A greener kitchen
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Date: 13 November, 2007



'Dishwashers can actually be as green or greener than washing up by hand, as they use less water and less energy.'


This month Suzanne Elvidge looks at green cooking and doing the washing up afterwards. And no, not just boiling cabbages.

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If you are cooking vegetables on the hob, cut them into smaller pieces, put lids on the pans, and see if you can turn the heat down.

And if you are using an electric oven or hob, turn it off before things are completely done, as they will retain enough heat to finish cooking.

Wrapping things in aluminium foil (look out for recycled foil) retains the heat and so things cook more quickly – and don’t forget to reuse and recycle it.

Zevro’s pasta cooker uses less energy than cooking pasta on the hob and looks quite funky, but a wide-mouthed large thermos flask may work just as well though, and you can also use it to make keep food warm or make yogurt (see also recipe for mint choc chip frozen yogurt with spinach!)

Especially at this time of year when we all crave comfort food (well, I do, anyway), dust off that slow cooker at the back of the cupboard – it’s a low-energy form of cooking, and does well with cheaper cuts of meat.

Pressure cookers and microwaves can also save energy. A ‘haybox’ is an even lower-energy method of slow-cooking, using only the heat already in the food. And if you cook more than you need and freeze it, you only need to heat it up.

And when you’ve finished cooking, if you’ve got any waste cooking oil you can always make your own it into biodiesel.

Research has shown that organic food can be better for you. But whatever kind of food you buy, watch out for what you waste. Every year we produce 6.7 million tonnes of food waste - that’s about one third of all food bought.

Try relearning the lost art of cooking with leftovers (personally I love bubble and squeak), and out uncooked vegetable waste in your compost bin (also check out the ‘additional bins’ link after you’ve put your postcode in. You can even compost cooked food, meat and dairy in a Bokashi bin.

Washing up by hand

When you wash up, a lot of detergent just goes straight down the drain. There are biodegradable washing-up liquids that will break down.

Lemon juice and white vinegar can help cut through grease (lemons can also clean tannin from teapots and mugs). You can also use borax and bicarbonate of soda instead of washing up liquid.

Even if you use an eco washing up liquid, how much washing up liquid you use – you might be able to get away with half. Once the bottle is empty, rinse it with water (you might be able to get some more out), and don’t forget to recycle it.

If you use a washing up bowl rather than filling the sink, it uses a lot less water. Another water-saving method is to save up all the washing-up each day and do it all at once.

If you want to be even greener, heat your water using solar energy. You could fit ready made solar panels, build your own or even use a camping solar shower to heat the water. You could also wash up with recycled rain water and then use your greywater to flush the loo.

Using a dishwasher

Dishwashers can actually be as green or greener than washing up by hand, as they use less water and less energy, especially if you choose one with a good energy rating.

To help this, make sure the dishwasher is fully loaded before you run it. And rather than using chemical fresheners, try half a lemon to get rid of the grease and take away any nasty niffs.

Further reading

Fridges and freezers

Rainwater and greywater recycling: Aquaco, Freerain and Freewater.

• Read other ethical lifestyle articles



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