By Melinda Collins
Going green in the kitchen is not about getting out the old paintbrush and letting loose. According to the United States Department of Energy, lighting, refrigeration and cooking are responsible for 41.5 percent of a home’s energy consumption. Throw in your dishwashers, electronics and a plethora of preparatory paraphernalia and,
quite simply, you’ve got yourself a bit of old fashioned environmental excess.
So let’s take a look at how you can go green in the kitchen.
Mean green machines
Energy efficient upgrades are happening faster than we can keep up with. Today an energy efficient dishwasher can use less water than it takes to fill the sink.
If you’re looking to replace whiteware, head to www.recycle.co.nz to find some great kiwi whiteware recycling companies, because some appliances can contain hazardous chemicals and materials.
When purchasing, look for the Energy Star rating, available for kitchen appliances including stoves, refrigerators, freezers and dishwashers. These labels provide consumers with information on how much electricity an appliance uses in a year, plus a star rating to show how energy efficient it is. Compare models and choose the most energy efficient appliance to suit your needs.
When it comes to cooking, it can be a difficult decision – gas or electric. While gas is more efficient than electric for stove tops, it requires a well ventilated area and preferably an air extract system. If you’re a gas devotee shopping for a new stove, know that the lower the BTU output, the more energy efficient your stove will be.
The most efficient electric stoves are those that use induction elements, which transfer electromagnetic energy directly to the pan and use less than half the energy of standard coil elements. An electric oven with a fan heats more efficiently than a standard oven. Self cleaning ovens are more efficient than other types because they have more insulation.
Ceramic-glass surfaces, which use halogen elements as the heat source, are the next best choice for energy efficiency; they deliver heat instantly and respond quickly to changes in temperature settings. Standard electric coils are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to energy efficiency.
Traditional horizontal chest freezers are much more efficient than their vertical counterparts, down to the fact that when you open an upright freezer, the air simply falls out. The cooler the room is, the more efficient the freezer is, so consider an outdoor storage room or garage for your chest freezer.
Visit www.level.org.nz/energy/appliances/selecting-energy-efficient-appliances/ for more advice on energy efficient appliances.
Going green isn’t just about your big gadgets, because we’ve all heard the saying good things come in small packages and there is some pretty cool small gadgets out there too.
Pressure cookers are a great way to get some energy efficiency into the kitchen. Pressure cookers are sealed cooking pots which don’t allow air or liquids to escape below a certain preset pressure. Because the boiling point of water increases as the pressure inside the cooker increases, a pressure cooker allows the liquid in the pot to rise to more than 100 °C before boiling, therefore speeding up cooking times significantly and using less power.
We’ve all heard about solar power, well solar ovens are insulated boxes with a transparent lid, allowing the sun’s rays to heat up the inside of the box like a greenhouse. Some models include reflectors that concentrate solar energy, therefore increasing temperature in the oven.
Solar ovens are often promoted by humanitarian organisations in areas where deforestation is an issue, but they are gaining in popularity in the developed world as well, where they are garnering a reputation for creating intense, bold flavours that can only come from slow, careful, sun-powered cooking.
Green kitchens: The numbers
• $12 billion: money saved by Americans using Energy Star appliances, lights and windows in 2005, saving the energy equivalent to emissions created by 23 million cars
• 70 percent: the amount of household and yard waste that can be composted rather than thrown in the trash
• 70 percent: the reduction in cooking time and energy use from using a pressure cooker to cook your food
• 12 percent: the percent of household energy use that comes from cooking in Western Australia; compare that to 67 percent in Ghana.