As a result of many factors, including the drought of recent years and increases in the cost of oil and natural gas, household water and energy costs seem to be going nowhere but up.
The kitchen is one place where a few simple changes can make a difference in your overall use of water and energy. Consider the following tips and suggestions for conserving water and energy in the kitchen. You’ll save money and benefit the environment.
To save water:
– Thaw meats and other frozen foods in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave oven rather than under running water.
– Keep a bottle of cold drinking water in the refrigerator rather than running the faucet for cool water.
– When you need hot water, heat it on the stove or in the microwave oven. If you do need to run tap water and wait for it to get hot or cold, capture the water for other uses such as watering plants or soaking dishes.
– Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. To limit their use, peel vegetables, eggs and other food onto paper towels, then dispose of in the garbage container or add to the compost pile if you have available outdoor space. Limiting use of garbage disposals also helps decrease the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter added to wastewater, thus helping improve water quality and prolonging the life of septic tanks.
– Use a minimum amount of water when cooking foods such as frozen vegetables and stews. This will maximize nutritional value as well as save water.
– When washing dishes by hand, turn the faucet on and off to rinse dishes instead of allowing the water to run continuously.
– Repair the faucet if it leaks or drips.
– Run the dishwasher only when full and use the shortest cycle necessary to clean the dishes.
To save energy:
– Match the burner size to the size of the pan. More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air.
– Preheat the oven only for baked goods that require a precise oven temperature at the start of the baking cycle, and be sure to turn the oven off once the food being cooked is removed.
– Arrange baking dishes in the oven so that air can circulate. This allows food to cook faster and more efficiently.
– Consider using a microwave oven, pressure cooker or convection oven to help speed cooking time.
– Keep oven and refrigerator doors shut. Use the oven light to inspect food through the window on the oven door. For the refrigerator, make a quick mental list of what you need before opening the door.
– Maintain appliances in good working condition. Replace worn gaskets, electric elements and reflector pans. Keep refrigerator coils clean and defrost your freezer regularly.
– Use the self-cleaning feature on your oven right after using the oven when it is already hot and only when the oven really needs it.
– Select the air-dry option for dishwasher drying rather than the heated-dry option.
Incorporating these practices into your everyday kitchen routine will not, by themselves, result in large savings, but coupled together and over a period of time these suggestions should help lower your energy and water bills.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension