Cooking your own meals at home, instead of always going out to eat, is considered an effective strategy for reducing your own personal environmental impact, as well as creates healthier meals for you and your family. So once someone has decided to make the effort to begin cooking at home more often, one tends to realize that without a fully equipped kitchen, it can be difficult to make the meals you would like to eat. But wouldn’t going out and purchasing all these fancy kitchen gadgets and tools (most of which aren’t very environmentally friendly products for various reasons) reduce how eco-friendly your home cooking processes will be? Not necessarily, there are plenty of ways to green the gadgets and tools in your kitchen.
Aside from some of the major environmental impacts of our cooking practices, such as energy usage of our appliances, amount of water used to prepare food, and products to purchase when remodeling into a Green Kitchen, I am interested in what types of products are out there specifically for the act of cooking that take into account their environmental impact in the design and manufacturing of these products. Some of these products are more commonly known than others to the general public, but every day there are more and more sustainable kitchen gadgets and tools entering into the market.
Before looking at specific products and comparing them to one another, there are some key steps to consider that relate more to your behaviors and lifestyle that can have a big impact on reducing your environmental impact. These include:
1) Only buying the kitchen gadgets and tools that you really need to keep from ending up with drawers and cabinets full of gadgets that never get used. Take some time to consider what types of foods you usually cook and what tools will be needed for getting the job done.
2) Explore the options of sharing kitchen gadgets and tools with neighbors, friends, or family. If somebody else already has the tool you need, why go out and buy another one. This also helps to create an environment where you can share recipes, and even food every once in a while.
3) Be creative in thinking of ways to use gadgets and tools that you already have in the house. This way you don’t need to go out and buy so many specialty tools that only serve one purpose. Many tools and gadgets will get the job done even if they weren’t meant for that specific purpose.
4) Get used to the practice of maintaining your gadgets and tools so that they last longer and can function properly over time. This will eliminate the need to purchase new items every so often because tools are breaking or malfunctioning.
Now that you have your list of gadgets and tools that you will need to operate your kitchen cooking endeavors successfully, let’s start to examine what makes one product better than another. We can create a set of criteria with which to evaluate kitchen tools and gadgets so that you are purchasing the products that have the least environmental impact. To get you started on a criteria of sustainability issues that is important to you, consider the following:
Does the product have multiple purposes?
You want to look for products that can be used to serve many useful cooking and food preparation techniques. Why purchase ten different tools when you can find one that does the same job as the ten separate tools. An example is the adjustable measuring spoons or cups which adjust to measure all the amounts you could need. Another interesting item is the Eco-Cook pot. Purchasing multi-purpose tools will save you money, as well as cut down on the amount of material and packaging you bring into your kitchen.
What is the product made out of? Are the materials that were used to produce the product renewable, natural, or produced locally? Does the product contain recycled materials, or reused materials?
Products made of metals and plastics are very common when it comes to kitchen gadgets and tools. While it may be tough to eliminate all products made of these materials, consider purchasing items made of materials such as bamboo and other renewable or natural items when these products are available. It is generally even more difficult to find products that are renewable or natural and are produced locally, but finding products that are produced nearby will cut down on the transportation impacts on the environment of getting this product to your kitchen.
Examples of some interesting products available are Soapstone cookware, 100% recycled Aluminum Foil, hemp tea bags , Bamboo cutting boards, Recycled glass dinner plates and an extremely unique teapot called Sorapot that is made out of all recycled materials, and all parts, including packaging, are totally recyclable.
Does the product require energy to make it work? If so, what kind of energy is required?
Look at purchasing manual tools that are powered by your own effort rather than electricity, such as a manual blender, or a manual slicer which uses a hand crank. Or if you really want to take it to the next level consider products that run on renewable energy such as solar ovens.
Are there any known health concerns associated with using the product for cooking?
Some products contain chemicals known to adversely affect human health. Since some of the products we use are exposed to a wide range of temperatures, there are some materials that will off-gas when subjected to repeated high temperatures. You want to avoid these products and look for alternative products that don’t contain any of these chemicals. One such example is a newer line of cookware called Greenpan which uses a unique type of non stick technology to replace the typical technology which has been shown to be toxic over time.
A good website to visit with lots of sustainable kitchen items is Pristine Planet. Good luck and happy cooking!