It makes perfect sense: as consumers seek out organic foods that are grown without environmentally damaging pesticides, choose
fuel-efficient cars, and learn how to reduce their carbon footprint to create less of an impact on the environment, the kitchen, one of the most-used spaces in the home, is the perfect realm to continue an effort to be more environmentally responsible.
Luckily, we’re getting plenty of help in our efforts to green our kitchens. The government recently announced a rebate program for purchases of high-efficiency household appliances, similar to its popular “Cash for Clunkers” program. And manufacturers, retailers, and interior designers are also increasing their expertise and their product offerings to include more sustainable and energy-efficient products.
At Different Drummer’s Kitchen, a kitchenware store located in Latham, manager Michele Bechard has increased her store’s green offerings, including dishcloths and towels made from sustainable bamboo fibers or organic cotton. Her compost pails regularly sell out. And she recently replaced a longstanding line of nonstick cookware with Swiss Diamond, made without the use of the purportedly toxic chemical PFOA.
“Products that are green are definitely a selling point for more and more people,” Bechard says. “I think you’ll be seeing more and more of them, especially with bamboo products and lines that find new uses for more environmentally friendly resources.”
Additionally, Different Drummer’s exhibition kitchen, where the store holds classes, is equipped with an induction hybrid cooktop. “They’re incredibly efficient, energy-wise, and they don’t heat up the workspace as much,” says Bechard. While the store doesn’t sell major appliances, it does offer portable induction cooktops, which can be used as an additional cooking surface in a home, or even on a recreational vehicle or a boat.
From the biggest appliance to the smallest tool, it’s becoming increasingly easy to find environmentally responsible options. One of the leaders in this movement is appliance maker Bosch, which has earned the Energy Star rating on all of its dishwashers and refrigerators. The company is constantly striving to become more efficient with all of its appliance offerings. To wit, the AutoChef cooking technology, which is available on new induction and electric cooktops, measures the temperature of the bottom of the pan and applies the minimal amount of energy to properly heat the pan, without wasting energy. Additionally, the company’s 800 Plus dishwasher is one of the most efficient models ever to be sold in North America, using only 1.5 gallons of water per cycle and operating on only 180 kWh per year of energy.
In the realm of kitchen lighting, there are also a number of new energy-efficient options, says Cliff Starr, store manager and professional lighting designer at Lighting By Gregory in New York City.
“We’re seeing more and more people asking about LEDs,” Starr says. “It costs more than other types of lighting, but when you realize that if you spend a little more now, and you’re not having to buy replacement lamps, that savings adds up.” Starr notes that an LED fixture left on for four hours a day, every day of the year, would last more than 34 years.
In the kitchen, Starr is also a big proponent of fluorescent lights, which have come a long way since the harsh, unflattering lighting for which they used to be known. Today, fluorescents can be chosen in different degrees of color temperature, ranging from very warm to very cool. They also can be dimmable.
In addition to their long life (translation—less waste generated by disposing of dead lamps) and energy efficiency, LED fixtures contain no mercury, a known toxin, and fluorescents contain very little, Starr points out.
Homeowners who aren’t ready to overhaul their kitchens with new appliances or lighting can still make strides to become greener by making informed choices of cookware, kitchen utensils, and more.
Fissler, a cookware and countertop appliance maker, is one brand that takes the environment to heart. The company is based in Germany, where green manufacturing standards typically surpass those in the U.S.
The company’s cookware is made with a special CookStar base, which is designed to retain more heat than typical pot bases, which translates into less energy used in cooking. Fissler has also expanded its line of pressure cookers, which can cook food using up to one-third the time and energy other stovetop cooking that methods take, and makes an energy-efficient portable induction cooktop.
“The recession has made consumers more conscious of the quality of the cookware they are spending money on,” says Charles Rosenberg, Fissler nutritionist. “Consumers are thinking in terms of wise investments and they know that high-quality cookware will last a lifetime, which translates into fewer old pots and pans going into the landfill.”
Another option for environmentally responsible kitchenware is Bambu, a company that made its name specializing in products made of renewable bamboo, but has since expanded to include other sustainable materials like cork and soy.
“Consumers are looking for green solutions,” says owner/cofounder Jeff Delkin. “They want to buy less, but buy responsible. And they’re not willing to compromise functionality for green.”
Some of Bambu’s newer products include its Hybrid line of cutting boards, which combines cork and bamboo, and a series of cork bowls that can be used for mixing or serving salads.
The company’s green mission extends beyond its products; it also uses recycled or Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper sources and vegetable-based inks for packaging and catalogs, it uses crinkled recycled kraft paper instead of Styrofoam for shipping, and has even eliminated the use of plastic ties that typically hold kitchen utensils to their packaging cards. The company also reduces manufacturing waste by turning excess bamboo into decorative “pebbles.”
New products from Cuisinart underscore the company’s commitment to green living. The company’s GreenGourmet Cookware line, which has recycled stainless steel handles as well as a nonstick coating that is made with less energy and is not petroleum based, is expanding with the GreenGourmet Electric Skillet (due in stores in December). And its CleanWater Countertop Filtration System, which dispenses hot, cold, and room temperature water, has an energy-saver feature and aims to encourage users to avoid buying environmentally taxing bottled water.
“As the population’s effect on the planet intensifies, it is more important than ever to design products with ecofriendly features that allow consumers to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says Mary M. Rodgers, director of marketing communications for Cuisinart and Waring. “By using greener products, consumers can instantly reduce negative impacts on the environment.”
American cookware company Calphalon is also committed to sustainability practices, particularly when it comes to recycling. The company’s newly launched program, ReNew, helps consumers recycle old cookware at no cost to them when they purchase a set of the Calphalon’s new Unison cookware.
Whether it’s as large an investment as buying an Energy Star appliance, or as little as buying a bamboo spoon instead of a plastic one, making more environmentally responsible choices when outfitting your kitchen can make an enormous impact on the earth. And luckily, most of these ecofriendly products are far more tasteful than the avocado-green kitchens of yesteryear.
Different Drummer’s Kitchen, (518) 785-5600, differentdrummerskitchen.com Warren Kitchen & Cutlery, (845) 876-6208, warrenkitchentools.com
Bosch, (800) 944-2904, bosch-home.com/us
COOKWARE AND COUNTERTOP APPLIANCES
Calphalon, (800) 809-PANS, calphalon.com Cuisinart, (800) 726-0190, cuisinart.com Fissler, (888) FISSLER, fisslerusa.com
KITCHEN TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES
Bambu, (877) 226-2829, bambuhome.com
Lighting by Gregory, (800) 807-1826, lightingbygregory.com