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Climate change is happening, folks, and while I don’t expect my reusable cloth napkins are going to stop the ecological threat in its tracks, making small changes to keep my household and lifestyle as green as possible definitely helps. If you, like me, are occasionally jolted awake at 3 a.m. by The Day After Tomorrow nightmares, we have some recommendations for ways to go green in your kitchen. And it’s easier than you think.
Doing your best to eliminate single-use plastics and paper products are one obvious solution, as are making a few changes to save water. For instance, did you know that dishwashers use up to five times less water than washing by hand? If you don’t already have a dishwasher in your kitchen, you can actually buy a portable or countertop version (honestly the single greatest purchase I have ever made).
How to Go Green In Your Kitchen
Here are some simple ways to make your own kitchen a little more sustainable. Some you may already be aware of (like drinking from a reusable water bottle rather than a plastic bottle), while others may surprise you.
Plastic Storage Bags: Plenty of frugal people have been rinsing and reusing plastic bags like Ziplocs for decades, which is one obvious and easy way to cut down on your plastic waste production. These bags do eventually wear out, however, and depending on the food you’ve been storing, can be unpleasant to clean. There are, however, sturdy plastic storage bags designed specifically for multiple uses.
Wax Food Wraps: Cling wrap is possibly my worst plastic-use sin, mostly because I find it much easier to throw a cover over my leftovers and throw them in the fridge in the same dish they were cooked in. So imagine my glee when I discovered cloth food storage wraps, coated in some combination of beeswax and oil, which cling to surfaces just like plastic wrap does, and can later be rinsed and reused.
Dishwasher: If you already have a dishwasher in your kitchen, congrats. You’re actually already saving water by letting everything wash at once, rather than running the tap in the sink. If you don’t, I can’t recommend buying a portable dishwasher enough. Not only will you be saving water, you will have a dishwasher.
Reusable Towels: I’m not sure when paper towels took over American kitchens, but it turns out you really don’t need them. Instead of paper towels, wash up with old-fashioned cotton dishcloths or “unpaper” towels made of flannel or cellulose.
Composting: Composting is a way to recycle your household food waste, which can help reduce methane gas, conserve water, and fertilize soil naturally. The easiest way to compost is by creating a compost pile in part of your yard, but if you don’t have enough outdoor space there are also ways to compost inside your home.
Reusable Grocery Bags: Many of you likely already do this, and grocery stores have begun selling reusable grocery bags at checkout, but it bears repeating that carrying your own cloth grocery bag instead of using the disposable plastic or paper bags is an extremely easy way to cut down on waste. If you do end up using plastic grocery bags (I promise I won’t tell), save them and reuse them. Personally, I reuse any plastic grocery bags I have for my garbage. They can also be helpful for food storage, pet mess cleanup, and a variety of basic household maintenance needs.
Glass Food Storage: Stocking up on glass canisters and Mason jars isn’t just a twee way to dress up your kitchen — using glass rather than plastic to store leftovers and pantry staples reduces plastic consumption and waste.
Glass Soap Dispensers: We recommend buying dish soap and hand soap in bulk and transferring it to a reusable dispenser. This cuts down on the number of plastic soap containers you’re using, saves money, and as a bonus, looks nicer on your kitchen counter.
Garden: Cut down on your consumption of plastic packaging by growing your own garden. It’s relatively easy to create a small herb garden right in your own kitchen, either by placing plants in a window or with an Aerogarden.
Ready to make your kitchen more eco-friendly? Here are some of our favorite products to get you started.
1. Reusable Storage Bags
We are obsessed with these reusable plastic storage bags, which are a bit thicker and tougher than disposable plastic bags, and work exactly the same way. They’re not dishwasher-safe, unfortunately, but are extremely simple to rinse and clean with soap and water. Hang upside down on a rack to dry.
2. Bee’s Wrap
These are sheets of organic cotton coated with a mixture of beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin, making for a sustainable alternative to plastic or aluminum wrap for food storage. While not quite as sticky as cling film, as someone who tends to waste half the roll when the wrap starts to stick to itself, I consider this more of a feature than a bug. I use these sheets pretty much every day, and find them easy to work with and easy to rinse clean.
We love these wraps for covering dishes, wrapping food to go (say, for your office lunch or a picnic) and for keeping baked goods, cheese, meats and other things fresh in the kitchen.
3. Farberware Professional Countertop Dishwasher
Everyone I know is tired of hearing me evangelize about this dishwasher, but I can’t stop. This is a countertop model, so you’d need a relatively generous amount of counter space or do what I do and keep it on a rolling microwave stand. This appliance is actually incredibly easy to use: simply attach the hose to your kitchen faucet using the included threading attachment, and press go.
Though still smaller than a standard built-in dishwasher, this one has enough capacity for six place settings, which has been more than enough room for me. The best part: the Energy Star-certified appliance has been proven to help save water (and save you more money on your water bill) compared to washing dishes in the sink.
4. Swedish Dishcloth Cellulose Sponge Cloths
Regular cotton dishcloths are great, but tend to soak up a ton of water very quickly and become too wet to keep using. These multi-use cloths are made of a cellulose sponge material, which is easier to sop up messes, and can be used to scrub dishes as well as countertops.
5. AeroGarden Bounty Basic Indoor Hydroponic Herb Garden
This set gets you everything you need to start planting your indoor herb garden. AeroGarden’s powerful LED “Grow Lights” deliver the perfect amount of light, and makes it easy to start seeing results, even if you can’t place the planter by a window or if you live in gloomier climates.
This basic set has room to grow up to nine plants up to 24 inches tall. The included pre-seeded pods fit easily into the planet, then add water and watch the herbs sprout in just a few days. AeroGarden says the harvests could last for months.
You can’t mess this up either. Use the control panel on the front of the planet to adjust settings; AeroGarden’s “Smart Garden” technology automatically turns the 30-watt lights on and off, and reminds you when to add water when the soil gets too dry.