Consider using other disposable paper products that you use on a regular basis and upgrade to reusable and compostable choices such as a reusable K-cup filter and biodegradable picnic ware.

5. Clean up your cleaning products

There are endless chemical-free, biodegradable, Earth-friendly cleaning products available today. Not only are these options better for the planet, they’re gentler on your skin and your home’s surfaces. In fact, they’re so safe, even children can join in the dish washing, countertop scrubbing and floor mopping.

It’s also easy to make your own plant-based cleaning supplies. With basic ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar and essential oils, you can follow simple DIY recipes for household cleaners, from window cleaners to air fresheners and much, much more.

Never underestimate the effects of your actions—no matter how small! Consistent changes and adopting new habits can lead to a gradual improved health for you, your family and the environment!