Green Kitchen Stories

By Shannon Latimer

If you’re looking to make your household more eco-friendly—why not start in the kitchen? There are a lot of quick and easy things you can do in the heart-of-your-home that’ll have you on your way to a greener lifestyle in no time at all. Here are some of our top tips and tricks. 

Veg is King:

Go meatless when you can
If you’re a regular meat eater and this idea scares you, don’t worry, you can start slow. Try going meat-free for just one meal. And if you find it’s not so bad, try it for a day or more. Avoiding meat is one of the most eco-friendly things you can do. And while you’re at it, try using every edible part of the plant too—from flesh and skin, to seeds and stem. This way, there’s less waste. Did you know the fuzzy skin of a kiwi is edible?

Shop at the farmers’ market
Get out with your family and enjoy the fresh air and fresh goodies at your local farmers’ market. Remember to take along reusable shopping bags, jars and containers and buy as many package-free options as you can. This outing will also help you recognise what produce is in season in your local area. It’s important to buy seasonal, and not imported out-of-season fruits and veggies. 

Grow your own
If you have space and good soil, why not grow as many of your own veggies and herbs as you can? And if you don’t have the space, try sprouting a few cherry tomatoes, easy greens and herbs in small pots. That way you know your greens are seasonal, fresh and pesticide free. 

Green Cooking: 

Use heat wisely
Did you know that by turning the oven off five minutes before the end of the cooking time, you will not only save electricity or gas, but your food will continue to ‘green grill’ in the off position with the remaining heat? Modern ovens also don’t need to be preheated anymore. They’re designed to reach the desired temperature very quickly. One sure way to lose temperature quickly, though, is by opening the oven door to check on your meal. And you’ll then need to use extra energy to reheat it. So, don’t peek!

Keep the lids on
Using your pot’s lid when cooking is key to saving energy. When using a pot on your hob—for simmering, sautéing or boiling—you can also finish your cooking by turning off five minutes before the end, covering your pot with the lid and allowing your meal to cook with the trapped heat. That’s more energy saved. And remember to use the right size pot on the right size element, otherwise you’ll be wasting heat. 

Modern microwave cooking
If you’ve got a good microwave that does more than just reheating, make sure you use it. A microwave can reduce energy use by about 66 per cent compared to an oven—so why not try baking, steaming and even stewing in your microwave? Just make sure you use the right type of cooking containers—ones that are designed for microwave use. 

Cleaning Up: 

Composting can be easy
Did you know your food scraps break down without oxygen in landfills? What happens then is they produce a methane gas that is about 21 times more harmful than CO2. So why don’t you rather try get rid of all your food scraps at home? It’s easy to do. There are many composting options available from freezing your food waste and taking it to your farmers’ market’s compost heap, to backyard and compact kitchen composters, and even worm bins. Give some thought to which option will suit your family.

Take the schlep out of recycling
It’s all about getting organized. We all know how important recycling is, but unfortunately, when it comes down to it, it’s a very inconvenient chore for South Africans. To have your recycling collected costs money and remembering to take it to the recycling depot is a pain. But if your kitchen is set up and organised for easy placement of recycling, and driving to the depot is put on the weekly calendar—along with fetching the kids from school—then it becomes part of your routine and much less of a schlep. 

Make your own
Why not try to make your own earth-friendly cleaning products yourself, like your grandma probably used to? You’ll be surprised at how much dirt lemon, white wine vinegar, bicarb and salt can eliminate. Vinegar is great as a fabric softener and if you make a paste with it and bicarb, you’ll have a stain remover too. A dash of vinegar in half a litre of water does wonders for windows and mirrors. Lemon juice and salt can scrub the grime right off pots and pans. A slice of lemon can disinfect a chopping board and a squeeze of lemon juice will help to take away stains if left for ten minutes before wiping. 

Eco Appliances: 

If you spend a little more money on buying good-quality, efficient kitchen appliances, they are more likely to last longer and have less of an impact than continuously buying cheaper ones. Remember to look out for the European energy rating on appliances—‘A’ is best.

Keep it cool
Don’t overload your fridge as this uses more energy—leave 20 per cent free for air circulation. Check your fridge’s temperature is set between 1.5 and 3°C otherwise you’ll also be using more energy. Defy Combi Eco Fridge Freezer from R6799 – Energy Rating A

Keep it clean
A modern, energy-efficient dishwasher uses less water and energy than if you were to wash a full load by hand. But remember, your dishwasher must be full for this to be true. And if you can, skip the heat dry cycle and rather let your dishes air dry. Bosch 12 Place Dishwasher from R4799 – Energy Rating A

Keep it hot
Induction offers the responsiveness and control of gas and the heating power of electricity. It generates a lot of heat in a very short time, but it can also heat at very low temperatures giving you the ability to simmer with precision. This makes it very energy efficient.
Whirlpool Induction Hob from R9699