Tag Archives: kitchen

Is Your Garbage Disposal Eco Friendly?

A garbage disposal is a common feature in many homes. We didn’t have one when I was growing up (caused too many clogs and was removed, as I understand it), but my husband had one, and still loves to use it. They seem like a nice way to cut down on the food waste you throw in the garbage. But are garbage disposals environmentally friendly?

Depends. What Are You Comparing Them To?

Are garbage disposals eco friendly?When it comes to being eco friendly, a garbage disposal can’t really compare to composting. Composting is a much better option if it’s available to you. There are a variety of ways to make composting easier, such as keeping a container available for food scraps in the kitchen, and dumping it into an outdoor compost bin when it gets full enough or it’s just convenient. You can buy a container for the purpose, or just use an old coffee can or something similar for it.

Bokashi composting systems can work indoors. They can be easier to deal with than with systems that rely on worms. Bokashi composting is anaerobic, and should not stink, making it a good choice if you can’t compost outside.

Of course, composting correctly takes some effort, and you can have problems if you don’t manage your compost correctly. But done right, it’s a wonderful, effective choice.

Using a garbage disposal can’t really compare to these options. It takes power and water to make a garbage disposal work. Sometimes they clog, and that can be a huge mess.

Better Than Throwing Food In The Trash?

Food waste makes up a fair part of municipal waste, about 13.9% before recycling, according to EPA.gov (2010 data).  That’s pretty significant.

According to Insinkerator, an average household garbage disposal costs about $0.50 a year in electricity to operate, and makes up less than 1% of that household’s water consumption.  By sending food waste down the drain, it goes to the wastewater plant rather than to the landfill, and may (depending on the wastewater plant) be a part of the plant’s energy generation as methane gas. Biosolids from wastewater may be used as fertilizer. The Insinkerator website has links to studies showing how environmentally effective garbage disposals can be.  Hauling food waste to the landfill is, unsurprisingly, not a very environmentally friendly way to handle it.

Of course, in some places that less than 1% of household water consumption may not be something you’re willing to spare. There are plenty of places where you really want to think about how much water you’re using. If that’s too much, composting really is going to be your best bet. As usual.

What About Clogs?

The one problem I sometimes have with the garbage disposal is that it clogs up sometimes. Usually in some way my own fault. There was the time I sent too many cucumber peels down at once – my disposal didn’t chew them up much at all! They just slid on through and collected in the pipe just below. Fortunately, it was easily cleaned up by hand. I just had to unscrew the couplings on the pipes and pull them out. A gross, stinky job, but no harsh chemicals needed, just a bucket under the pipes to catch the water and mess.

You need to be careful about how much you put through your garbage disposal. Mine is bottom of the line – we had a plumber comment that he didn’t know that brand made them that low a horsepower. That’s rental homes for you. But even more powerful garbage disposals can only handle so much at once. Make sure you’re giving everything enough time to get through.

Also don’t put anything greasy down the drain if you can help it. Grease doesn’t just clog your pipes; it encourages clogs further down the line.

All in all, while your garbage disposal isn’t your most eco friendly option, it’s possible that it isn’t too bad, especially depending on the alternatives available to you. Take a look and dispose of your food waste the as best you can.

How to Use Less Plastic in Your Kitchen

There are many good reasons to use less plastic in your life. It comes from petroleum, a limited resource. Plastic itself is not good for the environment, and does not degrade well. Some types have BPA, which is a potential endocrine disruptor.

Yet it makes many appearances in most kitchens. How do you avoid it?

At the Grocery Store

When you’re buying food at the grocery store you’re likely to see quite a bit of plastic being used. Wouldn’t you like to avoid it?

In the meat department, rather than buying prepackaged meats you can go to the butcher counter and get the amount you want wrapped in butcher paper in many stores. Some will still use plastic bags to help prevent dripping with certain meats.

When selecting fresh produce, your best bet is to bring your own bags. You can buy inexpensive reusable bags made from lightweight materials very easily. Some even have their tare weight on a tag so the clerk can subtract that from your total.

