A few months ago I needed to get rid of a coffee maker that no longer worked. With all the materials it was made of (metal, glass, plastic, electrical components) I couldn't recycle it, but it seemed irresponsible to just put it in the trash. This machine was only a couple of years old, so I wanted to make sure that when I shopped for its replacement, I bought something that was going to last.
A lot of cooking equipment is difficult to dispose of because of the way it's assembled or the materials that are used to make it. How can you be more environmentally responsible in the kitchen? Buy equipment that will last, take care of what you have, and don't be so quick to replace it. You'll avoid adding things to landfills and will also save the money you would have spent buying something new. Here's how to get started:
Choose the best-quality products you can afford. When you have to buy an appliance, a pan, a piece of cutlery or even a small gadget, shop around and do some research to make sure what you are buying is durable and high quality. Most online kitchenware retailers, such as Cooking.com, have candid user reviews, or you can check out reviews at ConsumerSearch or Consumer Reports. Spending a little more money to buy a better brand will save you in the long run if it lasts longer.
- • Read the product warranty information to find out if you can get a defective part replaced for free.
- • Check that the construction seems sturdy and that all parts are securely affixed.
- • In the case of a product that comes in different sizes, like blenders, mixers, pots or slow cookers, buy the biggest one that you think you'll use. You can make smaller batches in a large piece of equipment, but a smaller-sized piece will limit you if you are cooking for more people than usual.
If you're the type of person who loves to have the latest technology, remember that quality never goes out of style.
Support manufacturers that are environmentally conscious. If you can, seek out products made by companies that are focused on minimizing their ecological impact by using renewable energy, recycled and recyclable materials, and minimal packaging. To learn more about such qualities, read up on the "Cradle to Cradle" philosophy outlined by designer William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart.
Keep your kitchen equipment in good condition. Read the instruction manual to learn how to use, clean and maintain your equipment.
- • Be sure to clean equipment like countertop appliances scrupulously: use a toothpick or something small to scrape food particles out of crevices, and hand-wash parts, even if the manufacturer says they're dishwasher safe.
- • With cookware, be sure to scrub the exterior of pots and pans just as thoroughly as you wash the inside, so they'll stay looking new for longer, and you won't be tempted to replace it just because it looks a little worn.
- • If you invest in a good set of cutlery, sharpen knives regularly at home, and take them to a professional sharpener once a year to maintain the sharpest blades.
Consider your reasons before replacing something. Before you move to replace pieces of cooking equipment, think about why you're doing so. Is it because there's a newer version on the market with more bells and whistles? If the reason is purely cosmetic, or because you're the type of person who loves to have the latest technology, remember that quality never goes out of style. Think of how you're being more responsible by continuing to use the appliance instead of relegating it to the landfill.
When getting rid of products, find them a good home. If all else fails, and you do really need to dispose of the equipment, do so responsibly. If it's something that still works, give it away at a place like Craigslist, sell it on eBay, or donate it to a thrift store or charity. Lately I've been donating a lot of household items to the International Rescue Committee, which helps displaced people find and furnish a new home.
What are your tricks for keeping your kitchenware in tip-top shape? Share your thoughts by commenting below.