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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. Qinline 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 Portable 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, or use the built-in water tank for hookup-free cleaning.
Though still smaller than a standard built-in dishwasher, this one has enough capacity for five 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 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.
6. Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50
Composting is one of the most effective ways to make your kitchen (and home!) more eco-friendly, but it can seem impossible if you live in an apartment. Vitamix’s FoodCycler FC-50 solves that problem by taking care of all the work for you. It’ll turn most biodegradable food scraps (fruit cores, vegetable peels, etc.) into fertilizer.
I’ve gotten the chance to test the FoodCycler FC-50 out for myself, and the results were stunning. The machine turned a container’s worth of food scraps into fertilizer in about four hours. The process was straightforward, and the machine was virtually silent during its drying, grinding, and cooling functions. Even more impressive: The food didn’t smell at all while it was being composted.
If you have a garden, the FoodCycler FC-50 is an essential kitchen tool, but city dwellers can use the compost they make and drop it off at a local facility. Either way, you’re turning what would have been trash into (eco-friendly) treasure.
7. Rubbermaid Brilliance Pantry Organization & Food Storage Containers
You can reduce the amount of single-use plastics in your house by shopping at your supermarket’s bulk bin, and storing your ingredients in airtight containers. We like this 16-piece set from Rubbermaid, which includes containers of all shapes and sizes.
Their lids prevent air and moisture from getting inside, which can extend the life of your cereal, pasta, or dried fruits. By extending their shelf life, you’re less likely to throw them away, reducing food waste. The containers in this collection are dishwasher and freezer-safe, so you can use them to store leftovers, too.
8. Cleancult All Purpose Cleaner
Most kitchen cleaners kill bacteria by using chemicals that get the job done but aren’t very kind to the Earth. Cleancult’s All Purpose Cleaner does a comparable job using cruelty free, GMO Free, Vegan ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, potassium soap, and sodium citrate. I’ve been using this cleaner for a few weeks, and it’s just as effective at cleaning stains and off the shelf cleaner I was using before.
Cleancult packages its cleaner in a recyclable paper milk container instead of plastic. You can use these refills with any plastic or spray container, further reducing your reliance on single-use plastics. We’re recommending Cleancult’s All Purpose cleaner because it’s designed to be used in the kitchen, but the company also offers eco-friendly hand soap and detergent.
9. GIR Premium Silicone Round Lid
Many baking recipes require you to rest your dough, and recommend you use plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover your bowl. GIR’s Silicon Round Lid accomplishes the same task, but it’s reusable. The lid creates a tight seal around the top of your bowl, so no air can escape.
GIR says you can keep the lid attached in the microwave, or even an oven if it’s below 550 degrees. You could also use it to keep fresh foods (think salad) from wilting before a dinner party. The lid is dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning it simple, and it’s available in an assortment of sizes from 4 to 12.5 inches. If you bake a lot, and don’t want to use plastic while proving your dough, this is a great solution.
10. SodaStream Fizzi
SodaSteam’s Fizzi lets you make carbonated or soda on-demand rather than buying bottles or cans. The appliance comes with a Co2 cylinder that can carbonate up to 60 liters of water depending on how fizzy you like your drink. Once the canister is empty, you can take it to a store and exchange it for a new one for $15. Not only is this more cost effective than buying seltzer, but you don’t have to lug heavy cans or bottles from the store.
The SodaStream Fizzi doesn’t require electricity to work, either, which makes it even more eco-friendly. Just push the button on top of the machine, and it’ll start carbonating the water inside its BPA-free canister. You can add flavorings to make soda, or stick with sparkling water. Either way, this appliance can save you time, money, and help the environment.