Tips for a Green Kitchen, Part I

For my Earth Day post last week, I partnered with Eva from flip & tumble and asked you to help plant trees in Malawi, and to submit your best green tips for a chance to win a reusable shopping bag.

Ripple AfricaSome 500 tree-planting comments were submitted. Eva and I had planned to have two trees planted per comment, but then we got excited and decided to double the stakes, and in the end each of us funded the planting of two trees per comment. Congratulations and thank you! You have effectively helped plant 2,000 trees, a combination of indigenous, exotic and fruit trees, in the Nkhata Bay District in Malawi. Let’s all make the wish that these saplings grow to be strong trees that thrive for decades.

As for the green tip contest, your response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and I received 288 submissions. Today, I am publishing the ten I picked to win a reusable shopping bag. I must say it’s been hard to choose the winners in such a wide-ranging collection of thoughtful, smart, and inspiring tips, and I am working on organizing the rest of them as a digest to share with you next.

See below for the ten green tips that win their submitters a flip & tumble bag (they should have received an email from me) and check back tomorrow for many more green kitchen tips.

See also: Tips for a Green Kitchen, Part II.

“My favorite cooking-related green tip is to cook! By cooking, you are less likely to pick up/take out something ‘convenient,’ which is likely to be less healthful and wrapped in more packaging.” (Rachel)

“My green tip: discover local edible plants. What did the people who lived in your corner of the world eat before the arrival of industrialized agriculture and supermarket chains? Since I started learning about local edibles such as dandelions, bear’s garlic, purslane, and stinging nettles, walks in the woods have become a lot more interesting. Some of these plants
have domesticated varieties that you can plant in your garden or in a container on your balcony. They have the advantage of being adapted to the local weather conditions and don’t require intensive care. Finally, be sure to educate others about what is out there — or seek out information from people who still know about native plants.” (Maureen)

“Not only do we use reusable grocery bags, but I made some mesh bags for our produce (see tutorial). Now we have even fewer plastic bags at home!” (Dana)

I talk with people when I’m buying produce. I share ways of cooking things and ask others about what they are doing with an item. Sometimes people are throwing away a usable part because they don’t know how good it is. This helps build a community of ‘sharers’ and stimulates people to use what they bought — less waste and more support!” (Sillygirl)

Look for chocolate bars that say ‘shade-grown’. Organic and fair trade are pretty common buzzwords, but I hear less about shade-grown chocolate. The key here is that shade-tolerant cocoa varieties can be grown underneath tree cover. No clear cutting of rain forest habitat necessary.” (Gail)

Learn to cook with cast iron, be it enameled or simple cast iron. Not only does it transfer heat evenly and work wonderfully for stews and braised dishes, but it is quite environmentally friendly too. It lasts forever and doesn’t involve many of the metals and chemicals used in other kinds of cookware.” (Sarah)

Make tea with loose leaf tea, which you then compost! No waste that way, just a rinsed French press or ball infuser.” (Neil)

“I use a lot of canned products (anchovies, tuna, sardines, stuffed grape leaves, etc.) that come packed in olive oil. Instead of discarding it, I save the olive oil in a small container in the fridge, and re-use it while cooking. Making vinaigrette is a good use for this flavor-infused oil. Not only is re-using the olive oil frugal, it prevents me from clogging up the kitchen sink and eventually contributing to the pollution of my local streams and rivers.” (Omar)

Coffee grounds make great fertilizer for your garden; and if you’re living in a city-centre apartment, they can help your window box flourish, too! You can either sprinkle the grounds (cooled, please!) around the base of your plants, or mix into the soil if you’re creating a new window box/planter. Every time it rains or the plants are watered, nitrogen will be released into the soil, or you can add some coffee grounds to your watering can, and create instant liquid fertilizer.” (Catriona)

Don’t get discouraged. Remember that becoming an environmentally conscious consumer involves making a lot of small lifestyle changes over time. Eventually it will come naturally.” (Katie)

See also: Tips for a Green Kitchen, Part II.

