Conscious Kitchen by Lela Rabie
It probably won’t surprise you to know that your kitchen is one of the rooms in the home with the potential for the most energy wastage, then again it is also one of the rooms with the potential for the most energy savings! Lately those on the forefront of technology are realising the importance of going green and a whole host of energy saving appliances are becoming more readily available to the everyday consumer. However, it is not just with your appliances that you can save energy and money but also by making a few small changes to your daily habits in the kitchen.
Energy efficient appliances:
Most kitchens have a basic minimum of an oven and hob, refrigerator and kettle so let’s take a look at some energy efficient options:
Ovens and hobs:
When it comes to ovens, convection is the way to go. Convection ovens cook on average 25% faster than normal ovens as they use a fan to drive heat from the source to the food, thus saving on electricity used to heat up the oven from scratch. Make sure your oven door is clean, thus eliminating the need to open it to check on the progress of your meal, each time you open the oven door, you lower the internal temperature by up to 25 degrees! Turn off electrical ovens several minutes before the time indicated in the recipe, if you don’t open the door the oven will keep cooking at the same temperature. Try not to preheat ovens unless strictly required by the recipe.
If you are using an electrical hob, ensure your pan covers the heating element completely and with gas burners, turn the flame down to be fully below the pan so that you don’t heat the air around it, only the pan itself. Remember keeping the lid on your pots helps food to cook more quickly and thus uses less energy and glass and ceramic cookware retain heat better than metal so opt for these whenever you can.
Refrigerators and Freezers:
Try to invest in a top and bottom fridge and freezer unit as these are more energy efficient than the traditional side by side models. Making sure the seal on your fridge is adequate is another good way to ensure you are not using more energy than you need. Test this by closing the refrigerator door on a note and try to remove the note while the door is closed, if the note slips out easily it means you need to replace the seal. Remember to defrost and switch off your refrigerator when you go on holiday, with a little forward planning it is easy to ensure you have used up all your perishables by the time you leave thus preventing the need to run the fridge unnecessarily for the time you are away.
This is the one area where most of us fall woefully short of being energy conscious, boiling a full kettle for just one or two cups of tea is something many are guilty of and it only takes a little discipline to break the habit. Alternatively you can invest in an eco-kettle which is designed to help you boil the exact amount of water you need, without having to refill your kettle each time.
I once told my boyfriend not to bother with an engagement ring but just to pop the question with a dishwasher and he thought I was joking! I’m sure many of you understand the dislike of doing the dishes and thus will be very happy to hear that some of the latest dishwasher models are actually extremely energy efficient and use a minimal amount of water. Dishwashers definitely save on water use if you are a family of more than two and make sure you only run it when it is completely full. Don’t use the hottest setting, as with washing machines, the cooler settings are often just as effective.
If you are lucky enough to be remodelling your kitchen then there are a few options you could consider in the name of being green-minded. Investigate the use of bamboo for floors, backsplashes and counter tops, it grows quickly and is readily available, besides being hard wearing and attractive too! Alternatively take a trawl around your local antique or second-hand shops for used counter tops and kitchen dressers, these can look amazing when properly treated and refinished. Fitting low – flow aerators on taps helps to save water (up to 50%!) and making sure you have plenty of natural light in the kitchen (think sky-light) helps save on your carbon footprint. Make sure you have energy efficient light bulbs so that you can feel good about your energy use even when you need to switch the lights on.
Some time ago, I started switching off appliances at the wall and unplugging them, this was just because my last kitchen burnt down when my friend left the hob plugged in and switched on, nevertheless, I later discovered this is also good energy practise. Switching appliances off at the wall saves on electricity and greenhouse gas emissions.
Gadgets and equipment.
Is there anything more fun than going kitchen-gadget shopping? In acknowledgement of this, many stores have a wide range of useful kitchen gadgets and equipment, some more modern than others!
Using minimal water and significantly cutting down on overall cooking time, a pressure cooker should be on every wedding list in the country. They come in a variety of sizes and are particularly useful for things like legumes and root veggies and there is the added benefit that you retain more nutrients in your food!
Again, with a steamer you use less water and retain more nutrients and you can also steam more than one thing at once by using your different compartments. Steamers come in electrical and hob versions, both are better than just straight forward stove-top boiling the traditional way.
Bamboo wins the day for cutting boards, salad bowls and you even get bamboo steamers! It is environmentally friendly, light weight and easy to use and clean. Just be sure to investigate where the bamboo was grown and if the product has been produced in an eco-friendly way.
South Africa is finally waking up to the need for recycling and most apartment blocks have a recycling option with the rubbish removal. Look for recycling services in your local yellow pages and you will find that many of them pick-up for free in specific areas. Alternatively find your nearest bins and make a trip once a week or month along with a neighbour. Try to cut down on the packaging you use for shopping, take your own bags and weigh more than one kind of vegetable together, putting all the price tags on one bag. If recycling is the only step you take to a conscious kitchen, you will still be making a significant difference to the planet.
The final step to a conscious kitchen is taking a look at how you stock your cupboards. Do you buy in bulk from the supermarket or do you support local small businesses (dairy, bakery, butchery) and organic box schemes? Buying from local businesses can be cheaper in the long term(especially to your health), cuts down on foodmiles and supports your local economy. Investigate local farmers markets and if you have to buy from the supermarket, don't be shy to ask questions about where the food comes from and how it was grown or manufactured.
When it comes to being eco-friendly, common sense usually works, be waste conscious, live simply and be a responsible consumer, not just in your kitchen but in all areas of your home and life. Above all, respect your environment and it will respond joyously and abundantly for years to come!