Whether it’s food going to waste at the back of the fridge, or the washing machine that seems to be always running, much of our environmental footprint comes from the kitchen.
But we can change our habits to help the environment and save ourselves cash at the same time.
Follow these tips to make the heart of your home more eco — and more economical, too.
Freshen up your fridge
Nureen Glaves is a public health nutritionist and chef from north London who has cut her family of four’s food bill of £300-£400 per month in half since she started living more sustainably five years ago.
Her sustainability journey began when she joined Ikea’s Live Lagom programme, which highlights small changes that have a big impact on the environment. She suggests cleaning out your fridge regularly.
‘It’ll help you to get into stock rotation,’ she says. ‘You know what’s going to go off, so you bring the old foods to the front and new stuff at the back. You’ll find your food lasts a bit longer.’
Utilise your appliances
Nureen also recommends getting an induction hob, if possible. ‘It’s very eco-friendly because it just heats the actual surface of the pot or pan no matter what size it is,’ she says. ‘Then you don’t lose excess heat.’
Even if you’re not replacing any appliances, adjusting how you use them makes difference. The energy company Utilita, for example, found that pulling plugs out saves household electricity to the tune of £30 per year.
This is easier to implement in the kitchen than elsewhere given that so many sockets are above the worktop, not hidden behind the sofa or a bookcase — just don’t confuse which plug is which and switch off the freezer rather than the microwave.
Another recommendation from Utilita is to batch cook and freeze as this takes advantage of the heat generated for one meal to cook several at the same time. Nureen is a fan of this tactic and stacks these extra portions in resealable freezer bags that she gets from Ikea’s Sustainable Living Shops, found in all the company’s UK stores.
‘I’m not constantly buying them,’ she adds. ‘I get one set and we wash them!’
Check out the greener options built into your appliances, too. According to electricals manufacturer AEG, two thirds of us would never consider using the eco-setting on our washing machine, but merely moving from a 40-degree cycle to a 30-degree one can save up to 60% of energy consumption.
Turning the temperature down is one of many simple kitchen habit changes that benefit the planet and our pocket. Sticking with washing machines, AEG suggest checking the dosage guidelines on detergent as this varies according to water hardness, and using too much or too little shortens the lifespan of clothes.
Likewise, wash clothes less. AEG advises that ‘very few garments need to be washed after every wear. Overwashing is damaging to the environment and won’t keep your clothes looking their best. Wait until you can fill your machine as fuller, fewer loads will save you energy and water.’
If an item could do with freshening up, give it a quick steam. Use a handheld steamer or iron, or the steam programme on your washing machine if it has one, and you’ll guzzle less water than a full wash cycle.
Wiser water use
There are plenty of other ways to save water in the kitchen, which isn’t only relevant to households on water meters. As The Wildlife Trusts explains: ‘Huge water deficits are on track to occur by the 2080s, so we need to start cutting down.’
There are also shorter-term environmental benefits to conserving water. ‘Energy is needed to filter, heat and pump water to your home,’ adds The Wildlife Trusts, ‘so reducing your water use also reduces your carbon footprint. Using less water keeps more in our ecosystems and helps to keep wetland habitats topped up for animals like otters, water voles, herons and fish.’
The organisation shares five hints for saving water in the kitchen. These include only filling the kettle with the amount of water required, putting lids on saucepans to minimise water loss when cooking, using a washing-up bowl in the sink and not running dishwashers or washing machines until you have a full load.
The fifth tip is to put a large bottle of tapwater in the fridge. Why? ‘Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste ten litres of water a day!’
Remember the 3Rs
The 3Rs green living mantra is a great rule of thumb in the kitchen. Start with reduce, as in the previous tips, then move on to reuse.
This could be anything from emptying the washing-up bowl over patio plant pots to offering that tin of artichokes you’ve accepted, but will never use, on a neighbourhood sharing app such as OLIO.
If, despite cleaning your fridge and rotating stock as Nureen suggests, you still have some past-its-peak produce that you’re tempted to bin, look for imaginative ways to cook with it instead.
The internet is a goldmine for ingenious recipes, such as Hubbub’s fridge forage omelette.
‘Are you ready for the omelette challenge?’ the environmental campaign group asks. ‘Forage leftover salad vegetables and herbs from your fridge and turn the flavour dial to ten and the waste dial down to zero.’
Once you’ve exhausted the reduce and reuse possibilities, finally move on to recycle. However, follow all this advice and you will find there is less to go in your bins — and less to go on your bills, too.
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