Earth Day comes but once a year, yet the other 364 days are also equally good days to celebrate the earth. After all, it’s thanks to it that we have delicious food that make the world go around. And if you’re on this planet (and particularly on this section of Paste) it’s pretty safe to say that you’re a fan of food. Here are 10 tips to making a more eco-friendly kitchen. Some are easy and cheap, while others take a little more time and money. Do whichever suits your lif—every little bit counts.
1. Bring Your Own Grocery Bags and Produce Bags
Many people are already bringing their own bags to go grocery shopping. Similarly, carrying your own non-disposable produce bag is an easy switch. Bring an old, cotton pillow cover, or check out the many cute reusable produce bags on the market.
2. Waste Not, Want Not
Over 30 percent of edible food in the U.S. is thrown out, and much of it not just from grocery stores and restaurants, but also from households. So write down your ingredients, and stick to your shopping list. It’ll be gentler on your pocketbook, too.
3. Check Out the Bulk Bins
The term “buying bulk” can be misleading … one can assume they should stock up on canned food or something like that. But “ buying bulk” actually refers to “buy from the bulk bins,” which are basically huge bins of unpackaged dry foods like pasta, grains, nuts and in some places, even spices. Some grocery stores in the U.S. have bulk sections. To find one near you, check out this Bulk Finder page by Zero Waste Home. Some options can be more expensive than the pre-packaged options, while some can be cheaper. For nuts and grains, you can use those nifty reusable produce bags.
4. Eat Local, Seasonal, and Plant-Based
Produce that travels from different continents allows us to eat food that is out of season in our own area, but it has to be heavily transported to get here. On top of eating locally and seasonally, switching out a few animal-based recipes for plant-based recipes is stipulated to have a significant environmental impact.
5. Look for Plastic-Free Options
While plastic goes in the recycling bin, it is not really recycled, but downcycled, and with each reincarnation, it deteriorates in quality. Products like mayonnaise, vinegar, olive oil, peanut butter, sometimes even milk, have glass options. Unfortunately, most of these still have plastic lids … but it’s a start. Glass packaging tends to be more expensive, so do whatever works for your budget.
6. Use Eco-Friendly Cookware
For pots and pans, try to stick to stainless steel, cast iron and copper, which are sturdy and can be recycled more easily. For appliances like your oven, fridge or dishwasher, look out for the Energy Star label of approval that stamps it is an energy efficient product.
7. Try Beeswrap and Pot Lids
Plastic wrap, beeeeee gone! Beeswrap is a reusable food wrap made with organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin. It recently sold out thanks to a Buzzfeed video singing its praises. This is an upfront investment, as a pack of three costs $18, but it lasts at least a year (if not more) so it evens out. Meat and fish shouldn’t be wrapped with beeswrap, so try covering leftovers with a lid from a pot.
8. Clean the Kitchen for a Clean Planet
Plastic dish brushes and sponges can’t be recycled or composted, so unless you’re going to use them as art, they’ll probably end up in a landfill. Luckily, there are plenty of dish brushes made from compostable materials. For soap and disinfectants, look for eco-friendly cleaning products without toxic chemicals and minimal packaging. A simple and budget friendly DIY cleaner is distilled white vinegar (available in glass) and baking soda powder. Using a cotton dishrag for spills and wiping can replace most uses for paper towels.
9. Reuse and Recycle
Whatever plastic, paper, glass, aluminum and tin is left, rinse it and reuse it or recycle it.
10. Compost to Your Heart’s Content
Composting returns organic material back into the soil, rather than it sitting in a landfill. So much of what is in kitchen trash is compostable—coffee grounds, apple cores, banana peels, paper towels, unwaxed cardboard pizza boxes, to name a few. If you have a garden and a green thumb, maybe try backyard composting. Some cities offer municipal composting drop-offs at libraries or farmer’s markets. In this case, you simply store the compostable materials in your freezer and bring them in once a week. Cities like San Francisco and Portland offer curbside composting. The best part about composting is that your trash can barely fills up, and it won’t smell so badly.
Photo by Hotel du Vin & Bistro, CC BY-ND 2.0
Madina Papadopoulos is a New York-based freelance writer, author, and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.