Lower your utility bill and reduce kitchen waste with these simple tips.

By Kit Selzer
Updated February 11, 2021
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Practicing sustainable habits isn't just good for the environment: It can also help you save on energy costs and create less waste. Cutting back on water, electricity, gas, and disposable items are easy ways to make your kitchen more eco-friendly. Use our checklist to assess your cooking and cleanup habits, and discover how being greener will save you money in the long run. If you're just starting out in your efforts to be more sustainable, commit to one new idea today. Over time, challenge yourself to up your green game as you lower your utility bill and reduce kitchen waste. Here are eight easy ways to get started.

Credit: David Tsay

1. Clean safely.

It's wise to check labels on cleaning products for what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls signal words. Danger indicates the most harmful formulas, followed by warning and caution. To learn about its Safer Choice seal, see the EPA's website. For other terminology, check out the Environmental Working Group's Label Decoder.

2. Maximize your fridge efficiency.

The refrigerator should be full but not stuffed and the coils free of dust. Avoid storing piping hot food. And though the savings are nominal, it can't hurt to obey Dad's edict: Don't stand too long with the door open.

Credit: Michael Partenio

3. Conserve cooking energy.

Batch cooking, one-pot meals, and thawing meat in the fridge (not the microwave) reduce appliance use. Other simple energy savers: Match the pot size to the burner and avoid opening the oven door while cooking. Using a lid also lets you lower the burner temperature.

4. Wash dishes efficiently.

An energy-efficient dishwasher combined with conscientious handwashing is best for cost savings and low environmental impact. When washing dishes in the sink, scrape plates, soak and scrub them in sudsy hot water, then dip in clean cool water. For the dishwasher, run a full load at an off-peak time (like bedtime) and skip the heated dry option.

5. Avoid unnecessary packaging.

Follow shopping habits that cut down on trash and save money. Reduce the number of packages you buy over time by choosing large packages of cereal, pastas, and spices then decanting them into reusable containers at home. Bring your own store-approved containers to buy foods like dried grains in bulk. Use cloth mesh bags for fruits and vegetables, and think twice about produce that's shrink-wrapped or in plastic containers. Beyond its disposable wrappings, precut produce is expensive and can have reduced nutritional value.

6. Repurpose what you can and recycle the rest.

Pinterest is filled with ideas for glass jars, like creating terrariums and refrigerating herbs in water. And those jars come "free" with your purchase of pickles, salsa, and spaghetti sauce. Minimizing what's in your trash can and your recycling bin is the fastest track to zero-waste living.

Credit: Jacob Fox

7. Choose reusable containers.

Glass containers with airtight lids remain one of the best ways to store leftovers. Other ways to avoid single-use storage include beeswax wrap, which creates a tight seal on bowls and can be hand-washed and reused. Instead of disposable plastic baggies, choose silicone bags ($8-$24, Bed Bath & Beyond) that can be heated or chilled, stand up on their own, and zip closed. Stainless-steel containers ($23-$30, Pottery Barn Kids) are another reusable option that's lightweight and unbreakable.

8. Feed the soil.

Think of composting as operating your own little recycling center. That pile of organic material you create over time by combining food scraps with yard waste allows you to buy less topsoil and fertilizer for your yard and garden. It's good for your soil, and you've helped reduce the methane that food creates in landfills. Plus, compost mixed into soil means you can water less.

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