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How to Green Your Kitchen

Dishes_400How often do you use that panini maker, waffle iron, or fondue set? Reduce clutter for a more efficient kitchen. Take everything out of your cupboards, including food, and put back only what survives the following questions from Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson.

• Is it in working condition? Is it expired? Keeping something that you had good intentions of repairing does not save it from the landfill, it only postpones its imminent demise. Repair it now, sell/donate it for parts, or discard it once and for all (compost expired food).

• Do I use it regularly? Have I used this item this past month? If you’re not sure, stick a date on it and stash it away. If you do not reach for it within a month, donate it. But don’t cheat yourself: using the fondue pot tonight just to prove me wrong does not count. Donate your fondue set and other kitchen items collecting dust.

• Is it a duplicate? Only one set of hands can reach into the oven at once. Pick your favorite pair of oven mitts. When dealing with duplicates, you might find it helpful to set a maximum number or devise space limitations for stuff, and combine foods.

• Does it put my family’s health in danger? For example, Teflon (nonstick), aluminum, and plastics have proved to be health hazards. These should be discarded. This question proves particularly helpful in weeding out toxic items among duplicates (e.g., stirring spoons: recycle the plastic ones, keep the wooden or stainless ones). Eliminating these from your everyday use will put your mind at ease and keep your family happy and healthy.

• Do I keep it out of guilt? If you are afraid of letting go a hostess gift, remember that your guests do not mean to burden you or instill guilt; they just want to offer a polite gesture. It’s okay to let go of something that you never intended to purchase and don’t really want. And when guests ask about the whereabouts of their gift, it is totally acceptable to express gratitude and then to let them know that you are simplifying your life. Be the king or queen of your castle.

• Do I keep it because “everyone has one”? Is it too specialized? Does it truly save time, as promised? We store and maybe even use many kitchen gadgets simply because of persuasive marketing. Evaluate the true need for egg slicers, grapefruit knives, a salad spinner, or a rolling pin. Could another item achieve the same task? A kitchen towel can act as a salad spinner, a bottle as a rolling pin. Often your fingers will do.

• Is it worth my precious time cleaning? Everything in your kitchen is to be considered, even the small items, even those hung on the walls or stored above your cabinets. Think of the decorative items that you have collected over the years: they serve no purpose yet they create visual clutter and require dusting. Are they worth it? The food processor is another high-maintenance item. By the time you have pulled it out of your cupboard and fiddled with and cleaned its bulky parts, you could easily have hand chopped twice as many onions. Is it worth keeping?

• Could I use this space for something else? If you view kitchen storage as real estate, then your junk drawer, for example, takes up some valuable space for just containing junk! If it is really “junk” that you are storing, then why keep it? If it is not, then the contents should go where they really belong, and the free space used to create breathing room between worthy items.

• Is it reusable? If not, can someone else make use of it?

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