8 Steps to a More Eco-Friendly Kitchen
By Cliff Weathers
While you may hear a lot about buying locally grown and organic foods, eco-friendly food preparation, green detergents and non-toxic cleaning products, not much is written about greening the kitchen itself. And yet, as a society we consider the kitchen to be sacred, and collectively we spend more money remodeling this room than any other in the house.
Fortunately, making green choices for your kitchen is as good for the pocket as it is for the planet. And while it may be argued that keeping the kitchen you have might be your greenest option, here are some things to consider whether you're buying new appliances, remodeling or simply trying to reduce the carbon footprint in your cookery.
Iron skillets and antique pans. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
1. Buy eco-friendly countertops.
If you need to replace your countertops, look into renewable sources such as bamboo and hemp, which should cost between $90-$130 a square foot. Another interesting—and visually striking—eco-friendly countertop material is Icestone, which is made from recycled glass and colored concrete. It costs about $75 a square foot. By comparison, marble and granite countertops, two high-end countertop choices popular with consumers, cost between $125-$250. Cheap laminate countertops cost some $20-$50 per square foot.
You may also want to consider using wooden planks or countertops salvaged from old homes. Nonprofit organizations—mostly found in urban areas—dismantle abandoned homes, recycle the materials and resell them for low prices at “rehab stores." Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds and rehabilitates affordable homes, has hundreds of such stores across the country, which they call ReStores.
2. Use reclaimed cabinets.
When redesigning your kitchen, look at salvaging used cabinets or using furniture elements such as antique Hoosier cabinets for your storage needs. Appropriate hanging and sink cabinets, however, might not be so easy to find as it could be hard to locate ones that fit your needs or your kitchen's dimensions. Check out home rehab stores for used cabinets. Antique shops, freecycling organizations, Craigslist and estate sales are good places to find freestanding cabinets and hutches.
New or used, you get what you pay for when it comes to wood products. Cabinetry and furniture made from cheap pine or particle board won't hold up nearly as well as oak, maple, walnut and cherry. While looking at cabinets, pay close attention to joint construction. Anything constructed with staples or nails, or visible glue indicates cheap construction. Look for dowels, screws, dovetail joints, and reinforcement blocks at corners.
3. Buy the right cookware.
While it may be tempting to buy inexpensive, non-stick cookware (like Teflon) there are many legitimate health concerns regarding such cooking surfaces. Moreover, most of the cheap cookware you find at department stores is really not built to last, and will end up in a landfill much sooner than later.
Instead, consider cookware that has stood the test of time. Iron and stainless steel cookware are practically indestructible, and you can save a lot of money buying them used.
Cast iron cookware, when properly seasoned (lightly oiled and baked), can be pretty close to non-stick and iron also holds heat quite well, meaning you could use less energy to cook your food.
Stainless steel is also a good bet, but buying this type of cookware can be a little trickier. It is also pricier than cast iron. The best stainless steel cookware has slick cooking surfaces, even more so than seasoned iron. When shopping, consider only stainless steel cookware that has riveted handles and an aluminum or copper core to help with even heat distribution.
Enamel cookware encases the iron base metal with a coating of porcelain (which is powdered glass melted and baked on top of the metal). While enamel cookware is typically easy to care for, it will likely be your most expensive option. It also doesn't have the non-stick qualities of bare iron or stainless steel cookware so it's not very good for cooking eggs. However, enameled cookware is considered better for acidic dishes, soups, and sauces, as there's no metal surfaces to chemically react with the food. Another advantage of enamel is that it won't hold flavors, like fish, the way that cast iron does.
Unfortunately, some enamel cookware out there is cheap and the porcelain chips easily, and some imported enameled cookware has been known to have lead or other toxic compounds in the pan or coating. So, it's probably best to look for well-respected brand names like Le Creuset, Le Chasseur and Staub when buying new or used enamel cookware.
4. Buy used dishware and utensils.
There's nothing wrong with buying utensils and dishes used, especially if you can find them in matching sets. Thrift stores and estate sales are often the best places to look. Be careful to examine any utensils and dishes for cracks, chips, and missing enamel. China and glassware may also have invisible stresses that could become cracks.
Stainless steel flatware is a more attractive option than silverware, especially if the silverware has lost its plate. While the base metal for silverware is often copper or brass, a tin-alloy base used in some silverware may pose health risks. Also, be sure any plastic dishes or utensils you buy do not contain chemicals such as melamine resin and Bisphenol-A, which may pose health risks.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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