Milk and juice often come in plastic bottles, but you have options. You can often find them in paper cartons, and sometimes even in glass bottles.

I’m not even going to get into bottled water here. There’s rarely a good reason to buy bottled water from the grocery store. Fill up a reusable bottle at home, using a filter if you really feel the need.

Food Storage

You don’t need to store your food in plastic containers either. Before plastic got so popular, glass containers were used. You can still buy them new or find them at thrift stores, garage sales and so forth.

The main risk with glass is of course that it will be dropped and broken. You do need to be a little careful. But it’s not at bad as you may think. Most glass storage containers are made with fairly thick, good quality glass. They’re not made to break all that easily.

If you’re preparing snacks or meals for on the go, have reusable supplies ready. A good quality lunch bag, small reusable cloth bags, drink bottles and stainless steel containers can all help you to avoid plastic use when you’re taking food with you.

Heating Food in the Microwave

It’s just a habit for many people to use plastic in the microwave. Plastic doesn’t get so darn hot as glass or other containers in the microwave.

The trouble is that heating plastic leads to leeching of BPA and such if present.

Once again, think about your glass containers. Check to be sure they’re microwave safe first, and use a hot pad to take your food out of the microwave.

You don’t need to cover food with plastic wrap to prevent splatters either. An appropriately sized plate on top will do the job quite nicely. You could also use a lid from a plastic container if you like, so long as it’s not touching the food.

4 Green Ways to Unclog a Drain

When facing a clogged drain, many people go straight for the harsh chemicals. It’s pretty understandable – you want that clog gone! But have you thought about where those chemicals are going? There are better ways to clear a drain.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

This is my favorite way to unclog a sink once the water has drained. Pour about a cup of baking soda down, and follow it with a half cup of vinegar. Let it work for several minutes then pour down a pot of boiling water.

This unclogs drains much of the time. I like it because it’s cheap, doesn’t have that chemical stink, and you aren’t using anything dangerous to your family. No need to keep those chemicals out of reach of children other than to avoid a mess.

Washing soda is another good choice in the place of baking soda if you have it available. It’s stronger.


A Zip-It is a little strip of plastic with teeth on it. Put it down the drain and pull back up. It will bring hairs and all kinds of gunk up with it on the teeth. This only works for clogs near the drain, as it’s not very long. It also has to have something to catch, so greasy clogs are out of its league.

The one trouble is that the manufacturer considers it a single use item. Not a fun thing when it’s plastic.

Plunger or Auger

Sometimes the baking soda and vinegar just don’t cut it, or it’s a toilet clog where they really can’t get down to the mess. You still don’t need to reach for the chemicals. You can attack the clog directly with a plunger or plumber’s snake.

To use a plunger, put it over the drain with the best seal you can manage. Work it up and down to see if it can push the clog through. Especially if you’re unclogging a toilet, give the plunger a rinse after by flushing the toilet and holding it in the middle of the water.

A drum auger can take a bit of extra work. You put the end down the drain and turn a crank to help it work its way down the pipe. This can be hard to do, and it takes a bit of work to get around bends sometimes. But if you can reach the clog, a snake does an excellent job. Just be prepared for a little frustration if you aren’t used to using an auger, and sometimes even if you are.

Clean Out the Trap

There’s nothing saying that you can’t just get under a sink and clean out the part that’s probably clogged anyhow. Have a large pan or bucket under where you’re working to catch any water that comes out. This takes some effort, but no chemicals and you might be amazed at what’s caught in there.

Finally, don’t forget to take precautionary measures if you have a drain that tends to clog. Pour a little vinegar and baking soda down the drain regularly, let them work, and rinse. Better to stop a clog before it gets serious.

Composting in the Kitchen

One of the challenging parts to composting can be how to keep your scraps until you are ready to haul them out to the compost bin. You don’t want a stinky mess in your kitchen.

