Welcome to Part III of my eco-friendly kitchen series. Whether you are doing a whole kitchen makeover, or just looking to replace an item or two with a more eco-friendly option, this article can assist you in making the right decision for your needs.
All changes made toward a more eco-conscious home, big or small, are steps in the right direction and absolutely benefit the environment and the health of you and your family.
This article focuses on:
- small appliances
- coffee maker
- rice cooker
- waffle maker
- frying pans
- eco-friendly dishes
Maybe your toaster is on its last leg, or your electric kettle is developing an unpleasant smell. Whatever the case may be, you want to replace one or more of your small appliances with an eco-friendly option.
That is awesome! Keeping the welfare of our environment in mind when choosing items to put into your home is amazing. It’s a mindset like yours that is going to save our world, no pressure!
The four main small appliances in a kitchen are, in my opinion, the kettle, coffee maker, toaster, and blender. At least these are the four appliances that are sitting on my countertop right now. I also added a couple of bonus appliances, the rice cooker, and waffle maker. These may not be in everyone’s kitchen, but they should be!
Your kettle is arguably the most used appliance in your kitchen, boiling water an average of 4 times every single day. That means your kettle is used almost 1500 times each year. Choosing a kettle that is of good quality and energy efficient is pretty important given the frequency it is used.
The decision to choose between electric or stove-top when taking energy use into consideration is a pretty easy one. Electric kettles are more energy efficient than stove-top kettles. When you think about it, it makes sense. Using a stove-top kettle usually takes longer as it uses more energy to power a whole burner as well as heating up the handle and outside of the kettle itself. An electric kettle, on the other hand, heats up an electric coil that directly boils the water, and when you add on an automatic stop button, you have yourself a very energy efficient appliance.
One brand you might want to consider is Bosch. Their cordless electric kettle have some exciting energy saving features, such as:
- an automatic switch-off to prevent water from boiling continuously
- a temperature control ranging from 70 to 100 degrees Celsius so you don’t always have to boil your water completely
- double-walled housing which allows for great insulation (water will stay hotter longer) as well as protecting your hands from the heat of the kettle
Another brand that you might want to try is ECO kettle by Product Creation Ltd. The ECO kettle boasts being the most environmentally friendly and efficient kettle available on the market today.
Some unique, eco-friendly features include:
- a measuring scale that enables you to only boil or heat up the amount of water required
- a two chamber design so it can store cool water at the same time as boiling
- a temperature setting ranging from 80 to 100 degrees Celsius
- an automatic shut-off
If you are not currently in the market for a new kettle, that’s OK, there are some things you can do with your current one that can turn it into an energy saving machine.
Energy saving tips for kettle use
- Only boil what you need: It takes more energy to boil more water, so by adding only the volume of water you will be drinking at that time, you will avoid unnecessary energy use.
- Don’t fully boil unless you have to: Most of the time tea and coffee do not need the water to be fully boiled in order to taste delicious. If your current kettle has a temperature setting, use it. However, if it does not, you can just listen and click off the kettle when it starts bubbling, given that you are in the same vicinity when it starts to boil.
- Use the hot water on the first boil: It’s so easy to get sidetracked after you have started the kettle. Sometimes you set it to boil and don’t get back to make your beverage until 10 minutes later and you have to boil the water all over again. Try putting on the kettle and then getting all your accouterments ready for when it boils, such as your cup, tea bag or coffee, spoon, sugar, milk and whatever else you may need. This will help you stay in the kitchen until your water is at its desired temperature, allowing you to use on the first go around, instead of having to boil it again.
- Save the extra hot water: Don’t just dump any extra hot water out of the kettle if you boiled too much. Try to use it instead. You can leave it in the kettle, someone else might come along and have a cup of tea without having to reboil it. Alternatively, if you are doing dishes, you can add the hot water to your dishwater. The important thing is to not just pour perfectly good hot water down the drain, surely it can be used for something!
