Archive for the ‘kitchen’ Tag

The Rediscovery of The Spray Feature   Leave a comment

As I’ve now mentioned here a couple of times, we just had to replace our kitchen faucet in order to fix a leak in the supply line. It was one of the few easy purchases in life because (1) no real research was required and (2) the plumber supplied the new faucet. I take that back about the research since I’m doing it retroactively as I write this post. Before the purchase I assumed that there are no faucets made in the US, and that the lead content in the faucets wouldn’t vary much. We perused the aisles at Home Depot and Lowe’s to get a feel for the cost of replacing our faucet with something similar, and that was the extent of my research. I wanted to talk to the plumber about the choices for water efficiency. It turns out it is a very good thing that we got the faucet through the plumber, because otherwise we probably would have made what I would later consider “a bad decision.”

The first thing that came up was that some manufacturers responded to California’s reduction of allowed lead in faucets/piping/etc from 8% to 0.25% by switching from metal to plastic faucets. If we had bought the faucet on our own we probably would have bought a plastic faucet without even realizing it, since those would be the slightly cheaper ones. But there is a much higher risk of contaminants leaching out of plastic compared to metal, just based on the molecular structures. And metal is recyclable in perpetuity, whereas plastic is usually not recyclable and can usually only be recycled once if at all. It is important to consider the entire lifecycle of a product, and that includes disposal.

After the faucet had been installed I rediscovered the spray feature, which we would not have gotten if we had bought the faucet ourselves. It has been so many years since I had a kitchen faucet with the spray/stream selection that I had completely forgotten it. When we perused the hardware store aisle we looked at the buttons on the sprayers for some of the faucets and decided that we just wanted something simple: no buttons that will break. The faucet that the plumber supplied had the buttons, though he insisted that they won’t break. After he left I played around with the new faucet and I tried the buttons. It was a head-slapping moment. One is the pause button, and the other is the spray/stream toggle. We can now save water in the kitchen! Yay!

Using the spray feature is great for washing-type tasks because it reduces the water use. By the rules of physics, forcing the water through the smaller spray holes means higher velocity of water. So for the same velocity of water coming out of the faucet, less total flow (volume) is required for spray vs. stream. Since high water velocity is what you need when washing/rinsing things, using spray requires less total water flow than stream. With the toggle switch it is easy to switch to stream for tasks that require water volume, like filling a glass or a pot.

Now we just have to get used to not having to pull the handle out quite as far.

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Posted January 20, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, home, water use

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Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Self Exam   8 comments

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her knew book. I figure I’ll take the challenge and post my results here. To start, the first week is a self exam.

  1. How many meals do we make at home per week? It looks like this is a fixing food at home vs. takeout question. I’m not really sure where frozen lunches or breakfasts like cereal or toast fall because I don’t make my own but on the other hand I’m not stopping at a restaurant. I’ll use the loose definition of grocery vs. restaurant/prepackaged meal (no assembly except heating), which gives us a typical score of +15 (+25, -10).
  2. Look at the ingredient lists on foods in the cabinet. How long are they? Can you pronounce and visualize all of them? The instructions for this questions say to use one item, but I can get very different scores for a range of stuff in our cabinet. There’s the bag of local sun-dried tomatoes that scores +6 points, the can of black beans that scores +8, or the can of soup that scores +11, and then there’s the box of animal crackers that scores -3. Most of the items in our cabinet got a positive score, and I couldn’t find anything that I couldn’t pronounce (but then again, I am a science person).
  3. What’s in your fridge? What is the ratio of fruits/vegetables to packaged foods? We’re helped out by the fact that we only buy produce from the local farmer’s market, and only buy organic milk and butter (although some of the cheese may not be organic). The only packaged multi-ingredient items are juice, beer, and components like roasted red peppers, mustard, hoisin sauce, and mayonnaise. We get a total score of +34.
  4. What’s in your freezer? We’ve reduced our use of frozen lunches, but there’s a certain amount of bias in that I am doing this exercise before the weekly grocery shopping has been done. I calculate our total score to be 0. One package of conventional sausages canceled out one package of organic/humanely raised sausages; two frozen lunches canceled out the homemade frozen pesto and organic ice creams. But the scoring didn’t include the single-item packages like frozen berries, frozen edamame, flax seeds, or walnuts. If I include those at 1 point per bag we get a total score of +12. (Although since three of those are half empty bags of edamame, maybe I need to clean out the freezer.)
  5. How much trash do you create? Do you recycle or compost? We get a whopping +2 score. We recycle, but we don’t compost, and we fill up a garbage bag on average every two weeks. It’s pretty pathetic. I look forward to owning a home and garden so that I can start composting (although it’s a sad excuse since I could compost and container garden in our rental), and I think we generate WAAAAY too much trash.

