It’s the time of year when we spend even more time than usual in the kitchen – baking goodies, making meals for guests, escaping from family (just kidding?).
If you are thinking you’d like to make your kitchen more environmental friendly there are numerous things you can do to accomplish that. Some are easy, some take more effort but it is worth it.
Here are some tips and tasks that can help you make the kitchen a better place for you and the earth.
Eliminate Paper Towel Use
The easiest way – and most fun way – is to use cellulose dishcloths. Fun facts about Swedish cellulose dishcloths . . . . It’s a 100% natural product (made of 70% wood cellulose and 30% cotton) and can be composted when it’s worn out… which can take a while since it can be washed 200 times! You can clean them by boiling it, put it in the microwave or in the dishwasher. One dishcloth can replace 17 rolls of paper towels and absorbs far more (20x its weight!). And the designs! There is one for everyone, every occasion or holiday.
Cut Down On Plastic Bags
Using a little less plastic in their everyday life, could make a huge difference to the environment – especially if everyone started to do so. About 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced, and approximately 79% is now in landfill or the environment. Here are some tips from a green earth blog to help you reduce the amount of plastic bags you use:
- Choose a reusable shopping bag and take it with you every time you shop.
- Say ‘no’ when offered a single-use plastic bag in a store or restaurant.
- Buy groceries that are free from plastic wrap and bag.
- If you do have plastic bags at home, reuse them before recycling them.
- Buy produce from local markets and sources, and take your reusable bags with you.
- Look for brands that use reusable and eco-friendly packaging rather than plastic bags.
- Use reusable containers or cloth bags for your lunch, rather than disposable bags.
- Compost your food waste rather than putting it in plastic garbage bags.
- Request zero plastic packaging when shopping, online or otherwise.
- If you have to use plastic bags, choose ones that can be reused and recycled.
Use reusable straws
This is a no-brainer. Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That’s 46,400 school buses every year!
You can read more about it on the National Park website.
Waste Not, Want Not
On average, the kitchen generates the most waste of any room in your house. But fear not, it’s not as hard as it may seem to cut back on waste. Step one: at the grocery store refuse excessive packaging by taking your own bags, buying fresh, unwrapped produce, and thinking carefully about how the purchases you’re making are wrapped up. Step two: avoid over-sized portions; if you are regularly throwing food away then you are buying, and cooking, too much. Step three: reuse what you can, like old glass jars or bottles, grocery bags, and packaging you can’t avoid. Step four: compost any uncooked organic waste (including cardboard and paper).
Make It Last
Choose cookware and utensils that stand the test of time and won’t have to be thrown away with your leftover hot dish (or, for those of you who don’t speak Minnesotan, casserole). Go for stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead.
Use Wooden Cutting Boards
Anything that touches your food can be a source of contamination and foodborne illness – including cutting boards. According to Ben Chapman, a food researcher, if you cut up a raw chicken, and then use the same cutting board to slice a tomato for your salad, you run the risk of cross-contamination with bacteria from the chicken being transferred to the tomato. Chapman recommends using plastic cutting boards for meat and wood cutting boards for fruit, vegetables, or any ready-to-eat foods (like bread or cheese). You can read more about cutting boards here.
Preheating is almost prehistoric. Many newer ovens come to temperature so rapidly, they make preheating almost obsolete (except perhaps for soufflés and other delicate dishes). If you’re roasting or baking something that’s a little flexible when it comes to cooking time, you can put it in right away, then turn the oven off five or ten minutes early, and let dishes finish cooking in the residual heat. (Ditto for anything cooked on an electric stove top.)
Use Green Cleaning Products
Clean with natural cleaning products. You can use a homemade recipe to clean kitchen counter tops: mix 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts water, a splash of lemon juice and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. It works like a charm. There are plenty over the counter non-harmful products you can get if you don’t feel like making your own. You can find some green cleaning tips here.
Just Do It – Start Small, And Keep Going
The point is to get started, I started very simple by recycling plastic and was appalled to see how much plastic I trashed weekly. That inspired me to look for substitutes and alternatives. I am not at all yet where I want to be but I started.
There are great ideas and helpful tips for being green, but we know it’s not easy being green: