10 Low-Effort Ways to have a Greener Kitchen Everyday (not just on Earth Day)

green outlet.jpg

Confession: I'm no Earth-cleaning, green superhero. Heck, I'm lucky if I can keep track of which day it is so I can get the recycling out on time. Err, wait, I guess Brent takes care of that...

Anyway, I've still somehow managed to adopt a few quirky, low-effort, daily kitchen habits. I like to think they could amount to something significant over the months (...years?)

I'm not gonna lie, these habits are highly un-glamorous. They are not terribly hard or special or worthy of Greenest Earthsaving Queen awards.

But, they do support - in a small way - the kind of cleaner, greener, less-wasteful living that is practical enough for regular, even absentminded, people like me to adopt on a daily basis (seeing as my fantasies of living without electricity and collecting rain + dew for drinking water have somehow not yet been successfully adopted in our house).

Even if you find just one of these you can adopt, we'll call it a win for you (and the Earth)!

  1. Use a mason jar to save the liquid leftover from steaming, boiling and cooking foods. We drink this nutrient-rich, flavorful liquid or reuse it in soups, stews, roasts, etc in lieu of broth/stock or more, plain water.
  2. Eat leftovers - cold. This is actually a 2-for-1 (or 4-for-1 if you combine it with #6 + 7!) in that we're not throwing out leftovers and we're also not using energy to heat them. Surprisingly, some foods actually taste better this way -- like cold sweet potatoes, which take on a rich, caramel-y flavor.
  3. Eat the aging foods first, already. I hate food waste, especially produce, meats, dairy and other healthy, expensive food that have required a lot of precious time and energy and resources from the Earth, farmers and other living beings to even make it into my house. We stack the new foods in the back, move the old ones to the front. If we have 3 bananas and one is getting spotty or bruised, we eat that one first, because it'll only get more spotty and less likely to be eaten. I know certain circles will insist you avoid aged or moldy or otherwise imperfect food by throwing the whole item or container out, but we've never gotten sick from eating the unaffected parts of these foods.
  4. Pro-pack the dishwasher, aka "Dishwasher Optimization." My husband insists this is a skill only I have, but I'm prettty sure it's learn-able. (Good try tho, hunny). I come from a family of 9, so I learned to how to optimize dishwasher space, cramming in as many items in as possible. (This may or may not have been because I selfishly wanted to avoid the time + effort of having to hand-wash any remaining dishes but hey! it still counts?!). The secret to Dishwasher Optimization is to get creative and not restrict yourself to the pre-defined slots. You also don't need to feel like each dish has a personal "bubble." It's ok, I asked them. They said enjoy being cleverly fit into tight spaces.
  5. Re-use cups, plates, forks, containers, etc across multiple meals and yes, gulp, maybe even multiple days, without washing. I know, I know. It's sounds scary and unsanitary, and the big dishsoap companies are not going to be happy that I've let this secret out. But re-using dishes is no big deal! We've never gotten sick from it.
  6. Cook in bulk. I never make 1 or 2 or 3 sweet potatoes. I make a whole pan of sweet potatoes because, well, time + energy are precious commodities.
  7. Use the same pan to store things in that you cooked or prepped them in. Except if it's raw meat, in which case it's an obvious exception to this rule (and #5). 
  8. Keep cast iron pans in the oven + don't obsess about sanitizing them. We keep our cast iron pans in the stove for several reasons: (1) it keeps them out of sight (2) it keeps them from rusting or oiling all over everything (3) when we pre-heat the oven, they basically get "cooked" clean, which I discovered accidentally and (4) it can help you "season" them naturally, especially if, say, there was an extra special grapeseed seasoning oil spritzed over them.  ;)
  9. Melt oils or start baking foods while the oven is pre-heating. It's not necessary to wait till the oven is completely heated before sticking food in. If you need something melted (say you want to grease a pan with coconut oil) it's super easy to just let it melt in a pan you're going to use while the oven is preheating so you don't have to dirty another pan or otherwise heat it (microwave, nooo!)
  10. Recycle obsessively. There's just no excuse not to recycle. I get mad at myself if I don't, so if there's no easy way to recycle when I'm out somewhere, I often save items until I get home so I can. Even if you're not entirely sure if the number on the container means it can be recycled... there's no penalty for trying!

Like I said, I'm no green, Earth-saving queen. Just practical.  ;)

(I'm actually convinced we could take on a few more small, practical things like these -- so I'd love to have you comment on this blog post with the practical greener living things you do in your homes!)  

Laura - Greener Chef

United States