Green Kitchens

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I enjoy helping my homeowner clients tackle the task of organizing their green kitchen. Whether you’re remodeling or simply reorganizing, here are some tips to get you on a path to a greener kitchen–the heart of your home.

Appliances. This is my special passion. Replace dishwashers that are more than 6 years old and refrigerators that are more than 10 with a miserly new Energy Star model. The savings in water use and energy can pay for the new appliances in just a few years IF you choose well. See my web site for information on great energy saving models & their features.

Composting. If you have space, composting is one of the best things you can do to reduce your contribution to the landfill. It’s easy, check out this site for more info. I recommend keeping all animal products out of your compost pile to discourage small animals. My composter is a rotating drum model; its design makes turning easy and I have fresh compost to use in the garden every two months in summer.

Recycling. Know local guidelines and organize yourself for success. We do not have to separate our recyclables by category any more, so I have a bin close to where the newspapers and mail accumulate, and another in a centrally located kitchen cabinet. Place a paper recycling bin under your desk and one near the bedroom/bath (for magazines, cardboard toilet paper rolls, etc.) and you’re set to go. One trip around the house the night before recycling day is all you need. It need only take five minutes a week to recycle right!

Energy savings. Cut down on phantom loads by keeping appliances unplugged when not in use. I disconnect my icemaker in the winter to save on energy bills. Always use the “economy” and unheated dry cycles of your dishwasher in the summer to cut down on water use and waste heat in your kitchen.

Keeping Food Fresh. The ripping fresh produce farmer John brings me every week in my CSA share is terrific now. How do you keep your leafy greens and herbs fresh longer? Use those produce drawers, and wash items just before you use them. Separate apples from greens, potatoes, squash and onions because the ethylene gas they release contributes to rapid decomposition. Note: you can keep apples in a sealed plastic bag for up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator. With herbs, treat them like you would freshly cut flowers—trim an inch off the stems, put them in a plastic jar of water in the fridge and loosely cover with a “hat” made by a repurposed, thin produce department bag.

Water Filtration. You know that tap is the best, right? Use refillable bottles made of stainless steel or number 1, 2 or 5 plastic (avoid #4 & 7). Wash plastic bottles by hand, as the high tempertaures of the dishwasher can cause rapid deterioration of plastic.

Pots and pans. Nonstick pans can be dangerous after about a year of use as their finish begins to flake off and PFOAs are absorbed by your food and body. I prefer stainless steel and enameled cast iron; these are the most durable, ecofriendly and healthy cooking surfaces. Try to choose one of these for your next purchase.

Greener paint. If you’ve decided to give your kitchen a new look, choose paint with low to no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Just about all major manufacturers have manufactured paint formulas that create fewer indoor air quality concerns, just check the label for the percent of VOCs. Also be aware that darker colored paints tend to have more VOCs.

Next time I’ll look at how to tell when to replace a kitchen appliance—and what to buy. There are some great deals out there with the midyear model clearance happening now.

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July 2009
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