There is a lot of talk about “being green” and “saving the environment.” These terms can sound trite when used too much, but it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that literally it is our actions as individuals that influence the world at large and nothing else. The smallest actions can have the biggest impact when millions of people collectively make the decision to move forward with them.
It is those kinds of actions I want to present here. This is not the Kyoto Protocol, but rather just a look at simple, realistic ways to reduce your impact starting in the kitchen. I hope you find them actionable!
1. Ditch the paper towels.
According to the film, A Lighter Footprint, American households add 3,000 tons of paper towels to our landfills every year. Not only is this incredibly wasteful but it’s also expensive. A home that uses just 1 roll of paper towels a week stands to keep $100 in their pocket annually by switching to using washable, reusable hand towels instead.
2. Use a portable, reusable coffee cup.
Coffee cups are manufactured by the billions – that’s billions, not millions – for the sole intention of being used once and then thrown away. This is practically heresy in my opinion and the best way to fight back is to get yourself a good coffee mug that seals up. If you drink coffee outside of the home, you can refill your mug at work and many coffee shops are happy to use your mug and in fact, many offer a discount for doing so.
3. Ditto for water – get a good mug for H20.
Do the same thing for your drinking water. You’ll find that carrying with you a sealable cup of water means you’ll a) drink more water and b) not waste money or resources on bottled water.
4. Unplug appliances when not in use.
The first time I learned that plugged in appliances still use electricity even if they’re not turned on or being used was a real eye opener for me. It seems appalling that we even allow for products that waste power in such a manner. In any case, it made me look at what I have plugged in that I don’t use daily and the answer was equally an eye opener: more than half of the stuff plugged in. For instance, we used the microwave and refrigerator every day, but what about the toaster? The coffee machine? The coffee grinder? The blender? The list goes on and we’re still in the kitchen.
The simple remedy is to get in the habit of plugging in and unplugging items as you use them. A good way to implement this plan is to begin storing small appliances in cabinets, pantries, and under the counter.┬á That way you must unplug it and put it away after every use. If this sounds like it’d be too much trouble, just try to do it for a week and hopefully you’ll see how quickly you get used to to it, and how much cleaner your counter tops will look.
5. Don’t Throw Food Away
Statistics on how much food we throw away are startling. Filling up our trash cans with so much organic matter is unnecessary when we can so easily keep it out of the trash by composting. If you have no yard to compost, consider asking your local government for compost / yard waste bins that provide free recycling bins, as seen in Seattle, Washington, for example, or better yet, composting for community gardens in your neighborhood.
6. Combine and Get Rid of Unnecessary Appliances
Most kitchen cabinets are full of once prized kitchen appliances that never see the light of the day. These appliances can be used by others, thus reducing the need for those buyers to purchase new equipment. If you are in the position of designing a kitchen or buying everything from scratch, it is worth considering what equipment you can combine that will save not just space but also energy usage. This ranges from everything from a simple food processor and juicer to a microwave oven that also functions as a traditional oven.
7. Use Limited Solar Power
While outfitting an entire home to run off solar energy is prohibitively expensive for many, installing a small solar set-up to power just the water heater is a brilliant way to implement solar energy in an affordable way. The impact that this will have for all the hot water in your home – from the kitchen to the showers – can reduce your electricity bill by hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
So many tips online about going green are rehashed, trite, or simply unrealistic. Because of this, I’ve tried to be specific and as realistic as possible with these 7 tips – I really think these are things that most people can do. Almost all of them save you money too.