3 Simple Strategies for an Eco-Friendly Kitchen

3 Simple Strategies for an Eco-Friendly Kitchen - Food & Nutrition Magazine - Stone Soup
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Want to make your home more eco-friendly? A great place to start is to switch from disposables to reusables!

By buying less, using less and throwing away less, we’re using less resources and contributing less to landfills. Better for the planet, better for us and better for animals!

The first step is to do an audit of what you’re currently using in your kitchen. Keep tabs on the trash and recycling coming from your kitchen each day or week. How much of it is plastic? How much of it is food?

Once you have a handle on your kitchen waste, choose a few areas to make changes! If you’re using lots of single-use plastic, there are loads of reusable alternatives.

If you’re throwing away lots of food, there are several things you can do to reduce food waste.

  • First, only buy what you can eat.
  • Second, use what you buy.
  • And third, compost what you don’t use, such as peels, skins and stalks. I don’t do my own composting because I live in a city apartment, but I do use a compost service that picks it up every two weeks. Check your local area for similar options or start your own compost at home!

I’ve slowly made my kitchen more eco-friendly over the past couple years and there are a handful of sustainable products that have made the transition much easier! Not only do they significantly decrease the single-use plastic waste coming from my kitchen, they have me buying less stuff, keep my kitchen less cluttered and even make it look better! There are loads of products out there and these are some of my favorites.

Buying Food: Reusable Produce and Grocery Bags

Before food even gets to your kitchen, you’re buying it somewhere, right? If you’re lucky, you’re growing it, but that’s not accessible for many of us. While we may not be able to control how food is packaged at the store, we can choose how we carry it around the store and bring it home.

Due to health codes, many stores will not allow you to fill a container from home with food from bulk bins. But, if you have access to a store that does, this is awesome! Take advantage of that and bring your clean reusable bags and containers to fill up with dried beans, nuts, grains, fruits, flours, snacks and more from the bulk section.

Rather than using the plastic bags available in the produce section, put your produce in your cart without a bag (does an avocado or an onion really need to be in a bag?) or put it in a reusable produce bag.

Many people use reusable grocery bags these days but in case you don’t, here’s a reminder to start! I find these bags also make carrying groceries way easier because they can go up on your shoulder. I prefer canvas bags that are higher quality, can be washed in the washer and don’t rip after a short period of time.

Eating Food: Reusable Dishes and Utensils

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by the amount of people who use disposable plates, bowls, cups, forks, spoons and knives regularly, especially when hosting a get-together.

Guess what? Buying disposables costs more in the long run and is all that trash really worth not having to do the dishes? Nope. Head to your thrift store where you’ll surely find loads of very affordable dishes and cups.

For drinking glasses, we use up-cycled pasta sauce jars! They’re also very resistant to breaking and are F-R-E-E. If they ever get cloudy or start to look gross, I just toss them in the recycling.

For hosting a gathering, it can be tempting to set out disposables. I get it. It’s easier to have people put their stuff in the trash than to crowd your sink with dirty dishes. But this is a great learning opportunity for you and your guests about how easy it can be to use reusables at parties!

Don’t have enough dishes for all your guests? You know what I’m about to say – head to the thrift store! Keep those extras tucked away if you don’t want to use them every day. Set out a big tub or bucket for guests to put their dirties in. At the end of the gathering, if anyone offers to help clean up (which they usually do), actually take them up on their offer and ask them to help you wash the dishes. It’ll be done quick and you’ll get more time to chat.

If you must buy reusables, there are some sustainable options, such as those made from bamboo and plant-based biodegradable plastic. And don’t forget cloth napkins! You can find them secondhand at thrift stores, make your own out of old clothes or blankets, or buy them new.

Storing Food: Sustainable Food Containers

Perhaps the biggest area of plastic waste coming from your kitchen is in the form of plastic wrap and baggies. Think about it – do you really need these things? If you grew up using them, you might not even be aware of alternatives. Before you run out and buy a bunch of new stuff, consider doing what generations past did: covered plates and bowls with larger plates, saved jars and reused them for storage and used lidded pots and pans.

Storing food doesn’t have to be glamorous. I think saving glass jars from foods you buy, cleaning them, removing the labels and reusing them for storage is a beautiful way to use what you already have! Yes, you can freeze in glass. Just leave plenty of room for the food to expand and don’t fill it to the top.

The one downfall of glass is that it is heavy and if you’re hauling food around for lunch or snacks or have trouble handling that weight, that can be a drag. Metal tins are a great light-weight alternative. They’re more of an investment but will last you forever.

Hopefully you’re inspired by this post to cut down on the disposables you’re buying and using in the kitchen! Even if you can’t make all these changes, even just one swap can make a difference over time.

 

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Taylor Wolfram
Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, is a consultant and private practice dietitian based in Chicago. She uses a Health At Every Size framework to provide inclusive nutrition counseling and intuitive eating coaching. Read her blog at taylorwolfram.com.