Is my stove planet-friendly?
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
How do you prefer to cook: a magnetic induction stove, an electric stove, or a gas stove? It’s becoming an increasingly heated (forgive the pun) point of conversation around the world - and in the U.S. in particular...
The history behind gas stoves
Thanks to decades of heavy lobbying and advertising by gas companies, having a kitchen with a gas-powered stove is still something of a status symbol in the U.S., with the climate impact of gas stoves majorly played-down. Currently, 35% of Americans use gas for cooking - but the number shoots up to over 70% in densely populated cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
A 2020 Climate Nexus survey found that 40% of Americans and 36% of Americans have a very-favorable or somewhat-favorable view of gas respectively. In comparison, Americans who rated oil and coal as ‘very favorable’ were 19% and 15% respectively. And when it comes to renewable alternatives at home, more Americans would rather switch over their home heating to electric than give up their gas stoves.
The science is clear: the emissions that come from using natural gas are still a significant contributor to climate change. While the amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced from natural gas is roughly 50% and 30% lower than that of the carbon dioxide produced from coal or oil respectively, natural gas produces methane which leads to ‘methane leaks.’ Methane caused by pollution ‘leaks’ into the Earth’s atmosphere and not only depletes the ozone but accelerates climate change.
But these options aren’t just bad for the planet - there are also significant health concerns from cooking indoors using gas. In the U.S. homes with gas stoves can contain between 50% to 400% higher concentrations of NO2 than homes with electric stoves. Homes with gas stoves also require gas pipelines and infrastructure that makes it hard for buildings to switch over to more renewable energy sources in the future.
While the emissions from gas-powered stoves are an issue, there is progress being made across the world. In 2019, Berkeley was the first municipality in the U.S. to ban the use of gas in new buildings and now requires all new construction to be electricity run. Other cities in California including San Jose and Oakland have also banned gas appliances in new buildings last year and more cities are currently considering passing similar measures. In Europe, Amsterdam pledged to eliminate all domestic gas use by 2050 as part of its climate action plans.
So what kind of stove is best for the environment?
If you are looking at switching from a gas stove or you are moving into a new building how do you know which kind of cooking appliances are the most planet-friendly? When it comes to emissions, air pollutants, and energy efficiency, gas stoves are at the bottom. But how planet-friendly is an electric stove or an induction stove? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of both.
The Electric Stove
Electric stoves work similarly to gas stoves except they are powered by electricity rather than natural gas. Electric stoves are less energy-efficient than induction stoves and can be less energy efficient than gas stoves. However, if you have an electric stove, you may be able to have it powered by renewable energy sources which will help decrease your contribution to emissions and to air pollutants.
While electric stoves may be less efficient than gas stoves, they also don’t produce the level of NO2 that comes from gas stoves as the natural gas used in gas stoves contains methane that is then released. That said, electric stoves do have some serious downsides that you should also consider. Electric stoves can be more expensive and if the electricity in your area comes from fossil fuel-derived sources, while you will still be decreasing the total amount of air pollutants compared to a gas stove, the overall benefits decrease.
The Induction Stove
Induction stoves use a flow of alternating current that runs through an element (in this case the stovetop) to create an electromagnetic field that ‘excites’ the molecules in ferromagnetic pots and pans. This means that when you are using an induction stove, the stove itself doesn’t heat up because the heat is isolated to the pan.
Induction stoves are the most energy-efficient option and also the safest option. But they do come with some cooking challenges. As they work differently from gas and electricity stoves that most people are used to, learning how to cook on them can be a steep learning curve! There’s a need for specific pans with a magnetic coating on the bottom or stainless steel pans otherwise your regular aluminum, copper, or glass cookware will not work on the stove.
Another factor to consider is the price. Induction stoves used to be the most expensive stove option on the market but in recent years the prices have gone down. A cheap induction stove is around the same price as a mid-tier gas or electric stove, but if you’re looking for a price and planet-friendly option, a single-burner induction cooker (rather than a full stove) is around $70 USD.
An experiment done by Paul Schekel found that not only did water boil 2.5 seconds faster on an induction stove than a gas stove but the induction stove released a mere .29 pounds of CO2 compared to 1.16 pounds of CO2 from the gas stove. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy also found that an induction stove was the most efficient with its power use: using 2.8 kW to deliver 2.52 kW while an electric stove used 2.0 kW to deliver 1.1 kW and a gas stove used 3.5 kW to generate 1.75 kW.
Data on the downsides of natural gas is still a relatively fresh phenomenon in the U.S. and other parts of the world, and induction stoves are a fairly new option that people are starting to consider... We hope this article can add a little planet-friendly fuel to the fire!
Do you feel strongly about cooking with a gas or electric stove? Have you swapped out your cooking appliances for more planet-friendly options? We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation via our Instagram channel, or say hi to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org