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Going "green" in the kitchen

I recently went to the Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park of Chicago, and they had this great exhibit about going "green" in the kitchen. For those of you who don't know, to go green means to use products that are consciously environmentally friendly.

Does anyone use green practices in their kitchen? And if so, what are they?

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  1. This topic is near and dear to my heart, so I would love to hear some of the ideas you got from the exhibit.

    For my part, I've cut back my usage of paper towels. Our paper holder is suspended under the kitchen cabinet, and I put a little basket of cloth dishtowels underneath the paper towel dispenser so that they are as easy to grab as the paper ones.

    I've also been consciously using more reusable containers than disposable baggies. We use these reusable "sandwich" wraps a lot for our lunches--for sandwiches and other "non-leaky" foods like carrot sticks and such, http://wrapnmat.com/

    We changed our lightbulbs to fluorescent.

    Don't laugh, but we now buy beer by the keg instead of by bottle or can or six pack, etc. Fewer trips (less fuel needed for driving) to the beer store, our kegerator is more energy efficient than the old spare fridge in the basement we used to keep our cans and bottles of beer in, and we don't have cans and bottles to recycle. The keg itself is, of course, reusable when you return it to the liquor store.

    We're using cloth napkins now--even when packing our lunches for work.

    We use reusable bags (when we remember) for grocery shopping.

    That's all I can remember right now.


    16 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      We are slowly turning our kitchen into a green kitchen. I live in central Ontario and my town recently went through a small drought, we were not allowed to water our grass, flowers or even our vegetable gardens. NO WAY was I going to lose out on my tomatoes this year, so we started saving our kitchen water. We found an old bowl that my Gran had given us and we used that to wash all of our veggies in, that water plus the water used for cooking found its way into a storage bucket in the back yard. It was a quick dip with a smaller pail and the veggies were saved.
      We also have the save it bin when are the bread ties and baggies go, they are great “ take alongs” when I miss the market and have to go to the grocery store, I just pack up the fruit and veggies into them instead of taking another little bag from the store…I still haven’t been able to find a reusable knit veggie bag.

      1. re: books

        books, I don't know if this is the kind of veggie bag you're referring to, but a few years ago I saw in "some publication" (sorry, my biological hard drive gets too full and I can't dredge up more detailed info!) a suggestion to knit a tote out of the ubiquitous plastic grocery bags. Just make your "yarn" by cutting the bag in a long spiral. Knit with large needles in whatever fashion you like. I'd forgotten about it until now, but I think I'll have to make a couple for my onions and potatoes.

        1. re: books

          many different kinds of reusable bags here:

          I prefer the nylon bag that zips into a small compartment best, since this can just go in my purse/backpack and I won't forget it. But they have knit ones too..

          1. re: bess

            I like those really compact nylon ones, too, for surprise visits to the grocery store. These knit ones are amazingly almost-infinitely expanding: http://www.reusablebags.com/store/eco...


        2. re: The Dairy Queen

          I love the kegerator idea, I have to get one.. after all it is for the environment ; )

          Do you have the pony keg, or 1/4 barrel size kegerator?

          1. re: swsidejim

            Sometimes you have to make sacrifices. ;-)

            Our kegerator will fit both sizes, but we usually buy the pony keg because we don't drink enough beer to warrant the 1/4 barrel size. We use the extra space in the kegerator (if you use a pony keg, there's room in the kegerator for a shelf so you can use that part of the kegerator as a regular fridge) to put our overflow produce etc. in. (We have a small fridge in the kitchen and sometimes the bounty of our CSA causes it to overflow...) We don't put stuff we'll access a lot in the kegerator because its energy inefficient to keep opening the door and letting the cool air out.

            We bought ours online from BestBuy.com. I'm not a big fan of BestBuy because I think they have lousy customer service (the purchase of this item from them only reinforced my previously unfavorable impression of them), but they were the best source for the kegerator we wanted.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I see the price for a 1/4 barrel size kergerator(stainless steel) is about $600 with free shipping for a site I was looking at. Was the BestBuy price in that neighborhood?

              1. re: swsidejim

                Unfortunately, no, ours was about $900. I just tried to find it on Best Buy's website and can't find it right now. I don't think they called it a kegerator. There are a lot of really crappy ones out there. I really recommend shopping around. I'll see if I can find a link for you later.


                1. re: swsidejim

                  Here's what we got. I guess it's no longer available at Best Buy.


                  (Edited to make the link work. You have to be able to open pdfs in adobe.).


            2. re: The Dairy Queen

              You buy your own kegs? That is just awesome. Talk about a good way to convince people that going green can be fun.

