It's Easy Cookin' Green

A few weeks ago, the website Blackle.com crossed my path and I was instantly fascinated, but I'm going to spare you a click and give you the long and short of it: It's Google search, but it's not sponsored by Google, and its black. Fine, go. Click, I know you're going to, anyway.

Despite being a black-clad, large sunglasses-sporting stereotypical New Yorker, it wasn't the site's chi-chi and fashionable affect that drew me in, but that it was built on the notion that the color black uses less energy on the web, and even eensy amounts of savings—especially when you consider the scale of a web behemoth such as Google—add up.

Sadly, this premise that black uses less energy than white on the web has been disproven, mocked and shamed by countless writers evidently smarter than me, but I suppose in hindsight, the theory was kind of ridiculous.

But the principle behind it was not. I don't mean to break into a kind of kumbaya-style "all we are saay-iiing"–type song here, but the tiniest adjustments to energy consumption have been proven to make a difference. And in few rooms do we use energy as blindly as we do in the kitchen. Thus, I have scoured the web for small modifications you can make in your kitchen and in you cooking that have the potential to make a big difference in our overall dent on this lush, green land.

Better yet, I'm hopefully leaning on sources that will not disprove, mock, or shame you later on for your good intentions. It's a start, right? Start cookin' green after the jump.

  • Unwrap Your Food: Do you come home from even a quick run to the store with nearly six plastic bags? Ever notice that when you shop at farmers' markets you come home with far fewer plastic containers, if any? There are countless ways to reduce your food supply-related waste, from reusable tote bags for every budget to voting with your dollars by patronizing stores that make an effort to reduce packaging.

  • Work Your Dishwasher: Where do we begin? Most of the energy used by dishwashers is from heating the water [pdf], so check the manual for your dishwasher to see if you are able to set the heating elements to a lower temperature. More can be saved by skipping the drying cycle, propping open the door and letting the dishes air out naturally. As most new dishwashers have a seriously powerful wash cycle, water can be saved by scraping off, and not pre-soaking or pre-washing your dishes unless something is particularly gunked on. Run your dishwasher only when it is full. But whatever you do, don't feel guilty for using your dishwasher, as, according to one study, it uses only half the energy and one-sixth of the water of washing dishes by hand. Oh, and it's much more fun, but, uh, you should get a dishwasher because it's green, OK?

  • Tame Your Stove, Oven: Are you sure you have to run your oven tonight? I mean, have you really thought about it? Grilling uses spectacularly less energy than an oven, and it won't undo your air conditioner's hard work. A toaster uses one-third to one-half the energy of a full-size oven. Microwaves spread far less heat. If you've got to use your stove, consider your pan size, which should match your burner size. A six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner wastes almost half the energy produced by it. All this aside, when it's broiling hot out, wouldn't you prefer a meal that didn't require cooking? Yeah, I thought so.

  • Tune Your Fridge: Don’t shop for refrigerators on sticker price alone: Those with Energy Star labels use 15 percent less energy than current standards and 40 percent less than ones sold in 2001. Through-the-door water and ice dispensers and automatic icemakers can increase electricity use by up to 20 percent. Don't make them colder than needed; 37° to 40°F (3° to 4°C) is recommended for the fresh food compartment of the fridge, 5°F (-15°C) for freezers and a long-term storage freezer should be at 0°F (-18°C). Also, listen to your (or at least my) mother: "Don't go shopping in there!" As in, decide what you need before you go in, rather than spilling precious cool air out into the great hereafter.

  • Lose the Bottle: As bottled water is currently going through period of bad PR of practically Lohanian proportions, I hate to beat a dead horse. But, I'm not above it, either: 30 billion single use water bottles are expected to be thrown away this year, and only 23 percent of them will be recycled. Nearly all municipal tap water in the U.S. is so good that importing a bottle from Italy, France, or the Fiji Islands is at best questionable, at worst, deplorable. Opting out of tap water sends an unintentional message that keeping the public water supply top-notch is no longer a concern. Meanwhile, reusable bottle options abound, and, considering that a full year's suggested intake of water would run you $1,400 if it was all bottled, but 49¢ if from your faucet, you might even feel generous enough to buy one for everyone you know.

What are your too-easy-not-to green kitchen, cooking or eating tips?

About the author: Deb Perelman writes about and photographs food incessantly in her tiny Smitten Kitchen, on the slightly less-tiny island of Manhattan.

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