If you feel climate change is too big an issue for you to personally impact, think again. Each of us can take small steps to be more eco-friendly and sustainable — starting in the kitchen. Following are nine ways to reduce energy consumption, limit landfill waste, and make an overall difference in your environmental footprint.

1. Water consumption: Dishwasher vs. hand washing

Hand washing can give you a better sense of control over how clean your dishes get, but unless you’re a very eco-conscious hand washer, it can also be very wasteful. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany found hand washing can use as much as 27 gallons of water and 2.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy to wash 12 place settings, compared with 4 gallons and 1.5 kWh used by a dishwasher. For those of you who don’t  have a dishwasher, here are a few ways to be more efficient with hand washing dishes:

  • Remove large food scraps from the dishes with a spoon or a fork.
  • Manual dishwashing is easier if the food is not dried to the dishes, so start washing soon after the meal.
  • Do not pre-rinse the dishes under running tap water.
  • Manual dishwashing is best done in two sinks: one with hot water and detergent, the other with cold water for a quick rinse.

2. Energy efficiency: Gas vs. electric stove

When talking energy efficiency between a gas and an electric stove, the gas stove is a clear winner. It takes about three times as much energy to produce and deliver electricity to your stove. A gas stove will cost you less than half as much to operate, according to the California Energy Commission, provided you have an electronic ignition and not a pilot light.

3. Reduce Electricity Consumption: Get to know your fridge

  • The U.S. Department of Energy estimates your refrigerator takes up 14 percent of your household energy usage. While it’s your best friend in keeping food fresh, if you’re not using it efficiently, it can be a major energy hog. Here are some quick tips for keeping an eco-friendly fridge:
  • Allow leftovers to sit at room temperature for a while before putting them in the fridge. Hot leftovers raise the temperature inside your fridge, so it has to work harder and burns more energy.
  • Check the rubber seal on your fridge occasionally to make sure it’s keeping cold air in and warm air out. To check, slip a dollar bill into the door; if it slips out easily, you need to fix or replace the seal.
  • Keep your freezer as full as possible. You can fill an empty space with reusable ice packs so it will stay cooler.
  • Check how old your fridge is. If it’s more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with an Energy Star-qualified one.

4. Reduce landfill waste: Buy in bulk, not packaged

Buying bulk items means consuming less packaging, and saving money as you buy only what you need (you also get to try just a little of something that might become a new favorite). Check out Rising Tide’s bulk department for grains, nuts, seeds and other staples that you might ordinarily buy pre-packaged from the grocery shelf. Save the planet, and some cash while you’re at it.

5. Reduce carbon emissions: Buy local

Buying local produce and other items is not only a great way to get organic and natural foods; it’s an eco-friendly step to end the oil-consuming transportation methods for carrying groceries to stores nationwide. Visit local farmers’ markets for farm-fresh fruits and veggies. Rising Tide is committed to offering local, organic produce and goods whenever possible.

6. Surround yourself with eco-friendly design

If you happen to be considering a kitchen remodel, there are opportunities to consider sustainability when it comes to design. HGTV recommends nine environmentally-friendly design elements:

  • Bamboo surfaces
  • Scrap wood
  • Fluorescents and natural lighting
  • Cork
  • Recycled stone-chipped composite countertops
  • Top and bottom freezer/refrigerator units
  • Recycling stations
  • Convection ovens
  • Natural fabrics

7. Be eco-friendly: Eat healthy

The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that if every American had just one meat-free meal per week, the carbon dioxide reduction would equal the removal of more than 5 million cars from the road. Also, eat fresh foods whenever possible. Eating fresh not only promotes better health, it also conserves energy used in processing, packaging and delivering products. A great, easy project to help you eat more fresh food? Plant a vegetable and herb garden. If you don’t have the backyard space, check out a community garden in your area (or start one).

8. Reduce food waste: Reuse scraps for additional meals

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the U.S. Yet, 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten. That’s about $165 billion each year that goes to waste. What can you do? Consider all the ways you can reuse food scraps, stems, leaves and leftovers. Cook with a whole head of cauliflower. Use the apple cores and citrus peels one more time before composting. And taste the leafy tops of your favorite root vegetables.

9. Cut energy costs by cooking outside

Ease the strain on your AC by getting outside to cook. Grilling is a great method that brings the heat from cooking outside, thus reducing the need to turn up the air conditioning. Outdoor grills also use less energy than your stove.

Article courtesy of Delicious Living.