So on the whole, we get a positive score. We are already working on increasing the amount of leftovers we make for lunches, and decreasing our use of pre-packaged frozen lunches. And I need to stop getting my Sunday morning muffin. I’m pretty happy with our cabinet and our fridge, but apparently our freezer needs some work. Really just some cleaning up work, though, if we can reduce our frozen lunches. the meat in the freezer is usually just a package or two of sausages, and most of the time they are organic and/or local and/or “humanely-raised” (although there’s no certification for that so – grain of salt). I don’t see us developing many relationships with a local farmer for our meat in the next few weeks. And then of course, there’s the composting.

Posted March 27, 2010 by mayakey in food, home

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Shopping for a Skillet, Made in the USA   Leave a comment

Shopping in our house means research, generally. I don’t research every product that we buy on our weekly grocery trips, but special purchases mean research. Today we finally bought a new skillet (yay!) and I’ll use it as an easy example of my thought process and research when shopping for something.

The prep for a purchase like a skillet was relatively easy. I knew that I needed a skillet without a non-stick finish (I’ll rant on non-stick finishes later), but I wanted something all-purpose so cast iron was out and stainless steel in. Items like a skillet don’t have considerations like organic, “natural”, or “artisan-made” (although the All-Clad website uses “artisan” as a key word in their About page). In this case my consideration was finding something made in the US. I really believe in buying goods manufactured in the US and not supporting the “race to the bottom” as companies continuously move their operations to countries with cheaper labor and fewer regulations. When there are alternatives, I cannot in all conscience buy something that I know was made by people who do not earn a fair wage and that was probably not subject to real environmental regulations. Those regulations in the US have contributed to a great increase in our societal standard of living, and I think it is wrong to force conditions that we would not condone at home just to save a few cents.

Usually I start by searching the internet, since I make most of my purchases online, but this time I started by wandering through Macy’s one Saturday after the farmer’s market. What caught my eye was the All-Clad because the boxes clearly say “Made in the USA” whereas just about everything else said “Made in China” in small print. So I started my research from there. I already knew that All-Clad is well regarded for having high quality cookware, but I needed to verify that it is domestic. I found a great website, Still Made in USA, that includes a list of companies that make kitchenware in the US. The only other cookware company that I recognized on the list was Calphalon, but when I had looked through the display at Macy’s all of the Calphalon skillets were non-stick (I know they have stainless steel cookware, but I am tired of always having to buy online and I wanted to actually buy something at a convenient physical store). I also looked at the All-Clad website. According to their information the Stainless line is made in Pennsylvania, but the lids and some of the other lines are made in China. The company was bought in 2004 by a French multi-national corporation, Groupe SEB.¬†Since it is a multi-national company, I have to assume that it has the same environmental and social problems as our American multi-national corps. ¬†All-Clad and Groupe SEB are not listed in Green America’s Responsible Shopper, so that was kind of dead end for researching social issues. I don’t know how to research Groupe SEB any further, but I decided that the sins of the parent company don’t really have bearing in this case and focused on All-Clad. According to the EPA’s databases, All-Clad is a Small Quantity Generator with 250 lbs of air emissions and approximately 0.75 million pounds transferred offsite for disposal. The releases are the metals that you would expect: aluminum, manganese, nickel, chromium, copper. They have no violations listed and look to have a squeaky clean environmental record. The results: “we are cleared for take-off” with a minimum of bad-purchase-guilt.

Posted March 6, 2010 by mayakey in shopping

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