The Optimist View: Healthy Kitchens Week

“Everything happens in the kitchen. Life happens in the kitchen.” – Andrew Zimmern 

The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home.  That’s where we gather with our families or friends to break bread, get nourishment, find connection.  To celebrate Earth Day, which really has grown to a month long celebration of our home planet, we are showing our love for Mother Earth by inviting her into our collective kitchens.  Our talented editorial team sat down and focused their week’s writing on Healthy Kitchens and solutions in greener, cleaner food habits, reducing waste, and even appliance alternatives that can help transform the kitchen into a hub of health and wellness. 

There are many big solutions required to green up the kitchens of this world, from choosing renewable sources of energy to cook our foods, like electric cooking and induction cookware, to an overhaul of food systems and lowering the carbon footprint of what we consume. It can feel overwhelming when we think about taking on the entire challenge all at once. However, bit by bit and bite by bite, you can make a difference – from your morning coffee ritual to how you finally get all the dishes done at night.

While many of these solutions are well known, like ensuring your faucets don’t leak to reduce water waste or ways to reuse food scraps, others demonstrate innovative and groundbreaking people and techniques in the eco-friendly world that you too can adopt into your daily life! 

We hope you enjoyed our Healthy Kitchens week as much as we did and got to spend a little time outside to celebrate Earth Day! Enjoy!

Food For Thought

The first thing we think of when trying to decide how to clean up our eating habits is usually what sustainable foods we can add to our diets or how to reduce our food waste. If you are looking to liven up your weekly menus and help the planet out as well, consider The Climate Diet; written by Paul Greenberg, The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint urges everyone to take a deeper look at their food and where it comes from. Greenberg highlights many common switches, like cutting out beef and driving less, as well as tips you wouldn’t even think of, like opting for more centrally-located family reunions and sustainable pet care.  

If you’re curious about the origins of thought on how human diets intersect with humanity’s impact on the planet, we invite you to check out Francis Moore Lappé’s path breaking 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet. This is the book that first asked questions about the affect of mass produced animal proteins, and gave guidelines on how to safely build a healthy diet focused on plants.  It’s a great read chock full of timeless ideas! 

There are also many ways to reuse leftover food scraps that we often throw away after cooking our meals. A study from Pennsylvania State University shows that the average US household wastes about 31 percent of the food it buys. While the best way to reduce food waste is to reduce how much you buy, here are six creative recipes available to help you be creative in finding new ways to use your food bits in new dishes or to repurpose them into nutritious food sources instead of throwing them away. 

Another way to avoid food waste is to make sure you are not stocking up on highly perishable items and instead are choosing healthy, long-lasting staples to fill your pantry, freezer, and fridge. Take a look at this guide on the 15 best food items to stock your kitchen with that will last long and stay healthy!

Waste Not, Want Not

Food isn’t the only thing that can be wasteful in the kitchen. Focusing on the reusable instead of the convenient can really help put a boost in your routine! This list of seven items from re-usable storage and straws to compost tools, can be incorporated into your kitchen will help reduce your single-use plastic use and ensure you’re getting the most out of your cooking! 

At the start of spring, we wrote about a zero waste lifestyle guide that can give you some tips on how to lower all types of waste connected to cooking, shopping, cleaning and just dealing with stuff we bring into our homes and put into our bodies.  From taking a break from plastic containers to using loop delivery services, we are seeing a growing trend with more people are looking to turn the page from a consumer waste mentality towards a more sustainable approach to what we consume.  

Water conservation is also a pressing environmental issue and starting in your kitchen can reduce the amount of water that you waste. Some experts say that the world could face a 40 percent global water deficit in under a decade if humans continue to increase water consumption. Take a look at our tips on how you can easily start conserving more water in your household. 

If you want more information on reducing your waste and making your overall kitchen habits more green, there are plenty of experts out there! Our favorite is Chef Ahki, who advocates and promotes green eating, food security and nutrition, and how to use food to better your life!

Green Cleaning

Your kitchen is one of the toughest places in the house to keep clean – it is used on a daily basis, often by many people, and doesn’t get the constant upkeep it actually requires. 

For example, your stovetop is the real MVP of the kitchen but without regular cleaning it won’t be a very pleasant or hygienic place to prepare your food. We have compiled some tips on keeping your stovetop squeaky clean with homemade cleaners, so you can evade the harsh chemicals that are often found in store-bought cleaning sprays. (Plus, this DIY stovetop cleaner will help you save money and time, as most of the ingredients needed are probably already in your pantry.)

The kitchen sink is also used almost constantly – and can be susceptible to getting clogged. Fixing a clogged sink is incredibly tedious, and we often turn to harsh chemicals to do the job quickly and easily. If you are looking for some healthier alternatives, here are seven all-natural, chemical-free methods of unclogging your sink.

Many methods of keeping your kitchen clean include soap, which can be far from eco-friendly and extreme polluters of our natural water reserves. Especially in countries where many people still use rivers for washing purposes, soap can directly contaminate ecosystems and pollute water that communities rely on for drinking and cooking. Luckily, innovative companies are creating alternatives, like this probiotic soap that doesn’t harm waterways but actually recharges them. 

The Future of Green Kitchens

On top of repurposing your food scraps and conserving more water, having planet-friendly appliances in the heart of your home can go a long way in reducing your household’s carbon footprint. Although repairing existing items is a great first choice, if you do have an appliance in need of replacement, here’s a list of 10 sustainable ways to make your kitchen greener. There are many alternatives to our everyday household appliances that will help the environment in addition to helping you cook and clean, including electric kettles, dishwashers that have an eco-friendly setting, Energy Star rated refrigerators, and cookware that is cast iron or stainless steel. 

Electric stoves will also play a large role in greening up your kitchen. A third of Americans cook with natural gas in their homes and many, especially kitchen-savvy chefs, seek out these appliances over electric versions. However, natural gas stoves have severe indoor air pollution drawbacks, consume more energy than electric versions, and have high cost ventilation systems that leave low-income communities with higher pollution risks. Read more about the benefits of gas-free stoves here

Composting is a wonderful, environmentally-friendly habit to include in your routine that will be important in the future of green kitchens. It can be a great way to generate fresh food for your garden and keep scraps out of the landfill, but if you don’t have a yard or access to green waste pickup services, it can feel impossible to dispose of scraps sustainably. Luckily, many companies are creating at-home composting devices to help you out! This week, we wrote about this countertop gadget that is the perfect addition to your green kitchen.  Of course, there are many DIY composting solutions out there too – from a pile in your yard to a worm bin on your patio.  For more tips, dig into this article from February about Diego Morales, an inspirational leader in this space who’s making compost cool!  

And finally, if you are just looking for general ways to keep your kitchen eco-friendly and maintain habits that are good for the environment, check out this article with five simple ways to do just that. 

Love is…

Healing the biosphere and keeping our Earth livable is frankly a monumental task, and it is certainly not a problem that cannot be solved by any single person. Watching the growing groundswell in popular support for tackling the climate crisis has given us optimism that bit by bit, we will unleash the political will required to change corporate and governmental policies and practices and halt the unconscious destruction of our environment, and begin investing in renewal instead.  

In meantime, there are dozens of small tips and tricks that we can each incorporate into all aspects of our lives that bit by bit, collectively, will help us move towards a new relationship with our kitchens, our bellies, our gardens, and our world.  Starting in the kitchen, the heart of the home, this healing will spill out into the other rooms of the house as well.  We are pleased to offer these few creative tips and important insights for healing our homes from the center out.  

Happy Earth Day (Week and Month) from the Optimist Daily Editorial Team!

 

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