If you've resolved to live a greener life this summer, try following these simple steps.

By Betty Gold
Updated June 10, 2020
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Your carbon footprint equals the total impact you have both directly and indirectly on greenhouse gas emissions. A significant portion of our personal contributions to greenhouse gas emissions happen in our homes, i.e., heating, cooling, electricity and water usage, and yes, cooking.

No matter how minute, every step you can take to waste less in your home counts. Here are 10 easy steps you can take in your kitchen to live a more eco-friendly life.

Start by making sure your fridge and freezer aren’t too cold. Recommended temperatures are 35° to 38°F for the fresh food compartment and 0°F for freezers—anything colder means wasted energy.

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Adopting a more vegetarian diet will greatly reduce your household's carbon footprint. Studies have shown that meat products have larger carbon footprints per calorie than grain or vegetable products. This is due to both the inefficient transformation of plant energy to animal energy as well as the methane released from manure management.

Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper so it’s half in and out. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment, the seal may need replacing, or you may consider buying a new unit.

When it comes to environmental impact, reusing trumps recycling. Only 14 percent of plastic packaging waste gets recycled, and out of this, only 2 percent can be really recycled into equivalent products! Only recycle products when you cannot repurpose them. And if you haven't tried composting, here's how.

Make sure the cookware you’re using matches the size of the heating element. For instance, a 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner wastes over 40 percent of the burner’s heat—this can save about $36 annually for an electric range and $18 for gas. Also, covered pots and pans will heat up faster and need less energy to hold it in than uncovered.

Regularly defrost manual-defrost freezers and refrigerators; frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit. Don't allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.

When able, cook with countertop electrics like a toaster oven, pressure cooker, or slow cooker rather than firing up your full-sized range. A toaster or convection oven uses a third to a half as much energy as a traditional oven (and you won’t have to crank up the A/C to cool down your house in warmer months).

A gas range’s burners will reflect heat much better when they aren’t hiding under burnt-on grime. Also, look for blue flames—yellow indicates that gas is burning inefficiently and may need adjustment from the manufacturer or your local utility.

Bring reusable bags to the grocery store instead of using disposable shopping bags. As a reminder, you can stash a few next to where you keep your shopping list so they’ll be ready when you are.

Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.

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