- Make one pot of coffee or tea and make it last: Just because a pot of tea or coffee goes cold, does not mean you need to boil a whole new one later that day. It may seem counterintuitive, but you can reheat it in the microwave as this will save energy. I personally reheat coffee throughout the day. I brew one pot of coffee in the morning and heat up cups as needed as the day goes on. If you are a connoisseur, this may not be a tempting resolution but if you’re just drinking Folgers or Maxwell House, it tastes the same all day long, trust me. If reheating your coffee sounds revolting, make iced coffee instead. A perfect solution for those warm summer months. You could also pour the tea or coffee into an insulated thermos after it has brewed to keep it warmer for a longer period of time.
In my humble opinion, this is the most important small appliance in the kitchen. I can do without a lot, but a coffee maker, no way! I have written an in-depth article on different types of eco-friendly coffee makers here if you want to check it out. In the meantime, here are some tips you can start at home now to help make your brewing a little greener.
Eco-Friendly Coffee Making Tips
- Avoid single-use ‘pod’ coffee makers at all cost: These coffee makers are horrible for the environment as the ‘pods’ used for brewing end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, they are still really popular, so despite being small and seemingly insignificant, the ‘pods’ are very much an environmental nightmare.
- Use a reusable filter: Disposable paper filters are commonly bleached and inevitably end up in the landfill. This is bad news for both humans and the environment as they contain trace amounts of dioxins (environmental pollutants).
- Brew your coffee manually: Get rid of the coffee maker all together and try a manual brewing method. Avoiding plastic tubing that heats up and can leach chemicals into your brewing water is a good call. Not to mention that the tubing could contain mold, yes mold. (seriously, check out my article here).
- Use a thermal coffee carafe: If you are sticking with a coffee maker, try one that brews into a thermal carafe as they do not need a hot plate. This is more energy efficient than keeping your pot of coffee warm with a hot plate for hours on end. I have used thermal coffee carafes in the past and can attest that they do in fact, keep your coffee warm for long periods of time.
- Reuse your coffee grounds: I don’t mean brew them a second time, that’s pretty gross! Instead, use them on your garden or houseplants as they are rich in potassium and phosphorous and make a pretty decent fertilizer.
I am not talking about a toaster oven here, but a regular toaster where you put the bread in and it pops out as toast. A simple, no frills very common kitchen appliance.
Using a toaster is the most energy efficient way to toast bread or pop tarts for that matter. It uses up just a tiny amount of energy, no matter what brand you use. In this case, you are better off looking for a toaster that is reliable so it lasts a long time, as it takes more energy to get it to the landfill and pick up a new one than it does to toast bread over its lifetime.
If your toaster is still in good working order, awesome, keep using it. However, despite being a fairly eco-friendly appliance already, there are some features to keep in mind if you are in the market for a new toaster.
Toaster buying tips
- Extra long slots can waste energy: Unless you are routinely toasting large pieces of bread that do not fit into a standard sized bread slot, skip the extra long toasters. The entire area heats up regardless of the bread size, which is inefficient and wastes energy.
- Buy a 2 slotted toaster: These are more energy efficient than a four slotted toaster but if you routinely toast 4 pieces of bread, try to find a four slotted toaster with an option to turn on and use only two slots at a time.
- Avoid toasters with LED indicators: They are not necessary for properly toasting bread. Although LED lights do not consume that much energy, over time the wattage does add up.
Like the toaster, blenders do not use a whole lot of energy so there is no need to ditch your current blender if it still works well and gets the job done.
However, if you are searching for a new blender, one thing to consider is the wattage when choosing a blender for your kitchen. The higher the wattage, the more energy it consumes. Considering how you use your blender (making smoothies, dips, non-dairy cheeses or milks) and how often can help you find the blender with the correct wattage and features that suit your needs.
Wattage vs. Functions
The power of a blender depends on the wattage. Therefore, the wattage affects a blenders performance and what it can do efficiently in the kitchen. Here is a general guideline of how much power is needed to perform certain tasks in the kitchen so you can pick the right one based on your own personal needs.
