The first place many people start when trying to be a little greener is in the kitchen. Perhaps thinking more carefully about the food they eat, buying organics, or beginning to recycle.
Maybe you have made these first steps yourself and would like to make your kitchen even more sustainable. Following are a few ideas that might help make your kitchen the greenest part of your home.
A Greener Kitchen = Less Waste
Does anyone truly enjoy doing the dishes? Pondering how to make dishwashing more eco-friendly is something to think about while up to your elbows in the soapy stuff.
The first consideration is conserving water. But the best way to do that depends on your household and kitchen design. If washing dishes in the sink is your only option, try to use a small amount of standing water to wash and soak dishes instead of letting the water run as you wash each dish. Some people place a small tub in their sink to hold some water for soaking and washing, then use another section of the sink to hold rinse water. If eco-friendly soaps like Dr Bronners or Ecos are used, this gray water can go in the garden or be used for other purposes. When I was a kid during severe drought we would use grey water from cleaning for flushing the toilets.
When doing dishes for a crowd, a dishwashing machine can be the most water saving option. Set the machine to the eco setting and dry the dishes by hand for the best energy and water savings.
Organic, Seasonal and Local
Experts might disagree whether organic foods are higher in nutrients or not, but most agree that they are certainly better for the earth. Try to buy organic, local, seasonal foods when possible. Shop at your neighborhood farmers market to support the local economy and get the freshest veggies possible. Visit local community gardens and urban farms around the city.
Don’t have time for a bi-weekly trip to the market or visit to a farm? Subscribe to a CSA box and get seasonal produce delivered to your door. These are popular in North America and other areas. You may have to do some research to find one near you. Check resources like Local Harvest, Just Food, CSA UK and the Ontario CSA Directory.
It’s likely that your city or region also offers some options for bulk, organic and local food. Perhaps you can look into joining a co-op. You may have to do some searching but it will be worth the efforts.
A greener kitchen is a package-free kitchen. Check out some of these inspiring images to get excited about bulk!
Eschew buying items wrapped in plastic packaging and instead find shops and vendors that sell food in bulk. Bring your own bags and containers from home and fill them in the store. Invest in lovely storage containers like Weck jars, Le Parfait containers and Bell jars or just recycle your used glass and metal containers to store food items like beans, nuts and grains.
Farmers markets and street markets are the best places to get food without packaging. Health food shops often have a good selection of bulk items like nuts and beans.
Bring your Own Bags
Always bring your own bags to the store for a more eco-friendly shopping experience. You don’t need special shopping totes but they do work well. Always keep some sort of reusable bag in your purse, briefcase, bicycle basket or car trunk for unplanned shopping trips.
Any sort of sturdy bag works fine, a cotton tote, a recycled plastic bag, or a large basket with handles. Perhaps you bicycle to the store, and if so a backpack might work better for you than a large tote. If aesthetics are important to you invest in attractive bags that you enjoy carrying. The most important thing about the bags you choose is that you use them.
In addition to a shopping tote consider bringing smaller bags for produce and bulk items. You can re-use small paper and plastic bags like bread bags or produce bags. Reusable fabric bags can also be purchased or make them yourself from old sheets or pillowcases.
Some shops even provide liquid items like oils and vinegars in bulk, and even milk and yogurt. Ask if they will allow you to bring in your own container.
As mentioned above, you can store bulk foods in any type of container you like: recycled cans and bottles or specially purchased vintage glass. But what about foods like fruits and vegetables? Don’t you need to store those in plastic bags?
Keep in mind that many foods are better kept out of the refrigerator. Store foods like lemons, pumpkins, onions and garlic in bowls and baskets on tables and countertops. They can make a lovely decoration.
When possible, avoid disposables in the kitchen. Reduce your waste by taking special care to eliminate single use items like straws, plastic utensils, ziplock bags, paper napkins and paper towels from your kitchen. Store food in glass, metal, wood and ceramic. Use ceramic or glass plates, bowls and cups. There are many alternatives and once you get accustomed to the change it becomes easy!