If you drink coffee, a simple solution is to save an empty coffee can and keep it under the sink. Throw your vegetable and fruit scraps in there, and when it’s full haul it out. Simple and it allows you to reuse the container.

I don’t drink coffee, so I had to get one from my mother. We’ve also done this using a bucket with a well sealing lid. You really don’t want the stink in your kitchen.

There are compost bins made for the kitchen. They may come with a charcoal filter to keep the smell under control. Many are small and really made to do the job I’ve always done with the bucket or coffee container… to hold the compost until you can get it to the garden. The filters do mean you may not need to empty them so often, though.

The key is simply to find what works to make composting easier for you so that you’ll do it regularly. If running scraps out daily isn’t a big deal to you, don’t buy anything. If looks matter or you can’t run the scraps out too often and smell is an issue, get a kitchen compost bin. If you just need something to tuck under the counter and will empty often enough that smell’s not a problem, find a container you can reuse.

11 Tips for Saving Energy in the Kitchen

When you’re an at home parent, you probably make a lot of meals in the kitchen. At least, I hope you’re not eating out too much.

It’s easy to be a little inefficient with your energy use in the kitchen, however. Here are some tips to help you be just a little more efficient.

1. Check that refrigerator seal.

Is it clean? If not, wipe it down.

You can test how effective your refrigerator door seal is with a piece of paper. Close the door on the paper and try to slide it out. If it moves easily, your seal isn’t tight.

2. Full loads in the dishwasher.

Handwashing is necessary for many things in the kitchen, but wash what you can in the dishwasher. Most use less water than handwashing does. That’s less water and less energy from the hot water heater.

If you have kids, full loads are probably pretty easy to come by. The fewer people in the house, the harder this one can be.

3. Put a lid on it.

Your pots and pans come with lids for a reason. Putting a lid on as you cook makes foods cook faster and reduces the amount of energy lost. While this won’t work for all recipes, especially if you have to stir a lot, try to remember to use lids when you can.

4. Size matters.

Using the right size pot or pan can be a help in heating food faster. But that’s not the only time to think about size, at least if you have a toaster oven.

A toaster oven can be more efficient than heating up your full size oven for smaller meals. It’s not so great that I would necessarily say run out and get one, but if you have one anyhow, use it. And if you’re really going to use it enough, it may not be a bad purchase at all.

5. Consider the microwave.

I know some people aren’t fans of microwaved foods, but when you have one and it’s appropriate, you aren’t going to beat the microwave for energy efficiency in heating up food or liquids.

6. Pile on the pressure.

Pressure cookers aren’t exactly the same as they were in our grandparents’ time. Modern ones are pretty safe so long as you follow the directions. And they’re pretty fast at cooking up food.

7. Take it slow.

Microwaves are great for heating things up fast, but slow can pay off too. As in a slow cooker or crockpot.

I’ve long been a fan of my crockpot, especially when dealing with a baby. I can start dinner at almost any time of the day. First thing in the morning if I know things are going to get crazy or I just want to get dinner going. Middle of the day if morning didn’t work out or I think of it later. Just a matter of picking the right temperature.

It’s also great for getting meats soft enough to grind up for baby food.

8. Cut the cord.

Or at least stop using so many little electric gadgets for things that can be done by hand. It doesn’t take that much effort for most people to open a can with a regular can opener. Do you really need that food processor to do the slicing for you? What about a mandoline?

9. Keep it clean.

Clean ovens and stove tops can be much more efficient. They’re designed to reflect energy while you cook, and dirt changes where it goes and can cut the efficiency.

10. Shut it down.

Just because you turned off the heat doesn’t mean your food stops cooking. Whether it’s on the stove or in the oven, it takes time for things to cool down enough to stop the cooking process completely… especially if you use lids on the stove and keep that oven shut until you’re ready to take the food out.

11. Don’t cook everything.

Lots of fruits and vegetables are great raw. Why not take advantage and just not cook them?

Do you have any tips to share?