Earth's Kitchen

By Isabelle Lipkin

October 3, 2008 5 min read


New planet-friendly products help produce great food

Isabelle Lipkin

Creators News Service

If "green cooking" makes you think about split pea soup or a big bowl of mixed salad, think again.

While awareness of eating organic and buying local has been growing steadily, many foodies and eco-conscious consumers can now lavish as much care on the cooking of their food as they do with the selection.

New lines of cookware and kitchen utensils are not only more environmentally friendly, but also work to keep food healthier.

"We're all searching our souls to see what we can do, even a mundane thing like changing cutting boards," Tom Sullivan, founder of Totally Bamboo, said. "It's a little thing, but it helps."

Sullivan described himself as not originally a "tree-hugging" kind of person. But when he and his wife were experimenting with using new materials to lighten the well-known wooden directors' chairs they manufacture, they discovered the versatility of a new substance.

"We realized that anything made of wood can be made of bamboo," he said.

Totally Bamboo started by making cutting boards and has branched out to make a variety of hand-finished bowls, plates, chopsticks, serving dishes, countertops, backsplashes and a round vessel sink.

After finding just the right non-formaldehyde glue to ensure no offgassing, the company set up manufacturing near Shanghai.

All of the bamboo used is grown without pesticides, fertilizers or artificial irrigation. Their harvesting practices ensure bamboo is selectively chosen, not just clear-cut. After being boiled to kill bugs and fungus, the bamboo is then steamed to a dark honey color, as the sugar within the plant naturally caramelizes into rich vibrant tones.

This past year, the company decided to push design and function further by designing a dishwasher-safe cutting board. The GreenLite Eco-Friendly Bamboo Cutting Board is harder than maple, so knives leave shallower marks and there's less chance for the board to harbor bacteria. Sullivan claims using the dishwasher instead of washing by hand reduces water usage by up to 40 percent, making the GreenLite a more eco-friendly product.

There are many ways to make your kitchen a little more eco-friendly, from slow cooking to pressure cookers. However, having quality cookware that lasts is a great way to reduce cooking time and save energy.

Cuisinart's new line, GreenGourmet Cookware, is available in hard, anodized nonstick and stainless nonstick. The pots and pans, "give consumers the convenience and versatility they want in a product without compromising the environment," said Mary Rodgers, director of marketing communications for Cuisinart. "While performance and user-friendly features are top priorities, sustainability is playing a big role in the consumer's purchasing decision."

The products are made with a petroleum-free, ceramic-based coating that does not contain PTFE and PFOA -- substances often used in nonstick cookware that have raised health concerns. GreenGourmet cookware conforms to the Food and Drug Administration's and European RoHS's standards for environmentally sound products. Cuisinart claims, because of superior heat conductivity, the line needs less energy to achieve the right cooking temperature.

Plastic has become suspect as of late in the eco-world, but there are companies who are trying to change that. Recycline, the makers of the Preserve Kitchen line, is one of them.

They offer a range of eco-friendly food containers, colanders and more. Made from completely recycled plastic and post-consumer paper, the company is committed to saving energy and preserving natural resources. Recycline manufactures their products in the USA so that shipping can be kept to shorter distances.

"Small everyday steps like using a 'green' colander, cutting board or food storage container can make a big impact, leading us all to think about the other steps we can take to preserve the planet," Recycline founder Eric Hudson said. "Sourcing recycled plastics for consumer products instead of using virgin resources reduces energy consumption, conserves natural resources, avoids landfill waste and reduces dependence on foreign fuels."

He added that people forget that many plastics are made with natural gas and oil, and using recycled materials supports natural-resource conservation.

Cooks usually want to feed the soul of a family as well as their stomachs. For those who care about the environment of their food and eating healthfully, cooking with organic utensils and using recyclable products is a natural move.

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