Your kitchen may be the hub of family activity, but it’s also the intersection of consumption and waste. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the fridge alone accounts for 8 percent of a home’s energy use. Add other appliances, water usage and packaging waste, and the opportunities for going green increase exponentially. Test your eco-knowledge and learn how to turn your kitchen into the environmental heart of your home.
1 Which uses the least amount of energy?
b. Toaster oven
2 Which pan cooks food faster in the oven?
3 Which dishwashing method uses less water?
4 Which refrigerator is more energy efficient?
5 Which of the following is not compostable?
a. Banana peel
b. Hamburger grease
c. Tea bag
d. Paper towel roll
1 (c) Microwave. According to the nonprofit Edison Electric Institute, a microwave uses 90 percent less energy than a regular oven and about 30 percent less energy than a toaster oven. Use the microwave to reheat leftovers and the toaster oven for small cooking jobs, and you’ll likely save on summer cooling costs as well, since less heat will be given off into the room.
2 (a) Glass. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) says glass and ceramic pans conduct heat faster than metal, so you can reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees for the same amount of cooking time. On the stove, copper-bottom pans are more efficient than other pans.
3 (b) Dishwasher. An Energy Star-qualified appliance will save 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time each year, according to the Energy Star website. Before loading the dishwasher, scrape but don’t rinse, since pre-rinsing dishes can use up to 20 gallons of water. Run only full loads and choose the air-dry setting instead of heat-dry to save still more energy.
4 (b) Top-to-bottom. Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers use 10–30 percent more energy, even if they have an Energy Star rating, according to ACEEE. Ice makers and chilled water options increase annual energy use. Choose an Energy Star-qualified refrigerator, which uses about half the energy of older models, and clean the coils yearly for maximum efficiency.
5(b) Hamburger grease. Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells and shredded paper can be composted with yard waste and reduce your garbage load by about 25 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Meanwhile, compost gives your garden a free, healthy soil amendment.
6 (a) Gas. According to the California Energy Commission, a gas stove uses less than half the energy of electric models, provided that the pilot light has an electronic ignition and doesn’t burn constantly. Chefs love gas stoves for their more precise heat control, so having one could even help you cook like a pro.
7 (a) Fresh. A Dutch study comparing the relative merits of processing and packaging carrots from environmental, economic and nutritional perspectives showed that fresh products had the least environmental impact and frozen the greatest. From a nutritional standpoint, however, the FDA says frozen fruits and vegetables provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh, so you may not want to scrap them when fresh choices are limited.
8(a) Glass. According to the National Recycling Coalition, glass can be recycled indefinitely because its structure doesn’t deteriorate. Recycling 12 glass bottles a week will save enough energy to power a compact fluorescent bulb for 240 hours.
9 (c) Aluminum. The EPA reports that recycling just one aluminum beverage container can save enough energy to power a computer for some three hours. Recycled aluminum can be made into new cans, pie pans, house siding and more.