12 Steps to a Greener Kitchen

Kate morford with groceries in her kitchen

I was inspired to write 12 steps to a greener kitchen after reading about Béa Johnson, a mother of two living in a San Francisco suburb, who runs what she calls a “zero waste home.”  I found her both inspiring and a little fanatical. So devoted to a greener home, she sews produce bags out of used pillow sacks, buys no packaged goods, and accumulates so little garbage that it fits into a two cup measure over the course of six months. On the one hand, we could all learn a thing or two from this eco-warrior in minimizing excess and lightening our environmental footprint. On the other hand, I feel daunted by the effort involved to keep a zero-waste home.

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12 Steps to a Greener Kitchen

That said, reading about Béa got me thinking about how I could live a littler greener, particularly with regards to my kitchen. And since I’m no expert in this area, I called on someone who is: Shawna Sadowski, director of sustainability for Annie’s Inc. (as in Annie’s Mac & Cheese). Shauna’s job is to make sure all of the company’s suppliers produce their goods in an environmentally and socially responsible way. She shared these 12 tips for lightening your environmental load:

Emphasize a plant-based diet.

That doesn’t mean banning meat. In fact, livestock can be part of a healthy ecosystem. It’s more about eating less meat and choosing meat that is sustainably raised. Consider eating one less meat meal a day or one less meat meal a week: Baby steps.

Buy local

The impact of food miles on greenhouse gasses isn’t as significant as you might think. But, there is  something to be said for knowing where your food comes from, whether it’s the farmer’s market in town, the produce store around the corner, or the CSA box from a local farm.

Consider your cleaning products

Opt for brands such as Method and Seventh Generation that aren’t heavy in environmental toxins that pollute as they head down the drain. It requires a bit of trial and error because some of the chemical-free products aren’t as effective as the old standbys.

Shop mindfully

Peruse what you have before you shop, since food waste has a bit impact on greenhouse gases (you can read more about that here). And when it’s within your budget and accessible, choose organic. Fewer pesticides is better for the planet (not to mention the farm workers who handle them).

Choose eco-friendly building materials

If you are remodeling a kitchen, look into products made from recycled materials. Perhaps as important is to choose items that are durable and will stand the test of time, rather than end up in a landfill in a few short years.


If you don’t have a municipal composting service, consider a worm box or other composting system for your yard or deck. It’ll take care of all of your food scraps, and do wonders for your yard.

Drink from the tap.

We are pretty fortunate in this country to have, for the most part, excellent drinking water. Install a tap filtration system if you are concerned about what’s in there or don’t like the taste, or use a simple Brita pitcher. Invest in durable, re-usable water bottles for hydrating on the go.

Carbonate at home

If you are fond of bubbly water, Soda Stream and other home carbonation systems are a super convenient and eco-friendly alternative to buying bottled bubbles.

Wash dishes wisely

Pay attention to how much you (and your kids) run the water when you are doing the dishes, and turn off the faucet when you can.

Unplug when possible

Appliances use energy even when not in use, so unplug when it makes sense (particularly when you are out of town).

Go small

Take advantage of your toaster oven for small cooking and baking projects. It likely uses a lot less energy than your oven and can do a bang up job.

Hit the second-hand shops

Consider second-hand appliances and kitchen wares. Here in San Francisco, you can find wonderful second-hand supplies at Pot and Pantry. Flea markets and yard sales can also be gold mines for quality vintage and contemporary kitchen supplies.

What tips do you have for a greener kitchen?


04.19.2022 at4:30 AM #

Bridget Swinney MS, RDN

What great tips for Earth Day and every day! Thanks!

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