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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.

    ~TDQ

    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:
          http://www.reusablebags.com/

          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...

            ~TDQ

        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.

            ~TDQ

            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.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: swsidejim

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

                  http://www.frigidaire.com/press_fact_...

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

                  ~TDQ

            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!

                ~TDQ

              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?

                  ~TDQ

                  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:

                    http://order.tupperware.com/pls/htpro...

                    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.)

                    ~TDQ

                    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!)

                            Also!

                            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 :)