Little Green Space
by Penny Bunting
If you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. Tackling just one area of your home can be less overwhelming – and making small changes can make a huge difference.
From reducing single-use plastics to choosing green kitchen equipment, there are many ways to make your kitchen more eco-friendly. Here are a few ideas. Save energy, save money When large kitchen appliances need replacing, choose fridges, freezers and dishwashers with a high energy-saving rating. A+ appliances will cost a little more to buy than those with a lower rating – but they cost less to run, so can save money in the long term.
There are also some smaller appliances that can help save energy in the kitchen. Slow cookers, for example, use about the same amount of energy as a traditional lightbulb – and are a great idea if you’re out all day, as you come home to a hot, ready-to-eat meal.
If you adopt a ‘cook once, eat twice’ approach to meal preparation, you can reduce your energy use further. Cooking larger amounts of food in one go saves energy, as reheating food is quicker than cooking from scratch. Making enough for two meals can save time too, and often reduces food waste. This doesn’t mean you have to eat the same meal night after night. A bolognaise sauce made with mince, onions and tomatoes can be served with spaghetti on day one, then turned into lasagne, chilli (with beans, sweetcorn and chilli added) or a filling for jacket potatoes on day two. Or freeze extra portions to use another week.
Other energy-saving ideas for the kitchen include keeping your freezer full – as half-empty freezers cost more to run than full ones – and using a lid on pans when cooking food. Also be sure not to overfill the kettle – only boil the amount of water that you actually need. Reduce kitchen plastics Plastic is everywhere – including in our kitchens. But much of it can be avoided. According to UNESCO, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute. A simple switch from single-use plastics – like water bottles or straws – to reusable items could make a huge difference.
Using filtered tap water is the best way to get great-tasting water without using single-use bottles. Brita (www.brita.co.uk) has a range of affordable water filter jugs, and the cartridges can be recycled in most supermarkets.
Plastic clingfilm often ends up in landfill. Switching to reusable wrap, such as Bee’s Wrap, is one way to avoid this. Sandwiches or salads for a packed lunch can be transported in a reusable sandwich box, and reusable containers can be used to store leftovers.
When shopping, try to avoid food that has been wrapped in plastic or comes in plastic trays. Most supermarkets now offer loose fruits and vegetables, which you can put into your own reusable produce bags.
If you want to achieve a kitchen with no plastics at all, there are many eco-friendly, plastic-free versions of kitchen equipment and accessories. When it’s time to replace equipment, look out for glass, wood, stainless steel, ceramic or bamboo alternatives.
You can swap your plastic washing-up brush for a bamboo one. Disposable wipes and cleaning cloths can be replaced with cotton dishcloths for wiping surfaces and general cleaning. And replace plastic straws with reusable metal or bamboo versions.
You can even buy eco-friendly pots and pans. The Prestige Eco range (www.prestige.co.uk), for example, is recyclable and features a multi-layered, plant-based, non-stick surface. Buy local, buy seasonal By choosing locally produced, seasonal food whenever you can, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint.
Food that’s been imported from abroad uses more packaging, refrigeration and transportation than local, seasonal food. And buying from local markets, monthly farmers' markets or direct from farm shops or producers often means you can avoid single-use packaging altogether.
Shopping in this way also supports the local economy – and you may well find that the food you buy is fresher and tastier too!
Choosing organic food whenever possible also helps the environment. Try meat-free Monday Vegetarian and vegan meals are tasty, nutritious, and economical. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse emissions – and produces high amounts of methane, one of the most damaging greenhouse gases.
So avoiding meat on just one day each week can have a positive impact on the environment. Reducing the amount of meat you eat – especially red meat – can improve your health too.
Avoiding meat one day a week needn’t be a sacrifice – vegetarian food is often delicious! Many meat-based dishes – such as lasagne, moussaka, pad Thai or korma – can be adapted to be vegetarian. Or try roasted vegetables with couscous, mushroom and pine nut risotto, or a hearty homity pie. Avoiding waste
An estimated 10 million tonnes of food waste is thrown out across the UK every year – with individual households binning around £350 worth of food annually. This is bad news for the environment – especially as when food goes to landfill it creates methane.
It’s easy to reduce this waste by planning meals carefully, only buying what you need, and getting creative with leftovers.
Bread is one of the most frequently thrown away food items. Any bread that is about to go stale can be turned into breadcrumbs in a food processor and then frozen for future use. Breadcrumbs can be used to make stuffings, nut roasts, burgers and fishcakes, or mixed with cheese to make a topping for savoury dishes.
Fresh fruit and vegetables also make up a large percentage of discarded food. Check the state of your fruit and veg regularly, to see which items are going past their best and need to be eaten first. Making soup or smoothies is a good way to use up vegetables and fruit.
Most foods that do need to be discarded can be composted – either in a home compost bin, or through your council’s waste collection service. You can compost fruit and vegetable peelings, eggshells, coffee grounds, and plastic free teabags.