              1. re: Morton the Mousse


                It was one of those win/wins at our house. He's happy because he has his good beer "on tap" and I'm happy for the "greenness" of it. We're both appreciating the reduced hassle of recycling beer cans and bottles. I can't say that we've noticed a huge savings in our energy bill, but we've made a lot of changes in our lifestyle towards being more green all at once and this summer has been hotter than recent past summers, so it's hard to know what is affecting what.

                EDIT: Oh! And the savings on the cost of the beer is significant!


              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                I've started using those wrapnmats. I love the concept but if you make sandwiches that aren't regular size (like smaller ones, rolls), they don't work that well. We've also switched to Sigg bottles for drinks and bento box lunchboxes, cloth napkins. Nothing at lunch gets thrown away anymore.

                1. re: chowser

                  Chowser, I've been looking for a bento box to take my lunch in (for work) but haven't found one I like. I tried this one from reusable bags but I found it very leaky and really a nuisance because the lids weren't interchangeable and because it was hard to get duplicate containers without buying a whole set. http://www.reusablebags.com/store/lap... Can you tell me about what you're using, where you got it and how it's working out for you?

                  Also, I do occasionally like pop and was trying to buy it in 2 liter bottles (instead of cans so there's less recycling) and then transferring it to a water bottle to take to work, but every bottle I tried, including Nalgene, leaked due to the pressure of the carbonation. Have you tried anything like that in the Sigg bottles with any success?


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I use the blue bento box from reusable bags but it's for kids lunches so nothing spillable normally, sandwiches, apples, etc. Not as environmental but I will use Glad press and seal if I pack something that might spill. The bento boxes are cute, but pretty small so I wouldn't recommend them for an adult. It's also been kind of a pain to find small things to fill every container, every day. But, I still highly recommend them for children lunces. I also use thermoses for things that are spillable. Tupperware makes a three comparment container that's microwavable that my husband uses. It's huge, though:


                    I haven't tried anything carbonated in the Sigg. It's pretty strong seal, better than Nalgene. Maybe you could keep the 2 liter bottle at work? I love the kegerator idea, btw! If they could do that with wine, I'd get one.

                    1. re: chowser

                      You may get your wish on the wine, Chowser. I read an article somewhere recently about some vineyards test marketing higher quality wines in "boxes" like that dreaded stuff we make fun of. The technique is sound. The problem always was the plonk.
                      Now they just have to persuade consumers that the stuff isn't an embarrassment to have in their homes. It's about the wine not the packaging but some people can't deal with the old image problem.

              3. Yes, the easiest way is to cook only vegetarian food as you completely take yourself out of the wastefull cycle of using waaay to much water and fuel (trucking animals)

                3 Replies
                1. re: jbyoga

                  Funny, the local rancher I buy my meat from drives a biodiesel truck and doesn't irrigate his pasture.

                  1. re: jbyoga

                    We subscribe to a CSA for produce and buy our poultry, beef and pork directly from the producer (when possible.)


                    1. re: jbyoga

                      Here in Colorado, for most of the year, the vegetables and fruit are shipped in from out of state. Since we have winters, we can only get local produce for some of the year (but when we can, it's glorious). In some ways, it is easier to get local meat year round than local fruits and veggies.

                    2. I've tried many of the "green":cleaning products, with mixed results. Some of them are great, some of them just don't work. I want something that is a good solvent, so I don't have to spend 10 minutes scrubbing a stain away, and I want something that doesn't smell too strong.

                      I use Seventh Generation for an all purpose spray and a dishwasher liquid.
                      I use Biokleen for a dish soap.
                      I use Nutribiotic for a hand washing soap (their products are great for bath/toiletry purposes as well)

                      For the occasional paper product (we all need to use them sometimes) I like Green Forest.

                      Of course, the single best thing you can do is replace your appliances with new, energy efficient products.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        It's nice that appliances are getting better...but what happens to the old ones?

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          i like seventh generation's products. here in msp i like to use the restore products too-- the super-concentrated laundry soap especially. it's local and i like that i can refill my jug at my co-op, so i never have to recycle a big huge soap container! i don't know if you can get them in your area, but worth a look. . .

                        2. Anyone use a a vinegar and water mixture for disinfecting the kitchen counter? I've heard about it in passing and like the non chemical aspect of it. But don't know how well it works or even what ratio to use.

