When ‘cooking green’ comes to mind we rush to organic stores to get chemical free non-GMO foodstuff, try to replace plastic in kitchen and lastly get star rated appliances. These are part of ecofriendly steps but major contributor towards greener kitchen comes from conserving energy, water and time in the kitchen. To make your cooking green there are two approaches.
First is if you’ve the money for a complete makeover, replacing appliances, plastics, remodeling to make it illuminated and airy and many other steps. Should be done when ecofriendly person is getting a new home. Putting things right from the beginning is the best way to go ahead.
What can one do when one decides to go green on an existing system of cooking without spending too much? Well this post surely will help them.
First and most important step towards green cooking should be to ‘Conserver’ Energy, Water and other resources respectively. Star rated appliances save energy we all know, but maintaining old appliances like cleaning the refrigerator coils, stove top, regular servicing also reduce energy consumption. Strategic placement of cooking area, lighting, cabinets all help in conserving energy.
Tips to reduce energy consumption
a) A charred and black stovetop absorbs heat rather than pass it along to the pan. Shiny surface reflects heat and reduces cooking time.
b) Build-up on the coils of an electric stove can keep it from conducting heat efficiently. True for refrigerators too. Clean it regularly.
c) Use flat-bottomed pans to maximize heat transmission. Use of covered pots and size of pot according to the amount of meal also save energy
d) Turn the heat just before finishing cooking. The residual heat will finish the job.
e) One pot recipes, such as stews or casseroles, khichdi, biryani, tomato rice use less energy to cook and less energy to clean up.
f) Use of pressure cookers with separators to make two or three dishes at the same time is one of the easiest way to save energy in the kitchen.
g) Preparation before cooking also reduces energy wastage. Most common wastage in India is to roll roti’s while the pan is heating.
h) Having a window behind cooktop can give a well-lighted view of what’s cooking and no need for chimney or exhaust. Opening the window can remove all the heat and oil vapors outside. Most of the kitchens have a window and its putting the cooktop there will serve this purpose. A big window not only removes smoke but also lights up the kitchen with natural light and fresh air.
i) Placing the kitchen cabinets away from stove area requires less lighting for that area as well as less cleaning time spent on removing grime.
j) Small CFl’s each for different regions like stove, sink, cabinet will provide illumination for that area only and conserve power.
k) Consume local produce. Saves lot of energy wasted in transporting, indirectly.
My personal favorite is induction cooktop as energy saver. There are lots of discussion over the pollution created by both electricity and petroleum products and they may be equally harmful to the environment but when it comes to using them for cooking Induction stoves and ovens get hot faster and are more than twice as efficient at transferring heat than gas burners, and about 20% better than the electric options.
It’s completely suitable for Indian style of cooking. Needs little practice though and a huge saving of power.
Tips to reduce water consumption
Water is most precious resource which we take for granted. Especially in Indian kitchens we tend to waste a lot of water. Instead of talking about “Carbon Foot Prints” we should start talking about our ‘Aqua Prints’. Most of the above tips for saving energy also reduce water consumption in the kitchen indirectly like cooking in pressure cooker which needs less water the cooking on open pots etc. Some other innovative tips are
a) Get a twin sink system if possible. Soaking dishes in one sink full of water with a tea spoon of vinegar (or used lemon rind) removes tough grease and other food particles making it easier to wash with lesser water in the other sink. If only one sink is possible then use an old bucket or tub to soak dishes
b) Use waste RO water to fill the sink for dishes or use it for washing fruits and vegetables.
c) Soak fruits and vegetables in a sink full of vinegar solution to clean it and rinse it another sink. Reuse this water for gardening or floor cleaning.
My personal favorite is a dishwasher. A dishwasher reduces water consumption to one third and gives sterilized utensils. Most of the times it’s assumed that dishes have to rinse prior to putting in dishwasher. Well to an extent it’s true. We should remove big pieces of food but most of the dishwashers have internal mesh which captures food waste and which can be cleaned occasionally. Best way is to soak dishes as above and later put in dishwasher. It not only reduces water consumption but reduces lot of stress too. Dishes can be used straight from the dishwasher thus saving a lot of time to put it back. It can be used with ecofriendly washing options and homemade soaps too.
In the end the amount of water saved and power used may even out but the stress and time benefits can never be compensated.
Tips to reduce Chemicals
Commonly adopted by people who are more concerned about their health but indirectly do good for environment.
a) Homemade cleaners like vinegar, baking soda clean the kitchen counter, stove tops, sink well at the same time good for environment.
b) Buying organic produce is not possible for everyone. Potassium permanganate, Hydrogen Peroxide solution cleans fruits and vegetable of germs and surface chemicals at nominal cost. Ozone cleaners are also available but they use precious power.
d) USE GLASS OR CERAMIC DISHES IN MICROWAVE ESPECIALLY FOR OILY AND SPICLY FOOD CORRODES PLASTIC VESSELS AND DOXINS LEECH INTO FOOD.
e) There are many options for kitchen plastic wares. Search and reduce plastic consumption in kitchen.
f) Use cast iron pans instead of non-stick. Indian cooking involves high temperature which eventually breaks down the non-stick coating and it goes in our food.
There are many other tips but I stop here. I think behavior is probably the biggest energy waster in any kitchen. Green cooking is more than energy-star appliances, it begins with how you cook so start today.