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How can you create a more environmentally friendly kitchen?

Are you concerned about your home's impact on the environment? The truth is that every kitchen in America adds to our nation's environmental load. But there are things you can do to make your kitchen more environmentally friendly, more energy efficient, and less wasteful.

It seems that more and more Americans are looking to go green at home these days. I'm seeing more people bringing reusable canvas bags to the grocery store, and almost every home in my city has a recycling can near the driveway. You know you are doing something right when the recycling bin is filled at the end of the week and your garbage can is half empty!

Here are eight ways to go green in your kitchen, starting today.

1. Wash Dishes the Green Way

It's estimated that washing a load of dishes in a dishwasher uses 37% LESS water than washing dishes by hand. However, if you fill one side of your sink with soapy water and the other side with rinse water -- and don't let the faucet run - you can use maybe half as much water as a dishwasher does. (This really only works when you have a small load of dishes to wash.)

When you do use your dishwasher, wait until you have a full load to run it. Running one load with a full dishwasher uses a lot less energy and water than running two loads with a half-full dishwasher.

Many dishwashers now have an "economy" cycle option that is designed to save energy and water. So if your dishwasher has this option, give it a whirl. Short of that, if you can turn off the heat dry option in your dishwasher, do that and let the dishes air-dry instead.

2. Cook Smart

Instead of firing up the full-size oven for cooking small dishes, switch to a toaster oven, small convection oven, microwave, or slow cooker to use 30% less energy, according to the Progress Energy Company, a North Carolina-based energy company.

Progress Energy estimates that microwave ovens use around 50% less energy than conventional ovens. (For heating large meals, however, the stove is usually more efficient.) In the summer, using a microwave brings less heat into the kitchen, which can mean you need less air-conditioning

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