How To Green Your Kitchen
In our greener home and lifestyle series, we’ve moved from Greening The Bathroom to the greening the kitchen.
Greening your bathroom is inexpensive as so many DIY recipes can be incorporated into the process. The kitchen is more of a challenge to green without spending money, but your health will thank you for it. Don’t ignore all the research linking chemicals and food choices to health.
Main Areas Of Focus:
- How do you clean your kitchen?
- Is there any non-stick Teflon lurking in your kitchen?
- What ‘wish list’ products can you work towards?
- Are you educated on GMOs or genetically modified food?
Cleaning Your Kitchen
Ditch: Chemical or antibacterial cleaners and self cleaning oven option
Try: Baking soda, vinegar, castile soap, olive oil, and lemons
There are four main areas to focus on when cleaning your kitchen:
- hand and dishwasher soap
- stainless steel polish
- countertops and the floor
- the oven
All chemical based cleaners can be swapped out with ingredients in your pantry: vinegar, olive oil, baking soda and lemons. Since most DIY dishwasher detergent recipes use Borax, which always sparks a debate for use in laundry soap, I would recommend purchasing a green dishwasher detergent instead of attempting a DIY.
Have you ever used the self clean option on your oven? You probably remember the experience because the fumes released by the combination of high temperatures and the interior coating of your oven left you feeling a little queasy.
After I had a physically bad reaction to using the self cleaning option in my oven, I discovered a phenomenon whereby many pet birds had died after owners used the self clean option. To me, this reaction to a cleaning method described as ‘chemical free’ doesn’t make sense, so I strongly advise against self-cleaning your oven with high temperatures. The heat of at least 500 degrees Celsius combined with binding agents within the porcelain material sprayed on the interior of ovens can results in this off-gassing effect.
This bicarbonate is the best ingredient for DIY oven cleaning! First, make a water and baking soda paste and add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. I used peppermint but lavender would be great, too.
Next, take an old toothbrush (I save them for this purpose) and recruit a child to help, but make sure your oven is turned off. Kids love cleaning the oven with toothbrushes and you don’t need to worry because the oven is turned off and the cleaner is organic.
For the inside: coat the entire interior of your oven, making sure to leave extra paste on the heavier soiled areas. Leave overnight and the next morning your oven will wipe clean. If you have a stubborn bits of oven debris, use an old stainless steel spirinette and give it some extra elbow grease.
Baking soda is a great natural abrasive cleaner so if you have stubborn stains on your counter-top, flat top oven, interior of your fridge or sink, just sprinkle a fine layer of baking soda before wiping with your reusable cloth.
Vinegar & Lemon
Vinegar has powers you never thought possible. Did you know about all the uses of vinegar? In the kitchen, it’s a budget friendly cleaner that you can distill with water and add to a spray bottle. Again, feel free to add a drop of your favourite essential oil; tea tree oil or a squeeze of lemon would give your spray bottle extra disinfectant power. This can be your everyday cleaner for counter tops, fridge and sinks. Another benefit: This mixture also works great on windows!
Castile soap is the solution to your problems and as versatile as your creativity.
If you haven’t already become best friends with the Dr. Bronner castile soap brand, get ready to fall in love. This company is built on everything you want to support: family based, environmental leaders and activists, organic, fair trade, and can be used for SO many purposes. Buy the largest bottle possible because the uses are endless in the kitchen and bathroom. It can be used for floors, vehicles, laundry, body and so much more. In the kitchen my favourite uses for castile liquid soap is to hand-wash my dishes (don’t use in the dishwasher as it’s too foamy). If you don’t like the streaking that vinegar can sometimes leave, castile soap is a great alternative!
This is my favourite tip to share about cleaning stainless steel surfaces. Many of us own kitchen appliances with a steel exterior and they get grimy with fingerprints and smudge marks. The most effective way to naturally clean steel is to use a paper towel or cotton cloth and pour a few tablespoons of olive oil to apply. Wipe along the grain of the steel and you’ll see instant, polished results.
Along with many modern day conveniences, people love non-stick cookware. Appliances that might contain non-stick coatings are: frying pans, grills, waffle irons and muffin/loaf pans. If you are committed to greening your kitchen, you’ll want to eliminate using Teflon for non-stick convenience.
The easiest way to check if it’s Teflon is by its black coating which might be prone to scratches or flaking. Why is this material so toxic? There is a binding agent in Teflon coatings that is released with high heat called PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid). According to the American Cancer Society, Teflon is not linked to cancer; however, PFOA is. These are very resilient chemicals that remain in your body for years after being consumed. PFOAs have been found in Arctic polar bears, a testament to their resilience and the fact they never break down in our environment and instead remain in our environment and bodies.
Non-Stick Cooking Alternatives
You don’t have to give up your love of non-stick. Our grandparents had things figured out and now the trend of cast iron is bigger than ever. All it takes is a little re-seasoning and cast iron has new life so if you have unused cast iron products lurking in the attic, now is the time to get them listed to sell on your local local UsedEverywhere.com site. This Staub Fry Pan on UsedVictoria.com is a great price for a cast iron pan and would be perfect to fry up meat with the fat collection on the bottom.
Currently I use 100% stainless steel pots and frying pans. It takes a little getting used to with heating your oil or butter enough before frying up eggs and not having them stick, but you get the hang of it. I’m still on the lookout for a cast iron muffin tray and frying pan, though, so if you have them crammed into the back of a cupboard, never to see daylight again, please post them on UsedVancouver.com. I’ll be giving you a call before you know it.
The revolution of plastic 50 years ago gave families single use or throw-away options. We have seen the environmental destruction through plastic over the years and many families are harkening back to the generation that used glass and steel materials with food storage and preparation. Remember the aluminum ice cube trays you had growing up? Well they are back in a stainless steel form. The same goes for Popsicle Molds, containers to freeze food, containers for heating food, and bulk food storage. If you are cooking food at high temperature, stick to glass. When freezing food use glass or stainless steel.
Microwave vs. Dehydrator
Do you have doubts about the safety of having a microwave to cook food? We know that plastic should definitely not be used in a microwave, but what is the radiation actually doing to our food?
Science is inconclusive if having a microwave in your home is bad for health, but if you feel uneasy, look into replacing it with a food dehydrator. We don’t need science to know that making our own jerky, dried fruit, kale chips, fruit leather, and crackers with a dehydrator is a great idea.
When you make your own food from scratch you can be confident the ingredients are clean because preservatives are not added to ensure shelf-life. If you are thinking of making the switch, list that microwave on your local local UsedEverywhere.com site and put out a wanted ad for a second hand dehydrator.
GMOs or Genetically Modified Food
If you are new to the topic of genetically modified food, please read the article What The Heck Are GMOs? We can’t write a greener kitchen article without a small mention about what exists in your pantry, cupboards, and fridge. Last year, a GMO Speaker’s Tour swept across Canada with activists educating the public about GMOs and how they affect our families.
Join a local member’s board for your Province and find out what you can do to get educated about GMOs in your community.
To read more on the apple campaign and find resources, check out Society for a G.E. Free B.C.’s website. Currently the Canadian Government has more GM foods to approve: GMO salmon, alfalfa, and non-browning apples and activists are working hard to have this stopped.
You quickly realize on the journey to green your kitchen that second hand products are your best friend. Quality kitchenware made from stainless steel, glass, and cast iron are built to last and can be great second hand investments. Harness the power from our grandparents’ generation and clean with ingredients you can pronounce.
Be aware that convenient items sometimes come with a higher cost. If you have any questions on how to green your kitchen, please post to the comments and we’ll be happy to answer them!