                          I just heard to use plain white vinegar and tap water.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: Jase

                            I use dish soap (anti-bacterial) and tap water. Nothing too scientific... About a tsp. of soap and fill the rest of the spray bottle up with water. I give it a little shake before I use it. If there is something that needs more scrubbing power I sprinkle baking soda down first. (And if I get some soap and baking soda on my hands I scrub them together and get a nice little exfoliating treatment!)


                            To keep my drains from getting clogged I occasionally toss a handful of baking soda down the drain and follow it with about a ½ cup of vinegar. I let it foam and sit for a bit, 15 minutes to overnight (whatev), then rinse with warm water. I try to do this about once a week to keep up; this way I won’t have to use Draino or some other type toxin.

                            I bring all my own bags to the grocery store, both for fruit/veggies (reuse the plastic bags) and for bagging.

                            I compost and recycle.

                            I use cloth napkins and tea towels instead of paper towels and serviettes (napkins).

                            1. re: Jase

                              I've used vinegar before. It's a decent solvent, but it makes everything smell like vinegar, which is undesirable.

                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                Add essential oil to it - pine or tea tree will cut the vinegar smell quite a bit.

                                1. re: lupaglupa

                                  Yeah, but I dislike the smell of pine and tea tree oil about as much as the smell of vinegar. Most of the cleaners I use are either unscented, or have a very mild citrus scent.

                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                    Try essential oil of lime or lavender. A few drops with a mixture of vinegar, dish soap and water seems to clean and cut through grease quite well.

                              2. re: Jase

                                I use vinegar and hydrogen peroxide as cleaner for the bathroom and kitchen. One bottle of each, follow one by the other. Vinegar does smell but it dissipates pretty quickly. The smell is gone by the time I've used the hydrogen peroxide (but a little hard in a small bath). Scrub with water and baking soda.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  What ratio of vinegar to water or HP to water? Thanks!

                                  1. re: Jase

                                    I use straight vinegar and straight hydrogen peroxide. I buy a 3% solution for OH. I've read you can use the two to clean produce and kill a lot of the bateria but you need to get food grade OH and it wasn't easy to find. I don't use the vinegar on granite, though. I haven't read that you shouldn't but worried about using an acid on it. I use the vinegar to clean the coffee maker, too, once in a while (not often enough). Using the vinegar always gives me cravings for salt and vinegar potato chips.;-)

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      here's an easy recipe: mix in clean spray bottle 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1/2 tsp biodegradable dish soap. optionally add a drop of essential oil.

                                      it's a good all-purpose spray cleaner, and the dish soap helps it cut grease.

                                  2. re: Jase

                                    Here's a site with some suggestions for green cleaning: www.thegreenguide.org/article/diy/hou...

                                    The recipe for Alice's Wonder Spray is what I use for most things requiring a spray cleaner, generally with some mint essential oil mixed in so everything doesn't smell like a pickle! I have had very good cleaning results with it.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      I've heard of using vinegar and lemon. I use Howard's Naturals marble and granite cleaner on our kitchen countertops. I actually think it is superior to the conventional marble and granite cleaner that we used to buy. I've tried the Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent and was unhappy with how it cleaned our dishes. Does anybody have another green dishwasher detergent they would recommend?

                                      1. re: Megiac

                                        There's Ecover Natural.
                                        Maryland is trying to pass legislation to ban phosphorus in DW detergents because they foul the Chesapeake Bay. It has been seriously restricted in laundry detergents for 22 years. Washington State has a similar law. The detergent industry claims products don't clean as well without it. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                                      2. re: Jase

                                        I use a vinegar/water mixture to clean my vegetables because it's supposed to be the most effective way to remove bacteria; it's a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. If you're cleaning surfaces, you might want to up it to 50/50...not sure.

                                        1. re: Jase

                                          Actually, I use it straight. The odor disperses quickly but be sure to get vinegar distilled from grain. White House white vinegar has this right on the label. If it says nothing of it's origin then it's petroleum based. In Tampa we have very hard water so I use it generously in my washing machine. It not only disinfects my clothes but softens the water eliminating the need for fabric softener. Try it also with an equal amount of baking soda in the bottom of your dishwasher. Run it through one wash cycle to remove deposits. Ha ha, and don't forget the windows!