- 600 watts or less: Good for occasional use like whipping up a milkshake or making a dip every once in a while. Cuisinart makes some good low wattage blenders. Check them out here.
- 1000 watts: Good for daily use like grinding up frozen fruit and ice for smoothies. Ninja, Black and Decker, and Hamilton Beach are just a few brands of blenders to choose from. Pick the blender that best suits your needs.
- 1300 watts or more: High performance, good for making nut cheeses and milks, or pretty much anything you want to blend. No surprise here, Vitamix and Blendtec are your sound choices for high wattage blenders.
If you’re anything like me, you use your rice cooker all the time. Mine gets used at least three times a week, it’s such an easy, set it and forget it way to make rice. I love it!
With so much use, my rice cooker is not looking so hot, also I bought it when cooking in an eco-conscious way was not on my priority list (it was a long time ago when all I cared about was myself, before kids!). I picked up some interesting information while researching my next rice cooker that I would like to share with you.
When you’re starting out your search for a rice cooker, keep your needs in mind, don’t get blinded by features that you might not need or use. Consider the following features to ensure you pick the rice cooker that most suits your needs.
- Size: Most rice cookers have a 3-10 cup capacity. Obviously, a single person will eat less rice than a family of four or more. You also need to consider if everyone in your family actually eats rice, and do you want leftovers for the next day? For a point of reference, a portion of rice is about a 1/2 cup of dry rice (equivalent to 1 cup of cooked rice) per person. So a single person or couple should be good with a 3 cup rice cooker, while a family of four would want a 4-6 cup rice cooker. Companies generally advertise their rice cooker size based on the amount of cooked rice it can hold.
- Bowl Material: Your choices are going to be Teflon or stainless steel. Choose stainless steel, avoid Teflon whenever possible as it is made from chemicals (PTFE and PFOA) that can leach into your food when cooked at high temperatures.
- Number of Functions: Are you using it for just rice or are you looking for an appliance that can cook meals as well? Also, are you cooking different types of rice and would like separate functions for each? If you only cook plain long-grain rice, a simple rice cooker will do nicely (check out Hamilton Beach Rice/ Hot Cereal Cooker). However, if you want an appliance that can cook rice, chili, beans, soups, etc. a pressure cooker is more what you would be looking for (such as the Instant Pot). A more sophisticated rice cooker may be more up your alley if you enjoy different types of rice cooked to perfection (such as the Zojirushi).
- Time Needed to Cook Rice: A simple rice cooker without a pressure cooker function takes about as much time to cook rice as cooking it on the stove. A rice cooker is just easier because you don’t have to babysit it. So if you are not short on time in the evenings, a pressure cooking function is probably unnecessary, however, if you are regularly squeezing in dinner before rushing off to hockey practice, look for a rice cooker that has a pressure cooking function to reduce cooking time and get your food on the table faster.
- Delay Start: This function would also be ideal for a busy family as you can prepare the rice and water in the morning and set the rice cooker to start later in the day so it is ready when you need it to be.
- Maintenance: Ease of cleaning after using your rice cooker is an important aspect to consider. Nobody wants to be scrubbing cooked on rice on the bottom of the bowl all night. The easiest way to avoid this is to find a model has a dishwasher safe lid and bowl. However, if you don’t want to use the dishwasher, just put some water in the bowl and let it soak while you clean up the rest of the kitchen, by the time you get back to washing it, the rice should be unstuck and cleaning it should be easier.
I know this is not an appliance that is commonly found in everyone’s kitchen, but it should be! Waffles are so delicious and versatile. Savory waffles, anyone? They are also a nice treat for you and your family to have on the weekends, astronomically better than store bought toaster waffles, BLAH!
Features to Consider
- Temperature Setting: Being able to adjust the temperature and cook your waffle to your liking is a nice feature. For crispy waffles, turn up the heat. For floppier waffles, turn it down. Pretty easy!
