The Green Kitchen: Painless Energy Conservation


With the kitchen accounting for 30-40% of home energy use, it seems like a smart place to start some conserving. If you can replace your old appliances with energy efficient ones, do it. They make a big difference. But no matter what type of appliances you’re using, the following tips will make a difference…painlessly!


Keep your oven door shut and use the light to see how your food is coming along. Every time you open the oven door, you lose about 25 degrees.

Keep your oven clean. A dirty oven is an inefficient one. Same goes for those shiny reflectors on electric cook tops. Keep ’em shiny!

Double up on oven time. When I cook a casserole or roast a chicken, I try to throw in some beets wrapped in foil or a pan of carrots or squash for roasting. It saves time when preparing future meals, too – and can even save you from the take-out window.

Don’t preheat at the beginning of the recipe, even if it says so. Wait until about 5 minutes before you put the food in the oven.

If you’re toasting nuts, or broiling something for two (like chicken breasts or fish fillets), use your toaster oven. It uses one-third the energy of your full-size oven.

When bringing water to a boil – or cooking pretty much anything on the stove top – speed up the process by keeping a lid on the pot (unless you’re frying or sautéing). If you need something to cook down or evaporate, like tomato sauce, rest the lid ajar.

Don’t put a small pan on a large burner. Match the size pan to the burner so you don’t waste valuable heat.


Keeping the fridge and freezer full, but not stuffed, makes it most efficient.

Keep the shelves organized so you don’t have to spend open-door time hunting around for ingredients.

When making a recipe, take out all of the ingredients at once and place them on the counter so you only have to open the door once. Do the same thing when putting them away.


An efficient dishwasher uses less water than running the water while hand washing does. The very best way to do dishes is to fill a pan with sudsy hot water and wash the dishes. Don’t rinse them yet! Then dump out the sudsy water and fill the pan with fresh hot water for rinsing.  Bonus points for using the hot water that’s still in the kettle from making coffee or tea.

Remember: You may be doing this for the planet, but you’ll be really happy when you see the big difference in your energy bill!

Image: Plebeian Regime

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.