                                          1. re: Jase

                                            Jase, I use vinegar and water to disinfect basically anything- it is possibly the cheapest method of cleaning ever, and works well! I use about three parts water to one part vinegar, and I add a little lemon juice for a 'fresher' smell. It helps mask the vinegar. For tough to remove food remnants in the sink or on the counter, I sprinkle some baking soda and just scrub with a damp sponge. This works very well.
                                            We have are very into green practices as well (in the kitchen and beyond) so I have a few tips to share. Like the rest of the board, we limit our paper towel usage, and try to buy recycled products whenever we can. We recycle everything we can- including food. We have a compost machine (the 'Earth Machine') which takes care of almost all food scraps, as I cook only vegetarian foods. We also save onion peels, garlic peels, carrot tops, celery bits, etc. to make veggie broth in large quantities. We are very conscious of how much water we use in the sink to wash dishes, and generally keep a bowl in there to wet the sponge and rinse dishes. Unfortunately, we are renters and don't have a great dishwasher, so we try to do what we can by hand and run it very rarely. I've got plenty of other green tips if you want, but this should do for now :)

                                            1. Save your pasta water (or any water where you've boiled veggies) and pour it on plants outside--vitamins leech into the water and are good for your plants. Coffee grounds can be put at the base of acid loving plants (like azaleas, rhododendrons, laurels). Use an energy efficient dishwasher, don't prerinse your dishes, don't use the dry cycle. If you're redoing your kitchen, consider using cork, bamboo floors or linoleum. Reuse before recycling.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Chowser, if you salt your pasta or veggie water, has it had any ill effects on the plants? Or do you avoid the salt? I like this idea, as I always feel a twinge of green guilt when I boil up a big vat of pasta and see all that water!

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Chowser, I have been reading that there are problems with long-term wear on bamboo flooring. One would really want to do their research before using bamboo in a kitchen for flooring.

                                                  1. re: NE_Elaine

                                                    I've heard the same thing and was wondering if anyone had personal experience. My friend did cork flooring and loves it but I've heard they are easy to gouge (not that I've ever done anything to my floor that might cause it to gouge). Before using anything new, I'd do more research. I love those new recycled glass countertops but would look into them a lot more before buying them. OTOH, we move often, so if we made changes, we'd be gone before most of the problems showed.

                                                    1. re: NE_Elaine

                                                      NE.E, my husband researched and wrote an article on bamboo for a mag and from what I can recall, there is a lot of low-grade bamboo out there. There is, however, a lot of high-grade as well. We have a bamboo floor in our bathroom and it has performed beautifully (only one bathroom in the house, and plenty of traffic). Denting seems to be the biggest problem with lower grades, and the grading seem to be related to how rapid growing the bamboo is. Slower growing = harder surface in the bamboo lumber. You're always going to get some dents in normal wear and tear, but, IMHO, the renewability of bamboo is worth it. In addition, it stands up well in wet conditions (bathroom again...various flood caused by overzealousness by teens). Another case of getting what you pay for.

                                                      We've also used bamboo plywood for a midcentury-modern style coffee table and it has been wonderful. Spendy for the plywood, but the ability to handle moisture is a big boon on a surface that gets some sweaty cocktail glasses set upon it, and worse. Do your research on bamboo and don't do for the cheapest if you decide to use it.

                                                    2. re: chowser

                                                      Unfortunately, my dishwasher doesn't clean well so pre-rinse is a must. I collect the dishes in the sink and when I'm ready to fill the washer I just fill the bottom of the sink with water,about an inch, so I don't have water running the entire time. Then the dishes get nicely sanitized in the washer. Of course there's never an empty spot when I run it.

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        don't forget brewed tea-- plants love that-- and the 1/2 empty beers too. might want to dilute with water though, or unsightly but harmless mold may grow on the top of the soil. houseplants too.

                                                      2. Great to hear more people are doing this!
                                                        Here are some things I do:
                                                        1. Compost all fruit and vegetable scraps. We have an outdoor compost pile, but also have a worm bin in our basement. There is NO smell or mess and it's in a modified plastic storage container---takes up just 2' x 3' of floor space. Borrow Worms Eat My Garbage from your local library to find out how you can do this.
                                                        2. I stopped using "kitchen cleaners". Most are petroleum-based. There is little that vinegar and/or baking soda won't take care of. "Anti-bacterial" soaps aren't necessary, and may contibute to the developement of "super bugs". Put some Hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle, and some plain old white vinegar in another (NOT both in one bottle). To disinfect a countertop, spray one, then the other. Let set 10 minutes, then wipe.
                                                        3. I don't buy garbage bags. I use a bathroom-size trash can that I line with plastic sacks that store purchases come in.
                                                        4. Recycle everything we can---from aluminum cans to cereal boxes.
                                                        5. Growing some of our own food. We have space to do this, but most everyone has a spot where they could put a container with a tomato plant in it. Or even grow some herbs on a windowsill.
                                                        6. Paying more attention to where our food comes from. I try to buy as locally as possible. Some choices are easy---buying sweet corn from the farmer a mile away rather than the corn at Kroger's that's been trucked in from 1,000+ miles away. But even the things I can't get "locally" I shop for the closest source; I live in Illinois, so Michigan cherries travel less to get to me than those from the Pacific Northwest.
                                                        7. All the lights in my kitchen are compact flourescents.
                                                        8. I use a toaster oven rather than the "big oven" most of the time. Microwave ovens and slow cookers also use less energy than full-sized ovens and stoves, so I use them when I can.

