September 2, 2014

Use Your Appliances to go Green in the Kitchen – Plus a Few Other Helpful Suggestions

Another Earth Day has passed us and just as we make resolutions on New Year’s Day, you might have planned to change your energy wasting ways. Those New Year’s resolutions are difficult to maintain, because we often try to do too much. Making just a few small changes is helpful and can be the key to lasting change.
Lisa Abraham at Ohio.com has compiled her tips for saving energy in the kitchen. They include being creative when using kitchen appliances and modifying some eating habits.

Limit the time the stove/oven is used

Never light the oven or turn on a burner when a small appliance will do the job. Microwave ovens, toaster ovens, electric griddles, panini makers and, yes, even a slow cooker all consume less energy than a traditional gas or electric stove.

Consistently using these small appliances can make a huge difference in your energy consumption, Jackie Newgent a dietitian, cooking instructor and cookbook author of the newly released Big Green Cookbook (Wiley, 2009). said. Even though slow cookers are typically on for hours at a time, they will burn less energy than a traditional oven to prepare the same dish, such as a roast.

Look for ways to lessen the amount of time the oven and burners are on. When cooking pasta, Newgent recommends using skinny varieties, like angel hair, that will cook more quickly. She also uses a method she dubs ”lid cooking” to turn the stove off sooner.

Newgent brings a pot of water to a boil, adds her pasta and brings it up to a boil again. But then she turns the heat off, puts a lid on the pot, and lets the pasta finish cooking from the heated water.

When baking something, turn the oven off five minutes before the item is done and allow the residual heat in the oven to finish the job, she said.

Consider making one meal each week that doesn’t require using the stove at all, such as a salad.

Eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat

Newgent suggests eating one meatless meal per week. It requires more energy to produce meat than vegetables and fruits. Cutting meat out of just one meal per week can lead to significant energy savings over a year, she said.

That salad fits in well here. Think of it as a chance to be a more adventurous eater.

Run an energy-efficient kitchen

While new major kitchen appliances may not be in the budget for many homeowners, most would see an immediate savings on electric bills with the conversion.

Refrigerators should be away from sunlight and heat sources, like ovens. The warmer the environment, the harder the appliance will have to work and the more energy it will use.

Refrigerators also need breathing room — at least two or three inches of open space between the coils and the wall behind them to allow for better air circulation. Keeping refrigerator coils clean of dirt, dust and pet hair also will improve performance.

The harder an appliance has to work, the faster it will wear out.

Constantly opening and closing the refrigerator causes it to lose cold air. The same goes for the oven — keep the door closed as much as possible while in use to keep the hot air inside.

Gas stoves typically are less expensive to run than electric ones.

Always have the dishwasher fully loaded before running, and consider scraping your dishes instead of rinsing them before loading, to save on water.

Newgent also noted that when cooking outdoors, choose a gas grill over charcoal because gas emits less carbon into the atmosphere.

Here is a sample recipe from Jackie Newgent’s Big Green Cookbook:

CITRUS CREAM OF CAPELLINI

13/4 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
12 oz. whole wheat capellini or angel hair pasta
1/2 cup organic heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted organic butter
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp. juice)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black or white pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup freshly grated organic or locally produced Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup raw pine nuts (optional)

Bring 6 cups fresh water and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the pasta and return to a boil. Cover and turn off the heat. Let the pasta ”lid cook” (cook covered while the burner is off) until it is al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Place the drained pasta back into the dried saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the cream, butter, lemon juice and zest. Cook while stirring until the pasta is hot, about 1 minute. For a thinner sauce, add the reserved pasta cooking water. Add remaining salt and pepper.

Pour the pasta into a serving bowl or serve directly from the saucepan. Sprinkle with the cheese and parsley. Top with the pine nuts, if using, and serve.

Makes 6 servings, 1 cup each.

Stop Playing Games and Save Energy

We’re all trying to save money these days.  Using less energy by turning off lights and lowering your thermostat are goo ways to cut down on your energy bill, but here is a small step that can help you save a little more – Turn of your Wii, or Xbox when you are done playing.

Video game consoles nationwide use about as much electricity in a year as every home in San Diego combined, and can significantly add to consumers’ electric bills, according to a new report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Much of this energy use is consumed by machines that are left on, but not in use.

“If you leave your Xbox 360 or Sony Play Station 3 on all the time, you can cut your electric bill by as much as $100 a year simply by turning it off when you are finished playing,” said NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz. “With so many struggling in today’s economy – it’s important to realize there are simple steps gamers can take to lower their energy costs. And if manufacturers make future systems more energy efficient, they’ll be doing the right thing for consumers’ pockets, for our clean energy future, and for the environment.”

Looking at the “big three” video game consoles – Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft XBox360 and Nintendo’s Wii – the report measured the amount of power they use when they are active, idle and turned off. It found these systems use nearly the same amount of power when you are playing them as they do when you leave them on and walk away. The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 also operate as high-definition video players. When they are used this way, the consoles continue to operate at nearly peak energy levels, even after the movie ends, unless the device is turned off.

National video game energy use is growing as more and more homes have these devices and additional features are added. The report offers solutions for individuals to cut their game console-related energy costs and offers recommendations on how manufacturers can dramatically improve the efficiency of the next generation of consoles that are being developed. NRDC is working with the leading video game hardware and software designers to help make these improvements. In particular, NRDC is working to make sure users will be able to automatically save their settings and place in the game before they shut down the systems.