Ah, the kitchen. What a wonderful place of gathering in our homes. It’s an epicenter of activity where we make delicious meals together, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. We can almost smell the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies from here.
Unfortunately, it can also be a place where a lot of waste is created. Whether it’s in the form of food or paper products, it can feel like we’re constantly throwing things away and, reluctantly, having to take the trash out.
But if we go back to purchasing items that stand the test of time, and use our food storage techniques, we can reduce our waste and save a significant amount of money along the way. These zero-waste kitchen swaps are budget-friendly ways to reduce your dependence on plastics and the negative impacts they can have on your body and the planet. But don’t worry about making these changes all at once. Simply keep these swaps in mind and when you need replacements, then you can invest.
Unpaper Towels, Napkins, and Handkerchiefs
Did you know that each person sends approximately 45 pounds of paper towels to landfills per year? That totals to about 13 billion pounds of paper products–and they’re not cheap. The U.S. was responsible for about $5.7 billion of the $12 billion spent globally on paper towels use at home in 2017, according to data from Euromonitor International shared in an Atlantic article.
Needless to say, breaking up with paper towels and napkins will go a long way in reducing the amount of waste you produce and it’ll be easier on your wallet. Swap out single-use or even biodegradable bamboo paper towels for reusable cloth towels. You can either do this by cutting up an old towel or by purchasing a set of organic cotton dishcloths, a washable organic bamboo unpaper towel roll, or biodegradable sponge cloths.
Napkins and handkerchiefs can also be replaced with cloth alternatives like organic paperless towels made from bamboo, a natural and renewable resource. But don’t hesitate to repurpose old linens into new napkins. There are natural dying processes to help you mute out any stains or change up a color palette.
Biodegradable Soaps and Cleaning Products
To avoid eventually sending plastic bottle packaging to landfills, you can opt for refilling glass containers at a local bulk store with soap products, purchasing items that come plastic-free, or making your own.
Dr. Bronner’s biodegradable Sal Suds is an incredible cleaning agent for everything from veggies and dishes to laundry and surfaces. It can be found in many bulk stores and grocers that carry bulk products. Additionally, the No Tox Life washing block soap is vegan and biodegradable, and the paper packaging is recyclable.
With simple ingredients such as vinegar, lemons, and baking soda, your house can be clean and free of harmful chemicals. For all-natural cleaning solutions, check out Wellness Mama’s recipes.
Glass Spray Bottles
When you’re ready to make your cleaning products, get a couple of glass spray bottles with two different stream settings. Use one bottle for cleaning solutions and the other for water to spray herbs and plants. Or, add essential oils and spray around the house as a natural air freshener.
All-Natural Brushes and Sponges
There are biodegradable alternatives to the standard sponges that come wrapped in plastic or plastic dish brushes. Opt for a five-piece kitchen brush set that is made from natural fibers, such as coconut bristles and bamboo handles, and is free from toxic chemicals. Or, use organic cotton unsponges that are washable and can be used anywhere around the house. They’ll last much longer and they can be returned to the earth by composting when you need to replace them.
Most plastic food containers are made using polycarbonate plastics, which can contain bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. These chemicals can leach from containers or wrappings into food and drinks, especially when they’re heated up. Then, these endocrine-disrupting chemicals can mimic hormones like estrogen and can interfere with our body’s hormonal balance, regulatory systems, and reproductive systems. While the health hazards of plastics are becoming more widely-known, strict regulations aren’t in place to protect the health of the consumer. And BPAs are in items you would never have expected.
Beeswax wraps are an all-natural and reusable alternative made from organic cotton, beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. Start with a three-pack from Bee’s Wrap, a Certified B Corp and the original beeswax food wrap company based in Vermont. You’ll get one in each size to see which size works best for you. Or, purchase the lunch pack that comes with a sandwich wrap and two medium food wraps. Just make sure to wash them in cold water so the beeswax doesn’t melt off.
Mason jars are the OG of the zero waste movement–and for good reason. They’re an incredible multi-use container for storing food, liquids, or almost anything. The glass allows you to quickly assess what is in the container and how much is left. But, the traditional Mason jar lid contains BPAs, so we found an alternative.
Weck jars have a rubber ring and glass lid, so they are free from BPAs and plastics. They come in all shapes and sizes and you can purchase a wood lid instead of glass. Use them for storing leftovers in the fridge, bulk food storage, or as a container for holding your kitchen towels. The possibilities are endless.
Reusable Food Storage Bags
Many occasions call for a sealable, flexible container when a Weck jar or beeswax wrap won’t cut it. For an alternative to endocrine-disrupting single-use Ziploc bags, look to the non-toxic silicone storage bag.
Stasher is the current leader in this space with options in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Their bags are free of BPA, BPS, lead, latex, and phthalates. And, the company is working towards eliminating all plastic from its supply chain in 2020. Stasher is also a member of 1% For the Planet and a woman-owned company.
Reusable Coffee Filters
With coffee being a mainstay in many households, millions of filters and their contents are discarded daily. But crafting this elixir should not have to weigh on your conscience. CoffeeSock makes a variety of GOTS-certified organic cotton reusable filters for all setups including Chemex carafes, cold brew, #2 filters, the standard basket, and even a 5-gallon bucket for commercial production.
Reusable coffee filters are easy to use and keep them clean. They’ll last a long time and when you’re ready to buy a new filter, you can simply compost the old one. And, if you’re up for it, you can reuse your coffee beans in a body scrub or compost them, too.
Try as we might, sometimes food goes bad or we’re not able to repurpose our scraps. So, instead of sending our food to landfills where it contributes greatly to methane emissions, we can compost. There are a variety of ways of doing this no matter your living situation, whether in an apartment or house. Even if you’re unable to put the compost to use in your garden, many cities now have composting programs.
There are options on all scales from a simple bin that lives under your kitchen sink or in your freezer to the Envirocycle, a tumbler drum with a compost tea maker base to make liquid fertilizer, and even larger solutions.