                                                        Hope some of these ideas help!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Anne

                                                          These are all excellent! Thank you so much!

                                                          1. re: Anne

                                                            The toaster oven & slow cooker ideas are good, too. Also, running a full dishwasher is actually more energy efficient than washing dishes by hand.


                                                          2. We keep a mostly green house. We use natural cleaning products (Seventh Generation mostly). We use cloth towels and cloth napkins. We wash and reuse our plastic bags - we even have a little drying rack for them. We compost our vegetable scraps. We grow a lot of vegetables and also belong to a CSA - that way we can freeze excess during the summer and have organic vegetables in the winter that aren't trucked in. We carry cloth bags to the supermarket and use jars and bags from home at the local food co-op. We haven't tried the keg idea! Unfortunately we cook on electric - bad on several levels but we can't really change that. It is not hard to switch toi a more green kitcheen - but it is expensive. Most organic and natural products are more costly than the regular stuff. But it's nice to know that we are lessening our impact on the environment..

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: lupaglupa

                                                              We live in Colorado, where water is precious. Agriculture, including irrigation for the pastures, fields, orchards and greenhouses that produce our locally grown foods, uses 90%. The remaining 10% is for domestic use, public buildings, schools, hospitals, lawns, the occasional public or private swimming pool, hotels, restaurants, etc. In many communities, above-quota water use is billed at a higher rate. Being green here, therefore, also includes being water-conscious.

                                                              I use cloth napkins only for company, but use post-consumer recycled paper ones for everyday. We also use post-consumer recyled paper towels, toilet paper and facial tissue. When our old washing machine gave out, we bought a Fisher & Paykel energy-efficient model that uses only as much water as is needed for the weight of the load. We also only run the dishwasher when it is full, use the energy-saving drying mode and use "short wash" when appropriate for what's in there.

                                                              1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                They say paper is better if you only use cloth once, but cloth is better if you reuse the napkins for several meals. We keep ours out as long as them seem clean, which varies by user (my 2 1/2 year old goes through napkins pretty fast!) and by meal. I know this may sound gross to some people (I know some people who only use their towels once).

                                                                1. re: lupaglupa

                                                                  Maybe it's because we do the same, but it doesn't seem gross to reuse napkins, as long as you use your own. Isn't that the purpose of having napkin rings?

                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    Yes, but many people have forgotten that!

                                                                2. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                  "Post-consumer recycled" sounds environmentally friendly until you stop to think about the energy consumed to pick up the used stuff, process it in the recycle plant, remake it into something else, repackage it, get it back to stores, carry it home and start all over again.
                                                                  Changing to cloth napkins and kitchen towels is a huge savings - energy and money - even if you only use them once or a couple of times before adding a few to a wash load that you're doing anyway. They pay for themselves quickly and you get hundreds of uses from them. Then they make great cleaning rags.

                                                              2. I don't know if I'm quite ready for the kegerator - but my local brewpub does sell beer by the quart and half-gallon in returnable containers.

                                                                I also like experimenting with making my own foods to cut down on packaging - like yogurt, which comes in containers I can't recycle in my area. So I make it myself in mason jars. (OK, that kind of thing I'd do anyway because it's fun. But I get the green points too.)

                                                                1. In addition to the fabric grocery bag, I also got a few cotton mesh produce bags. When I go to the Farmer's market, I don't use any plastic produce bags anymore.
                                                                  I don't take baths, I take quick showers. I try to save water wherever I can.
                                                                  I changed all my lights, I use much less paper towels and napkins (still looking for he perfect fabric napkins)
                                                                  I have been gradually changing all my cleaning supplies to green products and it has been difficult, as it is pretty costly. I got a lot of good ideas on this thread, though. I will certainly use them..

                                                                  1. I don't think anyone has mentioned the reusable coffee filters. Also "sun" tea brewing. I try to buy as much from the bulk foods section, my grocery will let you bring your own clean containers. They weigh them so you have a tare weight, they also will use your containers to put deli or meat dept. purchases in.

