A kitchen that functions sustainably and produces low or even zero waste can feel overwhelmingly impossible, but today we want to encourage you that you don’t have to aim for perfection. In fact, you shouldn’t aim for perfection and give yourself the grace of being unapologetically imperfect. This mindset will empower you to slowly move in the other direction and away from an extreme of unsustainable practices in the kitchen.
Here are five ideas to get you started, and what we consider to be the “low-hanging” fruit when adapting sustainable practices in the kitchen.
Not only is plastic food wrap a single-use plastic, but did you know that like many other plastics it cannot be recycled? Most likely, it will end up in a landfill where it takes years to degrade releasing harmful chemicals into the environment, or find its way to our oceans where sea life may become tangled up in it. Plastic does not break down in the ocean, but rather it breaks up into tiny microplastics. Our ocean animals may mistake it for food and eat it which can be deadly for them.
Beeswax paper is a sustainable, non-toxic alternative to plastic food wrap as it is an eco-friendly option that is reusable, compostable and biodegradable. You can wrap your half cut-up fruit and vegetables, sandwiches, use it to cover a bowl of leftovers, and keep your baked items fresh. Beeswax paper will require gentle washing and thorough drying between uses to maintain its life, but it should last up to a year with proper care. One final note on Beeswax paper, it’s not ideal for storing raw meat, fish, or chicken as even once the paper is washed it can hang on to bacteria. An alternative is to store these items in glass containers or jars.
Reusable Storage Bags
Plastic storage bags are cheap, easy and super convenient to store just about anything one can think of, and technically, they can be recycled. However, the percentage of bags that actually make it to a recycling facility are incredibly low. In other words, almost all of the plastic bags we store our sandwiches, snacks, and freezer meals in end up in landfills where birds will mistake them for food, or oceans where sea turtles will think they’re jellyfish.
The good news is we don’t have to rely on these bags anymore as there are many sustainable options available on the market. Reusable silicone stasher bags are a great alternative to conventional plastic bags as they are made of food grade silicone that do not contain any harmful materials, and are microwave and dishwasher safe. Yes, you will have to wash the bags out so there is a bit of work involved, but we want to encourage you that our planet is worth the effort of the few minutes it takes to wash out the bags and not contribute to plastic waste.
Silicone Baking Mats
Open any cookbook and many recipes that call for baking or roasting will call for lining baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Parchment paper is a staple in most people’s homes and especially for those who love to bake, but did you know that because parchment paper is coated with silicone to make it non-stick, it’s not recyclable or compostable. Aluminum foil on the other hand is infinitely recyclable, however, this is not a sustainable option because like most items sent to recycling, if the item is contaminated, it cannot be recycled.
Silicone baking mats are a sustainable option that are BPA free, reusable and work just like parchment paper or aluminum foil do for baking and roasting. These mats clean up easily and stop the contribution of waste heading to our landfills. Best of all, purchasing a set of silicone baking mats will have you saving money in the long-run, removing the need to purchase parchment paper and aluminum foil over and over again.
Natural dish brush
It is estimated that in the United States alone, approximately 400 million sponges are tossed out every year. Even worse, most of the common kitchen sponges many of us use are made (at least in part) from plastic. Synthetic sponges cannot be recycled and will not biodegrade when it goes to landfill. When we are washing our dishes, little bits of fibers containing microplastics go down the drain and ultimately end up in our oceans harming marine life.
Thankfully, we don’t have rely on these sponges to get our dishes clean anymore. From sponges made from hemp, silicone, and bamboo to scrubbers made with sisal bristles there’s a wide variety of eco-friendly options that don’t involve harming the environment. Most of these low or zero-waste options are biodegradable and can be composted without ever heading to another landfill or polluting our oceans.
Reusable Coffee Pods
Most of us remember a time when the only way to make coffee involved a stovetop coffee maker, or a brewer with a paper or reusable filter. However, with the invention of the single-use coffee pods, the conventional way of making coffee fell by the wayside and we had another waste problem on our hands. Every year up to a billion coffee pods head to landfill and can take anywhere from 150 to 500 years to breakdown. Many of the companies that produce coffee pods are responding to the growing problem their products have created and are changing the packaging of the single-use pod making them recyclable. However, this does not solve the problem as many of these pods won’t actually end up being recycled due to either lack of recycling programs or customer responsibility.
The best way to address this problem is to explore other options for brewing our morning cup. You don’t have to give up your single-cup brewer because there are a number of reusable single-brew coffee pods available. It does require a few extra seconds of work on our part to fill up the pod with coffee and clean it out afterwards, but it’s well worth the effort. Your reusable coffee pod will save you money in the long run since you won’t have to buy those expensive, single-use pods anymore, and you’ll be making a huge difference for the betterment of our planet.
We hope you enjoyed this post and feel inspired to make a few or all of the above changes. Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear and learn from you.