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When you think about it, the kitchen has more potential for waste than any other area in the home. It’s where the majority of your appliances run. It’s where you cook and generate food waste. And it’s where you run water almost constantly, between the faucet, the dishwasher and any icemakers. So if you want to have a more eco-friendly home, the place to start is in making a sustainable kitchen.

As far as costs go, you could be looking at hundreds to thousands of dollars if it’s time to get more sustainable appliances. Or simple measures like labeling food by date so it doesn’t go bad can be basically free. Planning and implementing more sustainable measures in your kitchen can also take as little as a weekend. So whether you’re ready for a complete appliance overhaul or looking for easier ways to be less wasteful, below are some tips for a sustainable kitchen.

It might be time to find more energy-efficient appliances. Image: Mirelle/Shutterstock

Invest in New Appliances

If you’re looking to cut the energy you use in the kitchen, you might want to replace any old appliances. The easiest way to do that is to look for ENERGY STAR appliances. Doing so could help you see a major reduction in your energy bill.

However, if your appliances are new, you may see less of an improvement. For instance, ENERGY STAR-qualified refrigerators use at least 15 percent less energy than all other types, but they use an impressive 40 percent less energy than conventional models that were sold in 2001. So if you have older appliances, now may be the time to upgrade to something more efficient for a sustainable kitchen.

Compost your food waste. Image: Gary Perkin/Shutterstock

Get a Sustainable Kitchen by Rethinking Your Trash

Another part of the kitchen that affects the sustainability of the whole household is how much trash you’re throwing away. There are a few easy ways to reduce the amount of waste you produce in the kitchen:

  • Try indoor composting. You can find special indoor bins or simply remember to throw scraps into an outdoor compost bin.
  • Also, try to buy reusable or recyclable. Ditch the single-use paper plates and non-recyclable Keurig cups. (There are companies that make compostable or recyclable Keurig pods.)
  • Don’t buy more perishables than you can finish. Watch purchases at big-box retailers, where everything comes in bulk and can easily go bad before you use it.

A basic salad spinner can prevent those premature sickly, slimy greens. Image: Devrim PINAR/Shutterstock

Get a System in Place So Food Won’t Go Bad

We all do it. We all have that leftover pasta we meant to eat, and then it started growing mold before we knew it. But developing a few habits can reduce the chance of food going to waste and make a more sustainable kitchen:

  • Label food by date and keep older food near the front of the fridge.
  • Seal food in air-tight storage bags.
  • Keep the moisture out of foods like spinach by getting a salad spinner.
  • Check for moldy items in your produce or baked goods early and often, before that one bad spot can contaminate the whole container.

Sustainable materials like reclaimed wood can add style just about anywhere in the kitchen, like on this island. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Remodel Using Sustainable Building Materials

Are you thinking of finally getting the kitchen of your dreams? Even remodeling for a new look can be an excuse for a more sustainable kitchen. For instance, try remodeling with sustainable or even reclaimed materials. A few ideas include:

  • Sustainably sourced or reclaimed countertops
  • Sustainable flooring materials, like bamboo
  • Cabinets made of reclaimed wood
  • Recycled glass tile backsplashes

Dripping faucets can waste a surprising amount of water. Image: Lipskiy/Shutterstock

Watch Your Water Use

You should also watch how much water you are using, as we use a large amount of water in the kitchen. For instance, we use about 8 to 27 gallons of water washing dishes by hand alone, depending on your faucet and how much you let the water run. So if you’re washing dishes by hand, try washing dishes in a basin rather than running the faucet continually.

Also, if the faucet drips, fix or replace it. A faucet that drips once per second wastes over five gallons of water per day for a whopping 2,082 gallons per year.

And remember, if you make conservation a habit, running a sustainable kitchen will eventually feel like no effort at all.