                                                                    I also try to make more efficient use of the cooking energy. When grilling, I try to do an app, main, veg, etc., often using the heat to prepare things for future meals. Boiling (rice for ex.) try to put a steamer over it for the main or the veg. Also try to cook extra (same energy expenditure) so that the 2nd meal won't require as much energy use.

                                                                    I use lots of old dish towels for many of the things I used to use paper towels for.
                                                                    You can do a lot of cleaning with vinegar & baking soda. The natural citrus cleaners are good for greasy cleanups.

                                                                    1. I just finished a very interesting book that anyone concerned about food and the environment might want to read: "Eating Fossil Fuels" by Pfeiffer.

                                                                      Its about the relationship between mega-agriculture and our (over) dependence on fossil fuels, and how we could have a true food crisis as our fossil fuel energy sources are depleted.

                                                                      Anyway, the author gives some "grass roots" suggestions to work towards sustainable agriculture: among them joining CSAs and/or food coops, forming community and roof-top gardens, eating as low on the food chain as possible (ie a vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet), buying locally grown produce only in season (to cut down on "food miles": ie the distance your food must be trucked to get to market: if you eat grapes in winter you can pretty well guarantee that they came from Chile or Mexico, and that means fuel consumption...), frequenting local Farmer's Markets or fruit stands, and playing the Johnny Appleseed card (ie saving your pips and seeds from fruit and veggies you eat and randomly planting them.....). He also recommended using unprocessed fresh food whenever possible (save production fuel), sharing rides to the market, etc.

                                                                      A lot to think about....and I'm not even going into what he had to say about hydrocarbon consumption to produce fertilizers......

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: janetofreno

                                                                        Great topic. I've recently stopped purchasing imported produce. Even though my store offers exclusively organic produce it seems counter intuitive to buy it if comes all the way from Guatemala. Admittedly, bananas are the exception to my rule. But I'm in Florida so I could feasibly grow my own.

                                                                        1. re: loveinmytummy

                                                                          Of course, for me bananas are totally expendable anyway..:-)

                                                                          I am making an effort to eat locally grown produce. The hardest thing for me is turning away mangoes, papaya and pineapple. I love most tropical fruits (well, except the afore-mentioned bananas...) but they obviously aren't grown anywhere near where I live!

                                                                      2. I keep a filter pitcher of water in my refridgerator and refill smaller bottles from that. I have a large vegetable garden and have been experimenting with freezing veggies and herbs.
                                                                        I use dish towels and rags rather than paper towels. I save and reuse grocery bags and I am collecting a supply of cloth bags. I try to eat unprocessed foods, limited boxed or frozen items.
                                                                        I appreciate the links that posters have added with cleaning information. That is one of the next steps I am planning.
                                                                        It definitely takes more work and planning to be green.

                                                                        1. For those of you that use compact fluorescent bulbs, I'm wondering how you feel about personally saving energy while using so much energy to have the bulbs shipped (most are made in China) and the potential loss of a lot of jobs if the US doesn't start manufacturing most of the CFLs (most incandescent bulbs are made in the US). I've been thinking of these questions as I wonder if CFLs are a good idea in our own household and as yet have not come up with a solid answer. Thoughts?

                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: gourmanda

                                                                            I haven't seen any statistics on the energy used in shipping and manufacturing and disposing of the various bulbs vs. energy expenditure in burning the bulbs , but it's an interesting question indeed. What is your source for knowing where the various types of bulbs are manufactured?

                                                                            It's true, though, that many of these green issues aren't black and white, unfortunately. I've found that, in general, the Union of Concerned Scientists does a good job of sorting out the facts on comparative total energy expenditures and when I'm done with this post, I'll go look on their website to see if they have any stats for lightbulbs. Also, sometimes what's a good choice for " reduced overal energy expenditure" is bad for water quality, or air quality or social equality or whatever. These issues are very complex.

                                                                            On the topic of lost jobs, well, that adds another layer of complexity, of course. For my personal decision making, if I could get a clear, overwhelming conclusion from a reliable source that the manufacturing, shipping, using, and disposing of one kind of bulb had vast advantages over the other kind, I'd buy the most energy efficient one and let the jobs sort out. If it results in major job loss in the U.S. we can address that through social and political channels--tax incentives for retrofitting factories or retraining workers and such...

                                                                            EDIT: here's a link to the wikipeida summary of the book "The Consumers Guide to Effective Environment Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists" that I've found very helpful. It's a good one to check out from the library.

