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How to make your kitchen green and efficient


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

How to make your kitchen green and efficient
Our kitchens are big energy and water users and they are the main source of household waste, so it’s well worth taking the time to evaluate your kitchen routines and to make some changes. Make sure your kitchen is running as energy efficiently as possible with this guide.

Ten cool kitchen energy savers

1. Fridges and freezers are energy-hungry appliances, so, when it’s time to buy, choose high-efficiency models. In turn, this will help you make significant financial savings over the long term.
2. Don’t be tempted to keep an old fridge running as a backup unless you really need it. Old fridges are likely to be more energy-hungry than newer, more energy-efficient models.
3. Locate your fridge in a cool spot, away from heat-producing appliances, and make sure there is an air space of at least 8 cm around the coils at the back. A lack of space or ventilation can reduce efficiency by up to 15 per cent.
4. Don’t set the thermostat too cold.The optimum temperature for a fridge is about 3 to 4°C; for a freezer it’s -18 to -15°C. Every 1°C reduction can increase energy use by 5 per cent.
5. Open the door as little as possible. For every minute it is open, it takes the fridge 3 minutes to cool down again.
6. Keep the fridge at least two-thirds full. Food retains cold better than air does, so an empty fridge actually requires more energy to stay cold.
7. Regularly check that the seals are working properly. To do this, close the door over a piece of paper; if you can pull the paper out easily, the seal isn’t strong enough. Tighten the hinges or replace the seals. (You can use this method to check oven seals too.)
8. Defrost the freezer every 3 months or so if it’s not a frost-free model. Never let more than 5 mm of frost accumulate.
9. Clean the coils at the back annually to keep it working efficiently.
10. If you go away for a long period, empty the fridge, turn it off and leave the door open.

Cost effective cooking

  • Use a microwave for small dishes and reheating. Microwaves use less energy and yield much lower greenhouse emissions than stovetops.
  • Invest in a pressure cooker. It will cook the food in a third of the time required by a conventional stovetop, using one-third as much energy.
  • To reduce the cooking time of frozen foods, thaw them thoroughly in the fridge before cooking.
  • Match the size of your pan to the hotplate, and keep the flame as low as possible. If the flame extends beyond the edge of the saucepan base, you are wasting energy.
  • Cooking one small dish in an oven is inefficient. If you are going to switch on the oven, make it worthwhile by cooking several dishes at once.
  • Avoid opening the oven door as much as possible when cooking. The oven loses about 15°C of heat every time you do so.
Top tip: If you can cook something using a small appliance such as a toaster, slow cooker or electric frypan, do so. A toaster, for example, will generate one-quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by an electric grill to do the same job.

Simple water savers

We use about 8 per cent of our annual domestic water supply in the kitchen. The following tips will help you cut consumption:
  • If you have an old-model dishwasher, consider washing small amounts of dishes by hand.
  • When washing dishes by hand, rinse them in a second sink or basin filled with cold water rather than under a running tap.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables in a basin or bowl of water rather than under a running tap. Reuse the water afterwards by pouring it on your lawn or plants.
  • Defrost food in the fridge rather than under running water.

Waste not:

  • Try to reduce the amount of food packaging you bring home. Buy fruit and vegetables loose or take your own bags to collect your shopping.
  • Reuse packaging as much as you can. Bottles, jars and plastic containers can be washed and reused time and time again.
  • Recycle as much of your rubbish as you can, but make sure you follow your local council guidelines.
  • Do not put food scraps down the toilet or sink. Instead recycle them
  • Put a strainer in your sink plughole to catch food scraps, then add them to the compost.
  • Avoid using sink waste-disposal units as these use extra water and flush food scraps into waste pipes.
About half of the rubbish we discard is food scraps and garden cuttings, which can easily be RECYCLED in a compost heap.