  • http://www.cookincanuck.com Cookin’ Canuck

    2000 trees – that’s wonderful! Thanks for holding such a great contest and giving us some great ideas for going green.

  • http://beyondthewindow.wordpress.com beyond

    2000 trees. that is so fantastic!

  • http://design-smith.blogspot.com/ design_SMITH

    When I was a kid my parents used coffee grounds to fertilize flowers. We had the best marigolds in the neighborhood!

    I don’t drink coffee but use tea leaves the same way. And compost everything else (curbside pick-up, I live in an apartment and have little use for much compost).

  • Debbie M

    I thought all cocoa was shade tolerant. It’s just harder to harvest it in the woods than to clear-cut the rain forest and have nothing but cocoa plants right next to each other, easy to get to. (At least until the soil is used up in three years.)

    That said, I’m pretty sure that you can’t have organic cocoa that’s not shade-grown because trying to grow it out in the sun requires more chemicals. And from what I’ve read about fair-trade requirements, they include the idea that the cocoa is shade grown.

  • Alice

    Oh, WOW!2000 trees (I helped out:D)
    is AWESOME!Thanks Clotilde!

  • http://www.snapperandthegriffin.blogspot.com Griffin

    Clotilde!!! That’s a whole little forest!! A forest-ette if you will!

    One day there will be creatures living there and it will spread to grow beyond it’s borders…!

  • AprilN

    Thanks Dana (and Clotilde)! I found your suggestion to make reusable produce bags just in time to make a set for my husband’s birthday, and they were a big hit! We’ve been reusing plastic bags for a while, but they eventually get too funky to use. He can’t wait to use the new bags tomorrow morning at the farmer’s market.

  • Stephanie

    Thanks for your tip on flip and tumble bags. I just bought some and love them – their design and colors are great. So lightweight that i keep one in my handbag all the time – I love them so much I bought them in bulk (they are less expensive per item) and will distribute them to friends and family as gifts. Also, great stocking stuffers.
    PS. They are so cute and clever, why use them only for groceries?
    PPS. Used them this morning in the rain and everything was dry inside and no color dye running on the outside
    PPS. Thanks again for the tip

  • sharon

    I’m looking forward to making some produce bags. What a great way to recycle the fabric from worn out clothes. Of course, we compost and grow our own vegetables (talk about buying local!). We are making our own yogurt, granola and bread to cut down on packaging and the carbon footprint of shipping. I can’t wait to try all the tips including cooking more at home.

  • Merrell

    Another tip for a green kitchen is to preserve or dry any excess harvest from your garden. This article can help you get started.drying and preserving extra fruits and vegetables

  • http://www.FoyUpdate.blogspot.com Foy Update – Garden. Cook. Write. Repeat.

    “Look for chocolate bars that say ‘shade-grown’. Organic and fair trade are pretty common buzzwords, but I hear less about shade-grown chocolate. The key here is that shade-tolerant cocoa varieties can be grown underneath tree cover. No clear cutting of rain forest habitat necessary.” (Gail)

    I worked with chocolate growers in Panama for two years. I helped instruct the use of an upper story when growing chocolate. However, it wasn’t saving old growth forest, or forest at all. It did help reforest areas; in the sense that now instead of just growing chocolate the farmers are now growing some hardwoods and bananas on the same land as their chocolate. I would seriously doubt by buying “shade grown chocolate” you are getting chocolate grown in an old growth forest or even an area that hasn’t already been clear cut. Shade grown chocolate is better, just not for the reasons stated here.

  • http://mydeco.com/c/kitchen/107/ Kitchen

    If there is nothing wrong with your old cabinets, instead of replacing them, refinish them. A sturdy table can find new life as a kitchen island, a wardrobe as a pantry. Search salvage yards for recycled building materials. Old pine beams, for example, can be sawed for use as flooring.

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