                                                                            EDIT: I didn't find any info out about manufacture and shipping of lightbulbs... But, here's a chart I like on comparative energy expenditure for typical home appliances, including kitchen appliances (back to someone's earlier excellent point about using the slowcooker and microwave and toaster oven vs. her regular oven): http://seattle.gov/light/printdocs/ac...


                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              Thanks for you insightful post. Indeed, "green choices" often have multi-layered issues surrounding them making it hard to know you are doing the right thing
                                                                              One other notable thing about CFLs is the mercury content; while small, even the Energy Dept. thinks they need to be recycled with household hazardous waste, something I think might be an issue for a lot of communities.

                                                                              As to where most of the bulbs are made, I have seen a few news stories on the subject, though I can not provide you with the details at the moment. A quick search did turn up this post (yes, I know it might be a "teensy" bit biased, but their information and campaign has to be rooted in fact
                                                                              And even though Wikipedia is not alway trustworthy, a discussion of bulb manufacture can be found about halfway down the page of this link


                                                                              As always, many factors to consider.

                                                                            2. re: gourmanda

                                                                              A bigger concern for me with CFLs is the mercury content. The bulbs basically have to be treated as hazardous waste because of it. According to the latest (Oct.) issue of Consumer Reports, Sylvania has started offering a mail-in recycling program for CFL bulbs -- for $15, they'll send you a Recyclepak, a lined box that holds 8-12 bulbs and is prepaid for FedEx delivery. Check with your local authorities about other ways to recycle them; some town are starting to get on the ball.

                                                                              1. re: katydid13

                                                                                for a mercury-free, energy efficient light bulb check out LED lights


                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                  soupkitten, the LEDs are indeed a wonderful product, although still cost-prohibitive for most. We've got a few (our back porch and as our kitchen table light (most used lights in the house) and we love them. I'm waiting for prices to go down to get some more, as ours were professional comps and at that point, about 80USD per for that size. Until then, I will use the CFLs and hope that I don't have to deal with breakage anytime soon.
                                                                                  BTW, we have a CFL that's been going for 6 years, hard duty. I am impressed. But the LEDs have my serious attention.

                                                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                    yeah i am waiting for the price to drop--as more companies make them--too! and more kinds/styles. the breakage issue with the cfls is a little scary, that's mostly what i have at home now. i see the LEDs as the next thing and although they are very expensive they are also very green (no mercury) and probably what we'll phase in to next. . .

                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                      Here's a food-related aside: the LEDs seems to have varying colors of light. The one over our kitchen table accentuates the red/orange/yellow end of the spectrum. It really makes tomato sauces, mango salads and sauteed carrots POP! in the extreme. But this is not a bad thing, our family has decided. But be prepared if you have any "violently colored" purchased sauces. LEDs make them positively glow. I would investigate other light output variations if that doesn't appeal.

                                                                                      Still, I advocate for the lights, heartily. Besides, isn't the warm end of the spectrum supposed to enhance hunger?

                                                                              2. re: gourmanda

                                                                                I don't have CFLs, so I did not know where they were made, but as a general rule, I will not buy any product from China. I try to buy everything from the USA. But, that is another thread, as they say.

                                                                              3. Thanks everyone for the responses! Good to see everyone care about the environment! Spread the word...

                                                                                1. I've been thinking about buying one of these soda club machines to cut back on the quantity of pop cans and bottles I have to recycle. The machine enables you to carbonate ordinary tap water. The one hitch seems to be that you have to buy their proprietary CO2 tubes, but they do re-use them after you return them to them.


                                                                                  Any thoughts about this from a "green" perspective?


                                                                                  1. PETA would make the point that all of these activities mentioned on this post - and in fact, all of the greenhouse gasses produced by cars, add up to less than the total amount of methane produced by the animals we eat. In fact, the growth of factory meat farming is the single greatest contributor to the global warming problem.

                                                                                    They are saying that you cannot consider yourself to be a serious environmentalist and eat meat.

                                                                                    Hmmm... I'm not sure that I'm ready to give up meat yet - but if these numbers are true, it's surely something we have to think about. If this is so big, I wonder about the development of a technological solution - perhaps a cow and pig diaper that captures the methane. Conversely (to their fear of the negative effects of the methane), wouldn't the elimination of this huge cause of Global Warming allow us some "breathing room" in terms of the elimination of car exhaust? So we could keep driving SUV's to our heart's content, as long as we diaper the cows... hmmm... And more importantly, we could raise even more wagyu and kurobuta! Wagyu sashimi every night! Thank you, PETA!

