Ingredients for an eco-friendly kitchen

Climate Corner: The Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is sharing tips and resources for healing the Earth in a periodic Climate Corner in the Jewish Review. The group is committed to the important work of tikkun olam, repairing the world.

PHOTO: Silicone bags and beeswax wraps are reusable replacements for plastic wrap and baggies.


Here are a handful of suggestions for saving energy (and money) in your kitchen:
Stovetop cooking:
•  Choose correctly sized pots for each of the stove burners and for the cooking job.
•  Make sure all of your pots and pans have well-fitting lids and use them whenever possible – including when boiling water – to reduce cooking time and retain heat.
•  Keep stovetop burners clean so they cook more efficiently.
Oven cooking:
•  Roast or bake several things at once. This takes a bit of planning, but it is worth the effort.
•  Choose cast iron, ceramic or glass cookware to retain more heat and speed cooking time.
•  If you have a new or relatively new oven, eliminate or minimize preheating. Most newer ovens heat quickly enough to make this step unnecessary.
•  Resist the urge to open the door to peek into the oven. The temperature drops 25 degrees when you open the door.
Smaller appliances:
•  Use a toaster oven or toaster instead of the oven to heat small items such as waffles.
•  Choose a microwave to heat up frozen foods and leftovers.
•  Pressure cookers like Instant Pots cut energy use in two ways – they can slash cooking time by up to 70 percent compared to a stove, and they retain heat due to insulation. As a bonus, pressure cooking helps retain vitamins and minerals and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.
•  Slow cooking with crockpots is energy efficient – especially in the summer when you don’t want to heat your kitchen with the oven. And because slow cooking tenderizes less expensive cuts of meat, you can save money on food, as well.
•  Cleaning dishes with a newer dishwasher can use less water than washing by hand if you follow a few rules: run the dishwasher only when it’s full, choose energy-efficient settings, scrape off leftover bits of food and prewash (if you must) quickly without running the tap constantly.
Organize and use your refrigerator efficiently:
•  The warmest zones of the fridge are the top shelf and door. Use the door for condiments and the top shelf for leftovers and other items you need to eat quickly.
•  Use the middle shelf for dairy products and eggs.
•  Use the bottom shelf for meat, fish and milk. It’s the coolest spot in your fridge so there is less risk of spoilage, and any leakage won’t drip down onto other foods.
•  Fruits and veggies go in the crispers.
•  Avoid putting hot leftovers into the fridge. Instead, allow them to cool a bit at room temperature to avoid raising the temperature of the fridge.
Paper and plastic waste:
•  Switch from plastic, single-serve coffee pods and paper filters to reusable mesh filters. Or consider using a French press instead. It needs no filter.
•  For cleanup jobs, replace paper towels with natural cellulose sponge cloths, dishtowels or reusable not-paper towels made of cellulose and cotton. Most of these can be machine washed and dried.
•  Pack lunches-on-the-go in reusable beeswax wraps and resealable silicone bags instead of using plastic baggies or buying single-serving bags of snacks.

Bonnie Newman is a former journalist and retired physical therapist. Currently, she volunteers with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Climate Action Committee and Dignity Grows as well as the Eastside Jewish Commons.
Steve Katz also is a member of Jewish Federation’s Climate Action Committee. He also volunteers with the Oregon Interfaith Solar Campaign (, which encourages people of faith everywhere to really live their values by taking steps collectively to mitigate the effects of climate change.


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