From a natural perspective, our food is our medicine. It is gives us energy and keeps us healthy, providing our bodies with essential nutrients we need to survive. For one who is seeking a healthy lifestyle, a kitchen should reflect just that. It is where we store, prepare, and cook our food. Our kitchens should be a place of health, for ourselves and for our environment.
The kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home. A healthy heart pumps blood to the rest of the body. Similarly, a healthy kitchen can provide a healthy attitude for the rest of your home. One form of a healthy kitchen is having one that is environmentally friendly. The connection between our health, and the health of the environment is a strong correlation. There have been numerous studies showing the benefits of how a more natural environment can reduce stress, blood pressure, and improve happiness and the overall quality of life.
A kitchen has so many functions, most of which revolve around food. Our food choices are one way we can create a more environmentally friendly kitchen, and it all has to do about how you eat!
Tips for Eco-Eating
- Buy food with minimal plastic packaging – sometimes I wonder if it is food we are buying or hazardous material. With all the plastic packaging on some food products, it is hard to tell. Simple switches you can make are buying individual lemons rather than the plastic netted bundles, and purchasing mushrooms in cardboard packaging rather than the ones in styrofoam.
- Buy food in bulk – getting a tub of mixed nuts instead of those portable snack packs saves on the overall plastic use and waste.
- Buy food from local sources – not all of our food is locally grown, often being shipped in from other countries. This creates a lot of pollution due to the transportation emissions. Buy food that is in season and local. Farmer’s Markets are a great way to cut down on these emissions and support your community.
- Buy organic -Eating organic is all around better for the environment for multiple reasons. They do not use harmful pesticides and chemicals, which can ruin the soil and runoff into streams and waterways, dangerously impacting the natural habitats of wildlife. They connect us more to the natural land and encourage the natural cycle of life. For example, the decaying matter of vegetables, used coffee grounds, and other organic matter is used for composting and giving nutrients to new crop growth.
- Buy more fruits and vegetables – here is my quick vegan shpeal, animal agriculture is the number one source of environmental damage, from water waste, greenhouse gases, and deforestation. If you are interested in learning about these facts, check out Conspiracy’s page. In the meantime, buy more fruits and vegetables. They’re better for you and the environment.
Now that we have a brief overview of the foundation of the Eco-kitchen down (i.e., the food), it is time to get into building your Eco-kitchen. Here are some ways you can improve your kitchen to be more environmental and eco-friendly!
Nonstick pans are great and all, I know I burn my fare share of food, but the Teflon that keeps the food from sticking has been debated whether it is harmful for humans. I suppose I am skeptical, and when an item needs questioning for it’s overall health safety, I usually take that as a sign it isn’t too great for us. Avoid the whole topic, and go for cookware that is non-toxic. Greenpan, Earth Pan, and Ecolution are all great companies that offer non-toxic pots and pans.
I used to be a big plastic storage person until I learned about all the negative aspects on plastic. Not only is it non-biodegradable, but a lot of plastic isn’t safe to store our food in. NPR reported a study that showed most plastics releasing a chemical similar to estrogen. Now while there is still debate on whether these chemicals are harmful for us, why take the chance? Glass storage is safe to heat up and it doesn’t alter the flavor of your food, like most plastics often do. Mason jars are a wonderfully cheap and stylish way to display your food, inside your fridge and out!
Bamboo utensils are an eco staple to your cooking. They are made from a rapidly renewable source, are dishwasher safe, and don’t damage your pots and pans the way stainless steel often does. These suckers are built to last. My family has had their set since before I was born, and their timeless wood appearance makes them a stylish choice too!
Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own vegetables is great for the environment and your wallet. Having a vegetable garden helps cut back on the emission pollution caused by the transportation of products to the grocery stores as well as your own travel to said grocery store. It is one of the healthiest options of eating, since it’s organic, local, and the freshest/most nutrient dense, due to being picked and prepared the day you’re eating it.
Having a garden saves you money too. Produce can be expensive, especially the specialty vegetables and herbs, and growing your own will cut down your grocery bill. If you don’t have a yard, and live in an apartment, there are still ways to grow your own produce, such as herbs, or potted vegetables.
If you own a home, or live by a community garden, there is no reason you shouldn’t compost your leftovers. It is a great nutrient dense source for your future plants, and continues the natural cycle of plant growth. My family has three compost facilities in our backyard, and this summer, we have been having great success in our garden thanks to all the nutrients from our compost! For your kitchen, keep a stylish compost bin there, and just make trips to your garden’s compost whenever the bin gets full.
You would think this is a no-brainer for anyone who is going the green route, but I feel like I still have to include this into the list. It is easy to get a recycling can to fit into your kitchen decor style, just get a regular garbage can and use it for only recycling purposes. There are even some that stylishly separate your recycling, from paper to cans and plastic bottles.
Hand Wash Your Dishes
To hand wash or to not hand wash, that is the question. This has been a debated topic on which method, hand washing vs using a dishwasher, is more environmental. There are three major factors to consider, water-use, energy-use, and carbon footprint. While hand washing your dishes saves on energy, the water-usage and carbon footprint of hand washing vs dish washing is very similar. If you are going to hand wash your dishes, get a eco-friendly drying rack, made out of bamboo.
If you are wishing to update your appliances, choose energy-star appliances. These products use less energy, up to 50% less energy than standard appliances, and can cut down your electric bill significantly each month, which saves you money. Depending on the appliance, such as a dishwasher, they use less water, saving on water waste. Most major appliance stores, such as Lowes and Home Depot, carry energy-star appliances, so finding a stylish fridge or dishwasher for your space, that is also eco-friendly, can be a one-stop visit.