By Cynthia Ramnarace

The Planet-Friendly Kitchen

Without a doubt, the kitchen is the most popular room in my house. From meal prep to mealtime, homework to crafts, it's the center of our family life -- and the ultimate candidate for a recent eco-makeover.

In the interest of increasing my sustainability IQ, I first took inventory of what I knew about conservation in the kitchen:

1. Don't leave the water running. (This one's easy -- if I slip, there's a 6-year-old water watchdog always ready to remind me.)

2. Recycle.

3. Stock up on non-disposable plates and utensils and embrace the durability of reusable shopping totes.

This is a good start, but my kitchen -- and I -- clearly needed professional assistance if we were going to take it to the next level. This is where green living expert Annie Bond came in. The author of Home Enlightenment: Create a Nurturing, Healthy, and Toxin-Free Home shared some surprising tips for transforming everyone's favorite room into an environmentally savvy space:

The Dishwasher is a "Do."

A full dishwasher uses less water to clean a day's worth of dirty dishes than hand-washing them in the sink.

DIY Dishrags.

"Let's say you've got a pair of old, unused pajamas made from beautiful soft fabric," says Bond. Grab a pair of scissors and give them new life as dishrags and hand towels. But get ready for a bigger laundry basket -- these need to be washed daily to prevent bacterial growth.

Compost your Scraps.

Vegetable peels, fruit rinds and coffee grinds make excellent garden fertilizers. If you have an in-house compost bin, you can keep unwanted odors away by cleaning it out every couple of days.

Downsize your Oven.

When you can, bypass the energy-guzzling oven and stove in favor of smaller cooking appliances. Look beyond toast, and you'll find that a toaster oven is ideal for heating up or cooking small amounts of food. Slow cookers and electric kettles are also everyday energy savers.

Use Natural Critter Control.

Bond recommends trading chemical pesticides for the homemade variety. Drop a few cotton balls into a small glass jar and fill it halfway with a mixture of 1 part Borax (a natural pesticide), 1 part sugar and 3 parts water. Watch as the ants go marching one by one into the jar, where they take their final swim.

I took Bond's suggestions for my kitchen and found an added bonus: These tips are time savers too! Filling the dishwasher is faster than washing dishes, and toaster oven cuisine is refreshingly speedy. Saving time and the earth -- what's not to love?

Cynthia Ramnarace is a freelance writer in Queens, N.Y. She is a regular contributor to and AARP Bulletin. Her work also appears frequently in American Baby and Kiwi magazines.


Available at

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Planet-Friendly Green Tips for Your Kitchen