Eco-Friendly Kitchen
Green Living

Everything You Need For a More Sustainable Kitchen: Simple Tips, Hacks, and Swaps

This one is big, folks.  A 2022 study found that Americans spend over 400 hours in their kitchen each year!  There are SO MANY WAYS to take action and be more sustainable in your kitchen.  So why not start here?  I’ve got everything you need for a more sustainable kitchen with these simple tips, hacks, and swaps.

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Need help cleaning your kitchen? Check out this post on saving time and money with an eco-friendly cleaning routine!

Tips: The Big 2

Conserve Electricity 

To begin with, think about electricity. I feel like I am constantly turning off lights in my house – especially the kitchen.  We have decent sun in that room until the late afternoon, yet the overhead kitchen light seems to be on all day.  Be aware and turn the light off when you leave the room, or when it’s really not necessary.  

Also, If you have a toaster or blender that sits out on the counter, my guess is that it’s plugged into an outlet 24/7.  Get used to unplugging small appliances when they’re not in use. 

(Bonus minimalist tip: store small appliances out of sight. You use the toaster for 2 minutes every morning…does it really need to sit out the other 23 hours and 58 minutes of the day? Clear up the space for better sight lines, easier cleaning, and less things to plug in.)

If you have kids, teach them young about the importance of conserving energy.  The planet and your electricity bill will thank you.  

Conserve Water

Water usage in the kitchen is constant.  Washing dishes and hands is number one for water usage in our family. But there’s also watering plants, filling pots, rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, filling the pet bowls, etc.  

The first step, just like with electricity, is to be aware of how often you use the water and how long.  Do you let it run longer than you need to?  Or maybe you turn it on full-blast when it’s not necessary to rinse that dish.  

Does anyone else remember the Barney song about brushing teeth and the catchy, repeated phrase, “Never let the water run”?  I’m not ashamed to say that I sing it in my head all the time when I’m at the faucet.  (My youngest sister had a major Barney obsession, so maybe I heard this song more than the average person.)  

Conserve water

The point is, I also catch myself singing this to my kids.  And I’d rather sing this line 1,000 times a day and have it stick in their head than have children that constantly leave the faucet on!  Teach them young, folks!

I’ll also put another plug in for one of my favorite books as a kid, “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth” and an updated link below (click on the image).  It taught me so much and I think it’s about time I buy it for my kids, too.  

Hacks

Now that I’ve addressed the overall awareness of electricity and water conservation in your kitchen, let’s get into some fun stuff.  Here are some great life hacks for a sustainable kitchen.

My favorite water conserving hack: Every time you empty a water bottle or glass to refill it or wash it, empty the water into your watering can instead.  The plants won’t mind stale tasting or room temperature water.  That way you reduce water consumption and waste less. 

Reduce food waste by meal planning, saving leftovers for additional meals, and using odds and ends of foods for soups, stocks, or smoothies. I keep a large jar in my freezer for unused pieces of veggies and empty it out once in awhile to make homemade stock. Yum.

Meal plan to reduce food waste

(See my post here with actionable steps to achieve this goal!)

Start composting.  This may be a more intense topic to post about later, but starting a compost bin (especially if you have a garden) can be a great way to reduce your compostable waste.  Any non-animal food scraps like fruits, veggies, cereal, coffee grounds, and tea bags can go in the compost bin.  In addition, you can and should add shredded paper, cardboard packaging, cotton fabric, and old twine or string.  This can reduce a lot of waste that would normally go to a landfill or recycling plant. 

Aim for Zero Waste: Reduce Packaging

Produce:  Shop at stores or farmers markets that have loose fruits and veggies, not pre-packaged in plastic bags.  Avoid the thin plastic produce bags that you normally fill and either go without or invest in a set of reusable produce bags like these. (Click on the image to view more details).

You can also choose to purchase produce through a box subscription that ships without plastic packaging.  A lot of these can get you great deals on organic produce and only use seasonally appropriate produce (better for the environment!).  There are also local options that you can choose to help you support your community. 

Pantry items:  Choose bulk, package free pantry staples whenever possible.  You can bring your own jars into stores that offer this and fill them for a zero-waste shopping experience (just remember to weigh your jar first). The most common types of foods you can purchase this way are grains, beans, nuts, cereals, dried fruit, and granola.  

