Of all the rooms in your home, the one that is likely to have the most significant carbon footprint is your kitchen along with an adjoining utility room if you have one. There are, however, many green choices we can make to reduce your kitchen’s impact on the environment, ranging from using sustainable materials such as bamboo flooring and recycled worksurfaces, through to installing the latest generation of energy efficient appliances. Here are some of the options available to you.
Energy efficient appliances
There is a vast difference between modern energy efficient electrical appliances and those that we used to use not that many years ago. Not only do energy efficient appliances reduce your carbon footprint, but they will also save you a considerable amount of money in energy costs, especially when you consider that, on average, they account for almost a third of total electricity bills. Throughout Europe, the US, and many other parts of the world energy rating labels are mandatory on all kitchen appliances, so always buy the best rating your budget will allow.
Even with the most efficient appliances, there are still ways to reduce your carbon footprint even more. For instance, modern detergents mean you can wash your laundry at 86 F (30 C), always aim to wash a full load and consider hanging out your washing to dry rather than using the tumble drier. Another energy saving tip is to fill any gaps in your freezer to avoid wasting energy cooling air and never leave the door of your fridge or freezer open for any longer than is necessary.
Sustainable floors and countertops
Bamboo flooring is ideally suited for kitchens. Not only is it the most sustainable of all flooring materials, but it is also tough and water resistant; in fact, it is three times harder than hardwood and bamboo flooring can be installed under cabinets and islands. Not only is it sustainable, but it looks beautiful too. Bamboo also has other applications in the kitchen: some manufacturers offer bamboo kitchen cabinets; and bamboo chopping boards, steamers, and other kitchen tools are readily available.
Sustainable worksurfaces (countertops) are available in a range of alternative materials. Recycled glass is one option. Glass from recycled bottles is crushed and ground before mixing with solvent-free rosins, cast into panels, and finally polished. Fragments of the embedded glass have a distinctive appearance as they reflect the light. The surfaces are extremely hard wearing, hygienic and are impervious to water.
Many cleaning products are particularly harmful to the environment and potentially harmful to your health. Some of the worst common chemicals used in a wide range of commercial products include phthalates, used to impart fragrance; triclosan, used in dishwasher tablets but can encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria; butoxyethanol, used in many cleaning agents but is a known respiratory irritant.
While you will find many genuine eco-friendly cleaning products at your favorite store, it is always advisable to read the list of contents and where possible, select natural plant-derived cleaners. You can also use standard products such as vinegar and baking soda for some cleaning tasks.
Recycling as much of your kitchen waste as possible really can make a difference. In the US 230 million tons of trash is produced every year and just over a third of it is recycled. We can do better. There are also considerable benefits in avoiding waste, including wasted food. In the US more than 30 million tons of food waste is produced annually, and nearly all of this ends up in landfills or is combusted impacting negatively on our carbon footprint.