Let’s be real, we all spend a lot of time in our kitchens (especially these days), whether it be for cooking, eating, or opening and closing the refrigerator in the hopes that new options will magically appear. The kitchen is an integral part of our homes, but it can also be a major source of environmental waste.
Between food, paper, plastic, water, and energy, there’s a lot that we use up on our kitchens. But it doesn’t have to be this way! For every problem of waste, there’s a simple and effective solution to it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just the start of some ideas we are particularly fond of.
Don’t Waste Your Food
Food isn’t exactly something we think of as having a negative impact on the environment…but we toss out a lot of it. And, according to the EPA, about 94% of that tossed food goes straight to landfills and combustion facilities. When food scraps end up in landfills, they produce a heck of a lot of methane emissions.
Luckily, there’s a lot of ways to prevent food waste from ending up in those landfills. For one thing, you can avoid wasting food by embracing the power of leftovers. Have leftover chicken? Throw it in a salad or stir-fry. Bananas got a little too brown? Whip up some banana muffins! Made too much pasta? Turn it into cold pasta salad! The internet is overflowing with recipe ideas for when you’re dealing with the leaning tower of leftovers (see here and here).
There are also things you can do with food scraps that aren’t necessarily edible. Coffee grounds can be used to make a body scrub for the shower. Egg shells can be broken up into soil to help your garden grow. And, of course, there’s also composting.
Composting can be a process, but there are a lot of resources out there for how to do it properly (this article is a great one for beginners). Composting can be done in houses or apartments, inside or outside, with or without fancy equipment. You can use your compost in a garden or potted plants, and if you don’t have a green thumb yourself, you can find a community garden or compost center to donate the final product to.
Kick the Single-Use Plastic
You know how passionate we feel about plastic waste…but do you know how much single-use plastic the average person uses in their kitchen? Think about a lot of the common kitchen items: plastic water bottles, sandwich bags, produce cartons, bread bags, the wrap your meat comes in, etc. etc. etc.. We could go on and on.
One easy solution? Make reusable storage containers your best friend. Put leftovers in them, use them to store loose food items (rice, pasta, beans), take your lunch to work in them. If you want to get rid of plastic completely, there are plenty of options out there for glass storage containers. You can also ditch the plastic sandwich/snack/gallon bags and replace them with reusable ones (like this and this).
For those of you who live in areas with questionable tap water, you may rely a lot on plastic water bottles to get your clean water. Unfortunately, those guys aren’t so clean either. Most commercial plastic water bottles have BPAs and phthalates in them, neither of which are very good for humans’ health. Not to mention the fact that they clog landfills up with unnecessary plastic. Our proposed solution, aside from investing in a few reusable water bottles, is to get a water filter for your kitchen sink, or one of those pitcher filters you can keep in your fridge.
Say So-Long To Paper (The Trees Will Thank You)
As much as we reprimand single-use plastics, they’re not the only culprit for waste in your kitchen. Paper is also everywhere, from our paper towels to our coffee filters, and all of the food packaging in between.
Instead of reaching for a paper towel to dry your hands or wipe up DAZZ when you’re cleaning the kitchen, grab a hand towel or microfiber rag instead. They’re inexpensive to purchase, or you can even make your own using an old shirt or bath towel you no longer use. You can even have a little fun and make a craft day out of it, making your own hand towels/rags and decorating them if you’re feeling adventurous.
As for those coffee filters? Get a reusable one! There are options out there for any type of coffee maker (cone, basket, pour-over, keurig), and they can be found in most grocery stores as well as all over Amazon. The reusable filter will save a lot of paper – both the filter kind and the kind that lives in your wallet (if you catch our drift). No more having to stock up on paper filters at the store.
Random Other Tips
These are the ideas that don’t fit in any of the previous categories, but are equally helpful!
- Grow your own herbs in the kitchen: Basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, you name it. All you need is some seeds, a windowsill pot, and a bit of soil, although there are some kits out there that include all of that for you. Growing your own herbs is a great way to green up your kitchen, literally and figuratively. Aside from improving your house’s air quality (plants are great at that), you are also saving the plastic that store-bought herbs normally come in.
- Keep a recycling bin that’s easily accessible: You know what they say, “out of sight, out of mind.” Unfortunately, that’s pretty true when it comes to recycling. People are less inclined to recycle items if it’s a pain in the butt to figure out where to put them. Even if your city provided you will a recycling bin that you keep in the garage or backyard, we suggest picking up an extra trash can for your kitchen that you’ll use specifically for recycling. Keep it under the sink, or in the corner, or even right next to your regular trash can.