How Green is your Kitchen?

- 16/05/2016 @ 13:50
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We are told on a daily basis that we have to be greener. Whether it be reducing our carbon footprint by reaching for the trainers instead of the car keys or jumping in the shower instead of filling up the bath. But what does going green mean when we look at the kitchen? What do you do in the kitchen today to reduce your environmental impact? What is there in the world today to help us and what does the future of “Green Living” look like?

According to The Guardian, the UK tops the EU food waste chart with almost 15M tonnes of food wasted each year, compared to similar sized Italy which wastes less than half that*. This is due to things like stricter use by dates, BOGOF’s and a lack of knowledge on storage options e.g. jams/mustards/sauces not being stored in the refrigerator.

So what do we do at the moment?
Councils are experimenting with different ways of recycling to ensure we aren’t throwing things away that will take years to disappear. However, by passing this control over to each city/town you are in essence trusting each individual organisation to find a solution to a global issue affecting the majority of the population. 



Currently an effective and easy way to split up recyclable materials is by having different compartments in bins or a separate recycling area. This can be a pain and take up space in some circumstances but manufacturers have come up with solutions to make it easier. Some have colour coded areas with images of what goes in them (E.g. plastic/glass) while other bins allow you to choose your own system.

Quality is also key to making sure you are as green as possible in the kitchen. Buying cheap goods may be OK for the first few months but will eventually fail, appliances will be less energy efficient and food produce will spoil more easily. Buying local produce doesn’t normally break the bank but you know where your food is coming from, reduce packaging/transport costs and reduce waste as foods should last longer as it is fresher. Stainless steel (or similar quality) utensils/pans will not only help cook food to a higher standard but will last much longer and checking out the energy efficiency of appliances will save money in the long run as you aren’t wasting money on water/gas/electric. 



So what has been done in the past to help us go greener?
Well, the microwave believe it or not made a massive impact on improving the greenness of how we eat. Instead of firing up the oven for a couple of hours to cook a meal for one, you can now heat one up in 5 minutes in the microwave. In recent times, a big change in how we shop was introduced by imposing a 5p fee for every bag sold and encouraging people to bring their own. This was met with mixed reviews and people were unsure how big of an impact it would make. Well, apparently it was a massive success according to retailers, who have seen an 80% drop in the use of bags over the period the scheme has been in place*2. Not only that but the money that is now used to pay for bags is put into good causes and helping out communities which for the sake of 5p a shop, is really worth it. 

What is being done now?
The amount of packaging being used is reducing with food manufacturers streamlining their production methods and improving the materials they use allowing more items to be recycled. Kenco, for example, allow customers to buy coffee refills for their glass jars at a cheaper rate and use 80% less packaging than before. Persil were the first to introduce washing at 30 degrees meaning you don’t need to heat the water to wash your clothes effectively. Appliance manufacturers have also focused on reducing the consumer’s carbon footprint and saving us money. They have done this by slight changes that make a big environmental difference. Ovens now take less time to pre-heat with some allowing you to control temperature with your smartphone/tablet, washing machines/dishwashers use less water than they ever have before and some kettles can dispense boiling water within seconds. 



What will the future hold for a green kitchen?
Recycling/reusing items will be the main focus on the future of a kitchen with what we consider now to be waste being used for positive benefits in the home. Food waste will be turned into bio-gas that can be converted into energy while everything will be fine-tuned to be as energy efficient as possible. Drawers systems will start to appear that keep the fridge the same temperature whenever the door is opened and parts such as compressor coils that heat up in those refrigerators will be used to help heat water instead of going to waste. To save on the expense and waste of cleaning products, innovations such as self-cleaning work tops will come into place and weekly trips to the grocery store could be a thing of the past with the 3D food printer. Currently you are able to make basic 3D printed foods such as doughs, pancakes and brownies but as technology advances it is likely you will be able to do everything from one machine with long lasting ingredients (e.g. flour/UHT milk) at the ready to make your favourite snacks, desserts and meals!

Whether you can actually see yourself using food waste to power your washing machine or pressing the “Pepperoni Pizza” button on your 3D food printer is another matter but what we do know is things are becoming greener. We will see the global population almost double in our lifetime and the way we live will differ dramatically to how it is today. As the demand for raw materials, food and space grows, we can see how important little things like reusing a water bottle, really become.   
 
*Sedghi, Ami. (2015). UK tops chart of EU food waste. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/uk-tops-chart-of-eu-food-waste. Last accessed 11th May 2016.
*2 Gosden, Emily. (2015). Plastic bag 5p charge cuts usage by almost 80 per cent, Tesco says. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/12034574/Plastic-bag-5p-charge-cuts-usage-by-almost-80-per-cent-first-data-shows.html. Last accessed 12th May 2016. 
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