- Indicator Light and Sound: This feature is a must for me, as becoming distracted in the kitchen is a common occurrence. Since you don’t have to stand over a stovetop while cooking waffles, it’s easy to start doing the dishes or helping the kids with homework and forget about the time. With an indicator sound, the waffle maker lets you know when to remove your delicious waffle that is cooked to perfection and not a burnt mess.
- Teflon-free: Perhaps the most important aspect to consider before purchasing your very own waffle maker is the use of TEFLON. Make sure it does NOT have a Teflon coating, as stated before, Teflon leaches out chemicals when heated at high temperatures and is widely considered to be harmful to humans and the environment over time.
Choosing eco-friendly cookware is a pretty important task as you feed yourself and your family with food that is generally cooked in a pot or on a pan. There are definitely some key chemicals and coatings to stay away from when choosing cookware for your kitchen.
Just say NO
Here is a general list of toxic offenders to stay clear of when choosing cookware and why.
- PFOA: Found in Teflon products. It is a suspected carcinogen and hormone disrupter that stays in the body and the environment. About 95% of people have PFOA in their blood, including newborns. FYI, it’s also found in marine animals and polar bears.
- PFC: These are perfluorinated chemicals that can be found in finishes of saucepans, baking sheets, and muffin tins. They are found in Teflon coated products and can leach toxins into your food.
The takeaway from this little reality check is to avoid non-stick cookware made with Teflon. While you might have to alter your cooking style, there are some great, SAFE alternatives to chemical laden cookware.
Alternatives to Teflon
Cast iron pans are a tried and true kitchen staple. They are dependable and long-lasting, but as with any decision its important to weigh the pros and cons.
- long lasting
- after seasoning, they are easy to clean
- naturally adds iron into meals
- cheaper than enamel and high-quality stainless steel pans
- handle gets hot
- not good with acidic foods (tomato-based foods)
- takes longer to heat up
- requires seasoning and re-seasoning throughout its life
High-Quality Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a great option when looking for eco-friendly cookware. As with anything in life, there are upsides and downsides, let’s examine.
- easy to clean
- low maintenance (seasoning not necessary)
- pans coated with copper or aluminum (multi-ply) conduct heat and cook well
- can cook acidic foods
- not too heavy
- reasonably priced
- oil is necessary so food does not stick
- can discolor over time
- inexpensive pans do not conduct heat well
- salt can cause pitting
Safe Non-Stick Cookware
This is a great alternative if you love the functionality of teflon, but not the negative consequences it can have on your health and the environment. Luckily there are a few brands that offer proven nontoxic, safe nonstick cookware.
- uses ceramic coating
- free of PTFE and other toxic chemicals
- safe under high temperatures
- exterior of the pan is made of durable heavy-gauge die-cast aluminum
- no heavy metals or harmful chemicals are used
Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet
- great heat distribution
- resists stains
- easy to clean
- black enamel cooking surface
- safe for high temperatures
- no seasoning required
- slow and even heat distribution- great for all types of cooking
Beka Frying Pans
- large selection of eco-friendly frying pans to choose from
- PFOA and PTFE free
- nonstick ceramic coating
- easy to clean
- uses nonstick coating called Thermalon
- the first 100% natural ceramic nonstick coating
- high heat resistance
- PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium free
- easy to clean
- dishwasher safe
When choosing eco-friendly pots for your kitchen, try to choose materials such as carbon steel, ceramic, porcelain enamel, or tempered glass as these are non-toxic and safe for simmering dishes for long periods of time and for acidic tomato-based dishes.
As with the frying pans, you want to avoid Teflon coated products as well as inexpensive aluminum since it has been linked to central nervous system issues.
Here are a couple of brands that you might want to check out.
- ceramic nonstick cookware
- uses Thermalon nonstick coating
- PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium free
- does not release harmful toxins at high temperature
- quick and even heating
- scratch resistant
- uses its own Ceramica nonstick surface
- PTFE, PFOA, and petroleum free
- high heat conductivity
- uses less energy to reach desired temperatures
- handles stay cool
- made from 70% recycled stainless steel
- packaging is made from 100% recycled materials and printed with soy ink
- lifetime warranty
Here are just some general tips for everyday, energy efficient cooking. These are handy to keep in mind no matter what type of cooking you are doing.