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                                                      I'm a happy vegetarian, and although I sometimes miss fresh seafood (I'm a New England gal), I believe this is an important step for many to take in order to decrease our footprint (as stated by PETA and also by many, many other sources). However, there are ways to be more conscious of what meat you purchase, such as buying local grass-fed pasture raised meat/poultry and sustainable seafood. Besides the eco-consciousness issue raised by this debate, I think treating animals with respect and acknowledging their importance in our lives, whether or not you eat them, is something we need to work on. Humans aren't alone on this earth, and if we acknowledge the interdependence of all living beings, maybe we'll start caring more about the planet we share.

                                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                                        The ecological impact of the meat industry (and not just methane), or at least my understanding of it, was the primary reason for my going veg decades ago. However, I no longer think it is that simple. Would it be better for me to eat a chicken from a well-managed farm, spreading that chicken out over many meals, or to eat ADM patties at each of those meals? I think the meat industry and the large quantities of meat are issues, but I also think you can eat meat in limited amounts and be an evironmentalist. If I felt I could have an occasional meat based meal, with meat from farmers I trust, without falling off the wagon and falling asleep with meat bones falling out of my mouth, I'd start back on meat. Sadly, I'm a give myself an inch take a mile sort of gal, so I just stay off the meat.

                                                                                        1. re: applehome

                                                                                          actually it's the burps, not, uh, the tooter, so much-- and that would be less of a problem if the ruminants (cows) were eating grass rather than grain and industrial feed byproducts, which they don't digest well. so grass-fed, pastured animals make for greener meat choices, and are important for the livelihood of many farmers, especially those who farm in northern climes, where meat can supply a seasonable income when they can't harvest crops.

                                                                                        2. This is such an interesting discussion, and I am happy to see all the useful links people have contributed. For my $.02, I use vinegar and baking soda for most everything that needs cleaning (not clothes or dishes, of course), and I am adjusting to my clothesline (scratchy towels are a sacrifice I am willing to make). Right now, there are no lights on in the house (I deliberately put my work/computer by the window), and I don't have air conditioning. Also, I try to get extra bang for my energy buck by keeping the oven open after using it in winter, keeping my freezer full, and saving water from the kettle or from cooking, when appropriate, to water the plants, indoors and out.

                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Marsha

                                                                                            Nobody likes scratchy terrycloth towels. Try waffle weave cotton ones instead - like spas use. They've been used in Europe and Asia for a long time - places where many people don't have dryers. They're not so cheap on the US since the market here is for terrycloth but they're worth seeking out. I've had some for years and years. They dry very quickly when you hand them up after using so they're terrific for humid climates, beach houses, etc. Also dry very fast on low or medium setting in clothes dryers. Real energy savers. And they feel great on your skin.

                                                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                              Try vinegar in the wash and rinse cycles...this helps neutralize hard water and may help soften your towels. It also disinfects your laundry.

                                                                                              1. re: loveinmytummy

                                                                                                The stiff, scratchy towel problem is from drying them on a clothesline outdoors. Vinegar doesn't help that. I switched to the cotton waffle weaves years ago because they are more durable and much more energy efficient. Even during the winter when I can't dry them outside, they dry in less than half the time that terrycloth does.
                                                                                                Terry cloth towels that are stiff from being dried on a clothesline can be softened by a quick spin on fluff cycle in the dryer. No or little heat to save energy.
                                                                                                Nothing like the clothesline for sheets. Best thing in the world.

                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                  My comment is in regard to kitchen towels - buy linen. It dries rapidly, doesn't depend on fabric softener to get the loops up (as with terry), and is tough, tough, tough. It's hard (or supremely expensive) to find linen kitchen towels, so I recommend your local fabric store. Buy a few yards, mark sizes, and simply tear them. Shread the fringes, and you're set.

                                                                                                  Yes, when you wash them, they will wrinkle. Don't worry, and don't iron and starch (just fold when slighty damp). Your linen towels will be workhorses for years to come. Some of mine are fifty years old (or more...my grandmother wove the fabric and used them when my dad was a boy...some 70 years ago).

                                                                                                  You can do the same for fabric napkins. Good cottons and good linens can hold up and not need a lot of care. We do embrace the old custom of napkin rings, and it gets us through the week (absent fried chicken!).

                                                                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                    I buy them as travel souvenirs and have them from all over the US and the world. The funkier the better. Flea markets, estate sales and eBay are terrific sources for antique and vintage ones. Other people's travel souvenirs often went unused and linen kitchen and tea towels are often available for only a few dollars.
                                                                                                    If you don't line-dry, taking them straight out of a medium dryer and hand smoothing them is all they need. A hot dryer wrinkles them terribly.