Did know that simple changes in the kitchen can not only create a greener environment but conserve water and energy? For example, converting to non-toxic/hazardous chemicals, fixing leaky faucets and turning off lights play an important part in the grand conservation scheme. While major purchases and changes such as buying energy-efficient appliances and changing your favorite cleaner to a homemade cleaner may be a harder step to take, many small steps can be taken to move towards sustainability. Consider the many recommendations and links outlined below for the small and big steps.
Recycling at home
Reducing solid waste in your home can be accomplished through taking small steps and changing many habits.
Reducing includes using less such as avoiding the one-time use of tableware items, avoiding generating food waste and separating the non-recyclable waste from recyclables such as cans, glass, plastic, cardboard and paper.
Reusing includes the reuse of food containers, clothes and natural resources such as water. For example, food containers and one-time use items can be reused for many purposes to extend the life of the item. Reusing jars as drinking cups, reusing clothes that cannot be donated as cleaning cloths and reusing wasterwater for watering plants illustrate just a few of the endless possibilities of reusing.
Donating items accomplishes both things: you reduce the solid waste generation in your home and divert waste from the local landfill by giving items that are in good condition to local charities or second-hand stores. Reusing items you don’t want can serve a purpose to someone else.
Recycling includes collecting the recyclable items that can be recycled in your city, work or local recycling center.
Please contact your city or recycling center for a list of accepted recyclable items.
According to EPA, 32 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2012, representing 12.7 percent of total municipal solid waste. Avoid the disposal of plastic bags in your trash. Not only does the bag only serve a one-time use, non-renewable resources such as water and petroleum are used in the production of a plastic bag. In addition, plastic bags flow easily in the wind attaching to fences and polluting the water and land.
Give those bags a second life by reusing them in many ways such as:
Reducing plastic bag waste in your home is as easy as purchasing reusable bags. Storing reusable bags in your vehicle and moving them to the front or back seat prior to departing for the shopping trip is a great way to reduce plastic bag use. Reusable bags can be purchased in a multitude of colors, styles and durability and can also be made from old clothing. Remember that in addition to grocery shopping, they can also be taken to other stores such as retail and specialty stores, using them to carry library books, and to club stores that do not provide bags. If you choose to continue using plastic bags, you can do your part for the environment by recycling them locally such as local grocery stores, retailers and your place of employment.
Green cleaning your home eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and improves indoor air quality. It also creates a safer environment for everyone by reducing the risk to human health and the environment as well as reducing the amount of hazardous waste that is generated by homes annually.
Green chemistry, which is also known as sustainable chemistry, is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.
The benefits of green chemistry technologies include:
Each day we make choices about what products we use from cosmetics to cleaning products. Many Americans assume that the chemicals in daily items such as shampoos, detergents, etc. have been thoroughly tested and are ‘safe’. However, with more than 85,000 industrial chemicals available for use today, it has been difficult to mandate safety testing.
The EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program helps consumers identify cleaning and other products that perform well, are cost effective and are safer for the environment. These products have been tested and you can identify them by the DfE label shown above.
For greener options, you can search by product categories on its website at: http://www.epa.gov/dfe/.
When searching for cleaning products check labels for words like “biodegradable”, “non-toxic,” “phosphate-free”, “petroleum-free,” and “Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)-free.” Try to use products made from plant based materials such as oils from citrus, seed, vegetable and pine.
Consider the following common kitchen items to replace for green chemicals:
Pollution Prevention in the home also includes preventing food loss or food waste. At this moment, in the United States, about 40 percent of food goes uneaten translating into more than 20 pounds of food per person each month. It is estimated that a family of four loses up to $2,000 a year in discarded food. If Americans reduced their food waste by just 15 percent, it would be enough to feed 25 million Americans. Uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where organic matter represents 16 percent of U.S. methane emissions. EPA’s food recovery hierarchy depicts the recommended options in order to make the most of excess food.
