10 Easy Ways to "Green" Up Your Kitchen

Every year as Earth Day rolls around, I try to adopt a handful of habits and practices that reduce waste, pollution, and my overall carbon footprint. I used to think I was doing it as a personal sacrifice—you know, my little gift to Mother Earth—but I soon realized that the small changes I was adopting were actually a gift to myself, improving my life by saving me money and keeping my family healthier. This year, I'm going to focus on 10 super easy changes to make in the kitchen. Want to join me? 1. Fill the freezer. The more empty space in the freezer, the harder it has to work to cool the air, so keeping my freezer full of food reduces energy! Plus, having a stock of food in the freezer can save last-minute, gas-guzzling trips to the grocery store. 2. Use baking soda as a cleanser. You know that grimy brown film that sticks to the edges of your cookie sheets? I've been going after that with some harsh chemicals that are not good for me or the environment. It turns out that the same white powder that makes my cookies puff up beautifully can also get my cookie sheets shiny and clean. Sprinkle 3 or 4 tablespoons of baking soda in a cookie sheet and fill it to the brim with hot water. Let it soak for a few hours (or overnight) and then scrub it clean. (Find 40 other great uses for baking soda here.) 3. Use cloth napkins. No more paper napkins at my table. A cloth napkin looks prettier and reduces a shocking amount of paper waste! 4. Use only one roll of paper towels per year. Similar to paper napkins, paper towels are an unnecessary waste. I'm not sure if I can get away from using them entirely (I love to use them to sop up grease when frying hamburger), but my goal is to buy one roll and use it sparingly enough to last me an entire year. When I know it won't be replaced, I'll be more judicious about using even one towel. 5. Unplug appliances that aren't in use. Even when not in use, plugged in kitchen appliances are still using electric energy. My mixer, coffee maker, toaster, and cell phone charger are all getting the plug pulled after use. 6. Start a kitchen compost bin. Egg shells, leftover greens, coffee grinds, and the occasional slimy mushroom in the crisper drawer are going in a new kitchen compost bin next to my sink instead of down the disposal or in the garbage can. Returning these nutrients to the earth in my garden is better for my vegetables and flowers, and the planet. 7. Buy local produce, dairy, and meats. An apple picked locally tastes better, stays fresh longer, and took less energy and pollution to reach my kitchen. The same goes for fresh eggs and meats. Whenever possible, I'm shopping farmers markets, local dairies and butchers. 8. Use energy saving settings on dishwasher. Most dishwashers (mine included) have an energy cleaning and drying setting that uses less water, heat, and electricity. Instead of the super soak and scrub button I usually push, I'm going to opt for the energy saving button, and I'm only going to run the dishwasher when it's full. 9. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge. This is such an easy change that can add up to a big difference. Instead of running the faucet until the water is cool enough for my liking (wasting up to a gallon of water per minute), I'll have fresh cool water in the fridge ready to go at all times. 10. Switch to recycled aluminum foil. By paying just a little more attention to the labeling on the box, I can help reduce energy in a big way. Recycled aluminum foil uses 95% less energy to manufacture than new foil. Ninety-five percent! Those are my ideas. What are yours? Share your green tips in the comments section. {Image via Pinterest.}
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