How to have the greenest kitchen in town
Kitchens are a place where you spend a lot of time at home, preparing food, making coffee, washing dishes—and those activities use a lot of water and electricity. Also, having a place for food prep that's clean and nontoxic makes choosing the right countertops important. Your kitchen can even contribute to your home's overall health by incorporating homegrown herbs or a composting station.
Here's how to have a kitchen so green that you're the envy of all your neighbors:
One of the best ways to save energy in your kitchen is through Energy Star-certified appliances. Refrigerators, freezers and dishwashers that meet these standards can save you money as well as cut down on energy use. For instance, an Energy Star refrigerator is about 9 percent more efficient than a regular model, and can save you about $270 over five years.
You can further save energy by using your appliances more strategically. Make sure you only run the dishwasher when it's full, and turn the dial to the "air-dry" rather than "heat-dry" setting. You can even cut down on smaller energy drains, such as coffee makers, by programming them to turn on and off at certain times.
Choosing countertops for your kitchen means making decisions about safe materials, life cycle and durability, and eco-friendly sourcing. Diverse materials, such as concrete, glass tile, recycled paper or plastic, wood, stone or stainless steel may be used, depending on your needs and aesthetic. Green Home Guide's buyer's guide to countertop materials breaks down the pros and cons of these substances, as well as their typical cost.
With some surfaces, you'll also need to consider sealants. For instance, if you're sealing a butcher block countertop, make sure that you use safe, low-VOC finishes to take care of your wood.
Saving water is a priority for everyone hoping to reduce both their environmental footprint and their bills. Several simple steps can be taken to reduce your water use in the kitchen. Fixing leaky faucets or installing aerators, washing produce in a bowl of water and running only a full dishwasher go a long way.
Also, avoid defrosting food or melting ice under running water. Instead, you can use the microwave, or just plan further ahead by defrosting items in the refrigerator.
Food and herbs
Another aspect of keeping a green kitchen is minimizing food waste, which you can do through smart shopping, cooking and food storage strategies, such as chopping up several days' worth of veggies at one time and having them ready to go throughout the week.
You can make your own home composting station with only a little effort. See our handy how-to article on setting up composting to reduce food waste. Remember to avoid composting meat and dairy scraps and to situate it in a cool location away from direct sunlight.
Looking to add more fresh herbs to your diet? Having your own small, countertop herb garden not only provides seasoning for your cooking, it also contributes to the air-quality benefits of having live plants in your home.