Reducing the amount of food waste at home reduces the amount of food waste at the landfill. Consider the many ways in which you can reduce food waste at home:
A great way to reduce waste is by composting some basic items at home. Composting is a natural process in which organic material decomposes into a rich, dark soil. The composting process occurs naturally everywhere. When you dispose of compostable material in a landfill, not only are you taking up space in the landfill, you are disposing of organic material that can be composted and used in the garden.
What can be composted?
What not to compost?
Many cities around the state have incorporated composting programs:
In addition, check out EPA’s page on Composting at Home where you can find educational information on composting including benefits, how to compost at home (both indoor and outdoor) and composting resources. Try the Find a Composter link on the page to find a composter near you.
Although we are in the Arizona desert, many delicious crops thrive in the state. Buying Arizona grown benefits you, the community and the environment. Play a part in supporting local growers and producers.
Consider attending the third annual Phoenix Food Day event on Oct. 24, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. hosted by a partnership between the City of Phoenix Green Team, FitPHX, Maricopa County and the State of Arizona.
Energy conservation can occur though big and small steps in the kitchen. Energy efficient appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, garbage disposals and stoves are the best way to reduce the use of energy in the kitchen area. Appliances are high-dollar items that should be researched prior to purchase to ensure that you are not only getting the best value in the purchase but also in your energy bill. EPA’s Energy Star program provides information on energy-efficient products, energy savings at home and energy-efficient homes.
Ways to reduce the energy in the kitchen
Reduce the energy usage in your home by applying window treatments. Window treatments are a simple and attractive way to conserve energy. Items such as curtains, blinds and shades help keep the sun out during Arizona’s hot months hot months which helps reduce energy consumption. Temperatures in Arizona’s lower deserts can reach 110 degrees-plus during the summer. Having the appropriate window treatments inside and out is a great way to reduce energy costs around the home.
Solar window screens
Investing in solar window screens and replacing old screens on the outside of the windows in your kitchen can block up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays before they enter your windows. This not only helps with the reduction of solar heat coming in from your window and reducing energy bill costs, it protects furniture and carpets from fading in the dining area and avoids heat spoiling foods left out such as fruits and vegetables.
Curtains are a great way to block out sunlight during the summer heat while creating privacy. Blackout curtains reduce light, noise and energy costs. These curtains have an aesthetically pleasing material on one side and a liner on the other. Many brands advertise reducing up to 99 percent of light and 40 percent of noise coming in through the widow. However, keep in mind that these styles don’t only decrease the entrance of light and noise, they also block the outside view.
Shades allow you to block out the solar light while still maintaining a view. While they don’t offer privacy, they are a great addition to a window for those who don’t like curtains and blinds blocking their view.
Low emissive glass
Low emissive window glass has been treated with an invisible coating (metal or metallic oxide) that creates a surface which reflects solar heat while still allowing light to enter the window. This not only reduces the heat entering your home during summer, it also prevents the heat loss in winter.
Skylights are a great way to take advantage of the natural light especially in the kitchen area. While skylights require a higher initial investment, the use of natural light can reduce energy costs. Remember to look into glass coatings to prevent too much heat from coming in while still preserving the entrance of light.
Look for the Energy Star label when looking to upgrade those windows, doors and skylights. The links assist consumers in finding information about their specific climate zone.
The kitchen and bathroom are the two places inside the home where the most water is used. Simple things that can be done in the kitchen such as fixing leaky faucets and not allowing the water to run while washing dishes is a step forward in reducing water usage. Consider upgrading appliances which can not only save energy but water as well.
Ways to conserve water:
Household hazardous waste generated in the kitchen
Many of the commonly used kitchen products contain toxic, reactive, corrosive or ignitable ingredients which are considered household hazardous waste. This waste can come in the form of pesticides or bug repellants, window and floor cleaners and aerosol products. When disposed in a dumpster, the waste makes its way to the landfill contributing the large amount of household hazardous waste that is disposed and polluting the environment. Avoid disposing household hazardous waste in a landfill by considering the following: