Greening Your Kitchen 

The Green Cook: Ten simple tips for greening your kitchen.

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Even if you believe the world is flat and that global warming is a left-wing conspiracy designed to rob you of your Hummer, you’d still probably like to save some coin in the kitchen, right? Well, I’ve got good news. Greening up your home kitchen not only can help save the planet, it can also help save you some money. Many “green” practices in the home are just downright economical. Here’s a list to help get you started.

Bulk up: Nearly one-third of the household waste Americans generate comes from product packaging, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s astounding. So, one way to eliminate some of the packaging that ultimately winds up in landfills is to buy household products in bulk. No, I’m not talking about stocking up for the apocalypse (although that might be a side benefit of buying in bulk). I’m talking about lowering your carbon footprint and saving some big bucks. Bulk buying is almost always cheaper than not. So, whether you’re shopping at Costco or Caputo’s, buy big quantities of everything, from pastas and olive oils to organic sea salt and laundry detergent.

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Store it: Now that you’ve purchased big, bulk quantities of kitchen goods, store them in a cool, dry area (i.e., basement or pantry), preferably in airtight, reusable glass containers. Get out of the habit of reaching for plastic Ziploc bags—which have about the half-life of plutonium—to stash your foodstuffs.

Herbs: Consider planting an herb garden. Trust me, it’s easy. I’ve done it, and so can you. Store-bought herbs are expensive. At my local Smith’s, a tiny .66 ounce package of fresh basil runs $2.19, and I’d need about $75 worth to make pesto. Even in an apartment, you can raise fresh herbs and greens such as rosemary and arugula in flower pots on your windowsill or balcony. Start them from seeds from companies specializing in heirlooms, like Seed Savers Exchange or buy plants from a reputable local outfit like Kenyon Organics. Once you’ve made your first batch of fresh basil pesto, you’ll be glad you did.

Got milk? Do you know where your milk comes from? Wouldn’t it be smart (and green) to buy milk that hasn’t traveled very far from the cow to your glass? Well, BYU student Trevor Fitzgerald is here to help. He’s created an informative website, WhereIsMyMilkFrom.com. Simply enter a code from a carton of milk and voilá, you can trace the origins of your dairy products to the source. For example, the code (49-70) on my Mountain Dairy 2 percent milk was traced to Smith’s Dairy in Layton. According to Fitzgerald, the site is “accurate and works for any dairy products shipped within the United States (including some from Canada and Puerto Rico).”

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Bag it: Earthlings use roughly 500 billion plastic bags, worldwide, each year.
That sucks, especially for the fish or fowl choking on them. Nothing could be easier than reusing leftover shopping bags from the grocer. Better yet, make a small investment in Earth-friendly cotton, canvas, burlap or super-cool waterproof bags from a company like Envirosax. Tip: When asked “Paper or plastic?” I opt for paper and then use the paper grocery bags to absorb oil when I make french fries or chips at home.

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Water works: Bottled water—what a racket. I wish I’d thought of it. Imagine, someone selling you water. But not just water—water wrapped up in planet-sickening plastic. Blame Evian. Anyway, switch to toxinfree, reusable water bottles. There are gazillions out there. Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottles are BPA-free, don’t make your water taste funky, are made to last and come in groovy colors like Prevention Purple, Ocean Blue, Be Green and Solar Yellow.

Ditch the silly appliances: A green kitchen and green cook has no need for energy-sucking appliances like electric knives, electric can openers, immersion blenders and electric juicers. Hey, burn a calorie or two. Switch to hand juicers, old-fashioned whisks, a real knife and a little elbow grease. You won’t miss those silly appliances and you’ll have more room on your kitchen counter.

Cleaning the kitchen: If, like me, you have a ginormous stash of cleaning products under the kitchen sink, it’s time to take an inventory and do some spring cleaning. Most of us use conventional, petroleum based kitchen cleaning products—which, let’s face it, aren’t too environmentally friendly. Nor are they friendly to pets and other beings that crawl around the house. Old-fashion cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean virtually anything, just like grandma did. Aside from that, invest in newer, greener, biodegradable, natural, nontoxic cleaning products made from renewable resources.

Compost: Approximately 70 percent of all household and yard waste can be composted, as opposed to tossing it into the trash. So, just do it. The website HowToCompost.org has some good information and ideas to help you get started.And, your garden will love you for it.

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Buy local: A no-brainer, right? Then why are you buying lettuce from Chile? True, you might not be able to find locally grown pineapples. But, for a huge range of food products—everything from cheddar cheese and chocolate to fresh lamb and lettuce greens—there are local individuals and businesses producing and selling them. By buying from local food producers, you seriously decrease your carbon footprint and simultaneously keep the local economy humming by helping to circulate money right here in our own communities. It’s also the most delicious way I know of to green up your kitchen.

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