Tips and advice for making the heart of your home more environmentally-friendly.
The kitchen is probably the busiest room of your house. Mealtimes, cleaning, laundry, homework at the table – not to mention those frequent visits to pop the kettle on (which are higher than ever during this period of working from home). It’s a hive of activity, and with that activity comes a lot of energy use.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, cooking alone accounts for 13.8% of electricity demand in UK homes, with a further 16.8% needed for freezing or cooling food. Wet appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines are also energy hungry, accounting for around 10% of household energy bills. And then there’s the not-so-little matter of food and water waste. In short, your kitchen is taking its toll on the environment.
The good news, however, is that you can drastically reduce the impact of this busy room by making a few simple behavioural changes – no big sacrifices required! Here’s how.
- Use greener cleaning products
Cleaning products – especially those designed for use in the kitchen – are packed full of chemical nasties that have a big impact on the planet and climate change. Choosing kinder alternatives can help to mitigate this. There are plenty of greener options on the supermarket shelves, or you could have a go at making your own cleaning products, which can be just as effective as tackling grease and grime as the usual fare. Learn more about green cleaning here.
- Cook efficiently
Cooking accounts for a big chunk of a kitchen’s energy consumption, but tweaking your cooking behaviour just a little bit can help reduce the amount of energy you use, as well as your energy bills. Using the right-sized hob and making the most of residual heat are simple hacks that can make a dent in your impact. Check out our super easy tips for greener cooking here.
- Choose the right appliances
Now we’re not suggesting you go out and swap all the white goods in your kitchen with new stuff, but when the time comes to replace the items you do have, it pays to make smart choices. It’s important to understand what energy labels mean, and how the size of each appliance will affect running costs. For example, as the Energy Saving Trust explains, an A-rated 180-litre fridge freezer could cost only £43 a year to run, whereas a larger 525-litre fridge freezer with a better A+ rating could cost £57 a year to run. We’ve created a fuss-free guide to choosing the right energy efficient appliance – read it here.
- Recycle properly
We all know how important it is to recycle our waste materials, but conflicting advice and confusing local authority collection services means we’re not always doing it properly, even if we have the very best intentions. Take a few moments to learn about your council’s recycling provision, and make it easy for yourself to recycle by putting the requisite bins, bags and boxes out in a convenient spot in the kitchen with labels reminding everyone in the house what can and can’t go where. Still not sure? Check out our guide to effective no-fuss recycling at home.
- Reduce your water consumption
Saving water might not be the first activity to spring to mind when you think of climate change, but they two are very closely linked. As well as storms and floods, climate change is responsible for droughts and heatwaves, and a worrying number of places around the UK are already under water stress. Taking simple steps such as loading your dishwasher properly or ordering free water-saving gadgets can really make a difference to your consumption. Read our guide to saving water around the home here.
- Have a low carbon diet
You’ve heard of low-carb diets, but what about a low carbon diet? Thanks to intensive agriculture, crop farming, livestock management, packaging and logistics, the food system is responsible for a third of all global greenhouse emissions. But making smart choices such as choosing local food, reducing your meat and cheese consumption, and eating seasonal produce can help to significantly lower your carbon ‘foodprint’. Read more about low-carbon diets here.
- Minimise your food waste
Households in the UK waste 4.5 million tonnes of food every year, amounting to £700 for an average family with children. This has serious consequences in lots of ways, from increasing landfill and unnecessary demand on agriculture and farming, to propagating a cycle of food inequality and poverty. There are lots of simple ways you can help mitigate this impact, though. Meal planning is a good place to start, as is investing in produce saver boxes to help fruit and veg last longer. Learning a recipe for using up scraps and leftovers will also reduce the amount you end up throwing away. Here’s some inspiration.
- Cut your plastic use
Supermarkets have (rightly) come under fire for the amount of plastic they use in their packaging, but the problem doesn’t end with them. Consider the plastic you then use at home in order to keep food fresh. Did you know that more than 1.2 billion metres of cling film is used by households in Britain every year? That’s enough to wrap around the circumference of the world 30 times over – and it’s almost impossible to recycle. Instead of cling film, invest in a set of beeswax wraps – they can be used in exactly the same way as cling film and they’re fully compostable. Give disposable sandwich bags the heave-ho, too, and invest in reusable silicone food bags like these.
- Rethink your cuppa
It often surprises people to learn that the humble teabag is not simply paper and tea, and that many popular teabag brands actually contain polypropylene, a plastic that’s used to seal the bags. Obviously this plastic has to come from somewhere, so its existence requires energy and resource use, and then it often inevitably finds its way back into the environment again, either as rubbish or toxic chemicals. You can help break this cycle by choosing biodegradable teabags, or by ditching the bag altogether and getting stuck into loose leaf tea instead.
The bottom line
The kitchen is the most energy-intensive room in the house, but it’s also the most important when it comes to everyday life. Fortunately, you don’t have to make major sacrifices to help mitigate your impact in this area, and even small actions can have a big payoff.
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