Swap those paper towels for dishtowels! Buy lots of towels in fun colors and patterns and keep many in your kitchen to wipe wet hands and clean spills. Look at the amazing tea towels available on Etsy, like those pictured above.Use cloth napkins at the table, if they don’t get very soiled they can be reused for several meals before washing. Just use a different color or pattern for each family member. If you love using straws try the glass or stainless steel varieties.
Try reusable containers instead of ziplock and other plastic baggies, this is a great way to reuse those packaging items you couldn’t avoid. Old yogurt containers, salsa tubs or jam jars work great for storing items in the fridge and freezer.
When you find you need new kitchen tools, think before you buy. Do you really need 6 different butcher knives or will one or two suffice? Do you need a special plastic tool just to cut avocados, and another to core an apple? A minimalist kitchen is a cleaner kitchen!
If you do need new kitchen supplies, try to purchase durable and sustainable items. Choose wooden spoons and cutting boards over plastic. Buy vintage glassware and ceramics, perhaps going for a fun style with mixed patterns and colors. Look for second-hand appliances or repair the ones you own. It can be a great way to save money and keep things out of the landfill.
Need your morning coffee but hate those disposable pads and pods? Here are some less wasteful ways to make that espresso.
Check out our Plastic Free Kitchen Pinterest board for more kitchen supply ideas.
Do you bring your lunch from home or pack school lunches for your kids? That’s great! But don’t let supposed convenience get in the way of making your lunches as green as possible. There are lots of creative ways to get a healthy and delicious lunch on the go without resorting to disposables and pre-packaged foods.
Try reusable containers instead of plastic baggies to get off to a good start. Find bags and containers that you like and that fit the foods you like to eat. There are all manner of lunch boxes and bags on the market or make your own. Carry a thermos for hot soups, tea or coffee on the go. Tote your water in a stainless steel Klean Kanteen. Think back to before the 1970′s when disposables weren’t as popular as they are today. All kinds of people from children to construction workers carried lunch pails and thermoses to work and school every day!
I can’t help but be inspired by bento boxes, those lovely Japanese containers filled with artfully arranged foods. Bentos are traditionally carried wrapped in furoshiki, a knotted cloth that is also used as a placemat or napkin. Lunch can be a fun creative process, check out these images of amazing meals that look fun to eat and carry!
Ditch the bottled water and drink tap water instead. Bottled water is one of the most wasteful items in the kitchen. The production of the plastic bottles, the shipping of the containers and water around the world and the non-degradable plastic trash are all unnecessary problems that can easily be solved by avoiding bottled water when possible.
If you hate the taste of your tap water try installing a filtration system or buy a carbon filter. There are many on the market. Or make tap water more exciting by creating spa water by adding lemon slices, cucumber and mint. If you simply enjoy cold water, why not fill lovely containers from the tap and put them in the fridge for cold water any time.
I personally adore sparkling water, and buying those fizzy bottles was one of my guilty pleasures. But no more! I bought an old used Soda Stream machine and now I can have bubbly water any time with the push of a button. No more single use plastic or glass bottles! Yippee!
If you like to carry water with you, invest in a quality stainless or glass bottle and refill it daily. I personally love my Klean Kanteen. which I have had for ages. I also have a double-walled steel bottle from Sip by Swell that keeps liquids cool or warm for a very long time. Shhhh don’t tell, but sometimes I put beer in it when I go hiking… and it stays cold and bubbly for a good while. Great for a picnic too. If you need to clean smells like coffee (or beer…) out of your steel bottle, try a baking soda soak. Add a splash of vinegar as well for a more powerful clean.
So you’ve cut back on trash by buying in bulk and ditching the single use items. Maybe now most of your waste is apple cores, potato peelings and fish bones. Go even greener by implementing a composting system for your kitchen waste. If you live in an apartment without access to a big back yard you can still compost. Check out our article on Urban Composting for lots of great options.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you to make your kitchen a little greener! Take a look at our Plastic Free Kitchen Pinterest board for more inspiration!