Bulk food shopping for a zero waste kitchen

The next best option is purchasing in recyclable or reusable containers.  Choose items in jars that can be reused, aluminum cans that can be recycled, or cardboard packaging that can be composted or recycled.  

Milk, Eggs, and Meat:  If you’re able to purchase milk in glass bottles, this is your best bet!  I use a local delivery service that will then pick up the bottles to be sterilized and reused (just like in the olden days).  I’ve seen a few brands of Milk in grocery stores that are packaged in glass bottles as well.  Make sure you return them for your bottle deposit!

Purchase eggs in paper cartons that can be recycled or composted whenever possible. Avoid the styrofoam. 

I’ve read that you can bring your own containers to the deli counter and ask for certain cuts of meat to be packaged without the plastic, right into your container.  I’m not a big meat eater and I’ve never tried this.  You might have more luck doing this at a butcher than a retail grocery store!

Eco Friendly Swaps

Ditch Single Use Plastics
(Click on images to be taken to Amazon)

Did you know it takes about 450 years for a plastic water bottle to breakdown? Let’s just avoid those altogether.  Choose a stainless steel option that can be used to insulate your drinks, hot or cold.  

P.S. We love our Yetis!  All my kids have the Rambler Jrs and they hold up well to things like drops, swings into walls, and getting stuck under strollers and scraping against the sidewalk :). I just got a Rambler Lowball that I’m obsessed with and my husband and I both use our 36 oz Ramblers all the time. As long as you don’t lose it, these will last you a lifetime. 

Stop buying Saran Wrap. (Sub in wax paper, plastic baggies, etc). There are so many reusable products that can take the place of these un recyclable disposables nowadays. Try Beeswax Wraps or Reusable Silicone Lid Covers. A small investment now will save you from repurchasing (and disposing of) cling wrap ever again.

I haven’t tried this brand personally, but it’s a great starter set with silicone lids, beeswax wraps, and reusable storage bags. It has over 4,000 reviews, too!

Opt for reusable coffee filters or pods, or switch to a French press.  You can also cross single use tea bags off your list and get fancy with a tea ball or strainer. 

Never buy paper napkins again.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought paper napkins.  Maybe for a birthday party? For everyday use, switch to cloth napkins.  My cousin made me a beautiful set of cloth napkins years ago and they’re still going strong! 

Instead of paper towels, use tea towels or washcloths.  A 12 pack of cotton flour sack towels will run you around $20 and last you years.  A 12 count of store brand paper towel rolls is $15 and you have to repurchase regularly.  All that goes right in the trash. 

Reuse your jars for food storage.  Clean your jars from pasta sauces, pickles, jellies, etc and use them for all sorts of food storage.  Jars can even be frozen safely. By reusing jars from purchased foods, you are extending the life of the jar and avoiding the recycling bin. Of course, you are also saving money by not purchasing new glass or stainless steel storage systems.

Avoid paper plates or plastic utensils.  Paper plates can only be recycled if they’re paper only (no wax or plastic coating), and free of oil, grease, and food residue.  Since paper plates are usually used for convenience, I’m guessing most people aren’t scraping and rinsing their paper plates before recycling them.  That being said, recyclable plates are sold in stores and should be used if necessary over wax or plastic coated plates.

Plastic utensils can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.  Love takeout? Pass on the plastic utensils! If you get take out while on the go, invest in a small reusable utensil set like this pretty one. 

If you need extra sets of plates or utensils because you entertain frequently, think about purchasing from the thrift store.  You still have to wash your dishes after use, but the environmental impact is twofold.  You’re not throwing more trash away, and you get to give something a second life.  

Sustainable Kitchen

The Most Sustainable Thing in Your Kitchen

No matter where you are in your sustainability journey, remember to use what you have first.  Throwing out a stack of plastic Tupperware because you want to replace it with a glass or stainless steel set is NOT sustainable.  The most sustainable items are the ones we already own.  Use items to the end of their life cycle first, then research and replace with eco-friendly options. 

If you need help, Brush up on the 3 R’s here!

Which tip, hack, or swap will you start with? Leave a comment below! Remember, pace yourself by adding these into your life slowly so you can adapt and make changes that stick.

Next week I’ll be covering one of my favorite topics:  eco-friendly cleaning!

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