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Around a quarter of all carbon emissions from our homes is created by electricity and gas usage, the majority of which takes place in the kitchen. The kitchen is a hardworking room, and as well as consuming energy through a wide range of appliances for cooking, storage and washing, it is also a heavy user of water. Even keeping it clean and hygienic can have an impact on the carbon footprint it creates. As well as making careful use of energy efficient equipment, some of the simplest changes such as freshening up surfaces with homemade cleaners and reducing water use and wastage are also the most cost effective, and will still effectively reduce your kitchen’s carbon footprint.

Cleaning Surfaces Naturally

Where food is prepared, cooked and eaten, it is essential to keep on top of cleaning by removing harmful bacteria and preventing the formation of mold. However, many household cleaners contain harmful chemicals, and the bottles and packaging they come in are often difficult to fully recycle, contributing to their high carbon footprint. Homemade cleaners made from natural household ingredients are an effective alternative and can naturally remove germs and mold without the use of harsh chemicals. Durable surfaces such as ceramic tiles are easy to keep clean. However, over time the grout between the tiles can become dirty or discoloured. A simple solution of vinegar and baking soda can quickly remove dirt and stains. Although it can’t kill all germs, vinegar is also effective as a mild disinfectant and can eliminate lingering odours that are common in the kitchen.

Reducing Water Consumption

As well as bought or homemade cleaning products, the kitchen requires a considerable amount of hot water for washing and cleaning. A household’s consumption of hot water, much of which takes place in the kitchen, produces 875 kg of CO2 every year and adds over £200 to the average energy bill. Consumption can be reduced considerably simply by switching off taps to avoid water running unnecessarily, and promptly fixing any leaks. In just one year, you can waste over 5,500 litres of water from a dripping tap. Surprisingly, a dishwasher can be more economical than hand washing as it uses considerably less water, especially if you avoid pre rinsing, always fill the machine fully, and use an eco cycle if there is one.

Sustainable Use of Appliances

In addition to dishwashers, the kitchen is full of energy consuming electrical appliances which create a considerable carbon footprint not only when they are running, but also when they are disposed of. In the UK, of the millions of appliances purchased every year only one third are recycled, with the rest simply being thrown away or left unused and gathering dust in kitchen cupboards. As well as only choosing energy efficient appliances that you are sure will make good use of, you can reduce the overall carbon footprint of electrical appliances by reusing, donating or sustainably recycling surplus or broken kitchen equipment. The metal components of microwaves, toasters and coffee machines can be recycled instead of leaving them to contaminate water and soil as they are thrown into landfill.

As the heart of the home, the kitchen is also the room that can easily be responsible for the majority of your household’s carbon emissions. Simple steps such as using natural, homemade cleaners, and reducing water waste can make a significant difference to your kitchen’s carbon footprint. Through the more mindful use and reuse of appliances, you can reduce energy consumption even further, saving you money on your bills and minimising costly environmental waste.

Catherine Pearson

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