For many people, the kitchen is the hub of the home; a busy room where lots goes on. For that reason the kitchen can also be one of the best places to start if you want to take steps to reduce your carbon footprint. The following information can help you take ten easy steps to cut carbon from your lifestyle and help make your home an eco home. In many cases, cutting your carbon emissions can also reduce the amount of money you spend running your home; money you can then spend on yourself, your family or making other more environmentally friendly choices to help green other aspects of your lifestyle too.
Most kitchens are filled with appliances, from the necessary white goods for refrigerating food and washing clothes, cooking appliances, whether gas cookers or electric ovens or microwaves, to those slightly more luxurious items and gadgets like smoothie makers and George Foreman grills. The appliances we choose to fill our homes with are a major area to consider when it comes to reducing carbon footprints and the carbon emissions of our homes, not only in terms of the energy they consume when in use, but also in the energy used to produce them in the first place and the longevity of the items. If goods don’t last long before they need to be replaced due to poor quality and unreliability, we can quickly start to contribute to the amount of waste sent off to landfill every year.
Step 1: Choose energy efficient models when replacing necessary white goods such as fridges, freezers, washing machines and tumble dryers. Although you may have to pay a little more to begin with, the cost should be recouped through the reduction in your energy bills, as energy efficient models need less electricity to do the same job as a less energy efficient model.
Step 2: Cut back on unnecessary kitchen gadgets and gizmos. The majority of kitchens have their share of these sitting at the back of cupboards waiting for us to find the time to use them, but more often than not they tend to collect a layer of dust and little more. As well as giving you more space, by having a clear out, you can pass them on to somebody who might otherwise have bought new, therefore saving emissions from the energy needed to make the item, the resources it would be made from, transportation to get it to the store and home again and packaging to contain the item.
You can find new homes for your unwanted items in a number of ways. Either recycle them yourself and put the money towards a project or treat by selling them at a carboot sale or in a newspaper ad; give them a new home by advertising them on Freecycle, a worldwide recycling network that helps keep things out of landfill, or give them to charity. Although some charity shops are unable to take electrical goods, a number of others have designated electrical and furniture stores and can sell them on to raise funds to help others.
Step 3: Banish the electric kettle. If you have a gas stove, switching to a whistling kettle makes the process of boiling water for a brew much more efficient. Using electricity to boil a kettle is not very energy efficient, so you should see savings on your bills too.
Step 4: Don’t preheat. Preheating the oven, although a recommendation on the packaging of many items and in a lot of recipe books is not really necessary. Modern ovens are built to heat up quickly so all you end up doing is wasting energy.
Step 5: Keep doors closed. Fridges and freezers can lose temperature quickly. When getting something from the fridge or freezer, such as using the milk for a hot drink, shut the door in between getting it out and putting it away, and try to avoid returning a number of times. It can take up to half an hour for the temperature inside to return to normal putting extra strain on the motor and wasting energy as a result.
Step 6: When washing clothes, wait until you have a full load. This makes your washing machine more efficient, saves energy from doing one wash instead of multiple smaller washes, and also reduces the amount of washing powder you use. Choosing a lower heat setting will also reduce your energy usage, and most washing products will get as good results at 30°C as at higher temperatures. Most washing machines also have time-saving settings that will clean your clothes perfectly well and also help reduce the amount of energy used to do a wash. Taking advantage of these features can make washing your clothes less energy intensive and save precious time too.
Step 7: Reduce your use of a tumble dryer. Tumble dryers consume huge amounts of energy, and as a result, add considerably to your energy bills. The ideal way to make a big contribution to reducing your carbon emissions would be to get rid of your tumble dryer if you have one. Drying clothes on a washing line or clothes airer outside during sunny or windy weather or round the house on drying racks or over radiators during winter will do as good a job and doesn’t use any extra energy in the process.
Step 8: Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products. Brands such as Ecover have become popular as effective plant based cleaning products for the home. These products are usually biodegradable and don’t have the same implications for wildlife if they get into water courses. Washing up liquid, fabric softener and hand soap from Ecover in particular is also available as refills from places such as health food shops, therefore reducing the amount of packaging waste from using the products, and the refills often cost less than a new bottle.
Step 9: Using a dishwasher can be more environmentally friendly than washing up by hand. Of course if you only have a couple of plates or mugs, a quick rinse in the sink makes more sense, but a full dishwasher load is more efficient in terms of the water it uses. This is because the dishwasher will only heat the amount of water it requires to complete the cycle rather than using energy to heat water that is not needed. Many dishwashers also have economy settings which save further energy.
Step 10: When cooking there are a number of things you can do to save energy. Always make sure you cook on the right sized ring for the pan you are using, and if cooking on a gas stove, make sure the flames don’t lick up around the edge of your pan. To further reduce the amount of energy needed to cook your food, using a pan lid can keep heat in and will help water boil more quickly. Another good way of reducing the amount of electricity or gas used cooking is by using fewer pans where possible. Often meals like stews can be cooked together, or stir frys can be cooked in a single pan so the same energy is used to cook your whole meal. Using steamers to cook different vegetables stacked above each other, either on the hob, or plugged into the wall, can also make a considerable contribution.
The ten steps above can help you make inroads into cutting your carbon emissions and reducing the amount you spend at the same time. If you already do some of the things listed, look for something you haven’t yet tried so you can make your kitchen even more environmentally friendly. Even if you don’t think you can commit to doing everything in the list, taking a few steps towards a greener lifestyle will still help in the fight against climate change, and if everybody does their bit, hopefully we can have an impact and reduce the potential problems of the future.