Tips for Energy Efficient Cooking
- Use the microwave every chance you get as it is the most efficient appliance for heating up and cooking food.
- Only boil as much water as you need in the kettle.
- Cook in batches whenever you can.
- Leave the oven door closed while cooking.
- Defrost your food before you cook it.
- Use glass or ceramic dishes in the oven as they are the most efficient.
- Cut food into smaller pieces so it will cook faster.
- Turn the electric oven off 10 minutes before cooking time is over, as it will hold the heat for that long.
- Use the right sized pan for the amount of food you are cooking.
- Choose the right sized burner for your pan.
- Cover your food while cooking to reduce cooking time.
- Make sure your burners are clean as dirty burners are less efficient than clean ones.
If you already own a set of reusable dishes, congratulations! that’s half the battle of choosing eco-friendly dinnerware. Reusable items, no matter what they are, are generally more eco-friendly than their disposable counterparts. So if you already have a set of dinnerware that you are particularly fond of, there is no need to rush out and replace them with more eco-friendly options. You are doing awesome already!
However, if your dinnerware is looking a little worse for wear or you have broken a few too many plates and need to replace some, here are a few options of eco-friendly dishes you may want to consider.
Their Oceana SeaGlass Dinnerware collection is simply beautiful. If you’re looking for upscale dinnerware for special occasions or are fancy all the time, this might be the dinnerware for you. It boasts:
- made from recycled glass
- made in the USA
- matte finish- won’t smudge or show fingerprints
- dishwasher safe
- microwave safe
- many colors to choose from
If you’re looking for showstopping dinnerware, Recycled Glassworks has what you are looking for! These beautiful dishes will be like eating off of pieces of art for every meal, they are just gorgeous.
Each piece of dinnerware is:
- handmade in the USA
- cut from window-type glass
- made from 100% recycled material, including the packaging
If you are looking for a more casual, family-friendly set of dishes, or just want some that are a little more laid back than the glassware mentioned above, check out the Moso Bamboo line from Zak Designs. This dinnerware is beautiful as well as functional, boasting:
- made from 75% bamboo fiber
- hand wash only
Chances are that unless you are using disposable plastic cutlery for every meal of the day, you do not have to rush out and buy new cutlery right this minute. You’re probably using stainless steel forks, spoons. and knives. That is awesome because stainless steel is a great material that is 100% recyclable at the end of its life. They also last a long time and you can always pass them along to someone else if you choose to switch up the style of your cutlery before your silverware is on its last legs.
So if you currently like your cutlery and do not feel the need to replace it, no worries, keep using it for as long as you like. However, if you’re thinking about replacing your cutlery, my advice is to stick with stainless steel for everyday flatware (forks, spoons, knives). As for soup spoons and other wooden utensils, bamboo is a great eco-friendly choice.
As for materials to avoid when choosing utensils for your kitchen, I already mentioned plastic and you can add silicon to that list too. Both plastic and silicon can leach harmful chemicals into your food, not to mention the negative environmental effects these materials cause. Avoid them whenever possible.
Ok, breathe a sigh of relief, your current cups and mugs are eco-friendly. There is no need to replace them unless you just dropped them all on the floor, at the same time, tonight!
Your reusable ceramic, glass, porcelain, clay, and yes, even plastic cups and mugs are much more eco-friendly than their disposable counterparts.
I would, however, phase out your plastic cups with a more environmentally friendly material such as glass. This can be a challenge with little ones, but just try, please! Even if you have to wait until they are older to ditch the plastic, that’s better than keeping it hanging around long after it is needed.
What changes have you made recently to make your kitchen more eco-friendly? In your opinion, what is the most important change you can make towards a more eco-conscious lifestyle? (If you can choose just one!) Leave all thoughts and comments down below. Cheers!