After a long lazy winter, spring is an awakening. Nature comes alive again. The trees blossom and leaves reemerge. It’s time to clean away the cobwebs of winter and bring new life to your home. The windows are wide open and fresh breezes awaken your soul. Spring is the perfect opportunity to create a sustainable kitchen.
And the best part? Most of these changes will save you money! Help the planet and save money?! Who doesn’t want that?
Limit Plastic Consumption
Fossil fuels are the key ingredient when manufacturing plastics. Although fossil fuels are organic (they were made through natural processes), the manufacturing process for plastic changes the composition of the fossil fuels into an inorganic material. Decomposers of the world do not recognize plastic and therefore leave it alone. There is no natural way for plastic to ‘break down’ (decompose) and become part of the earth again. Therefore, plastic will be with us forever, or at least a few hundred years. The actual lifespan of plastic is still unknown. Plastic breaks into smaller pieces called micro plastics, but plastic itself isn’t going anywhere. It just keeps piling up.
Limit Single Use Items
Typical examples of single-use items in a kitchen include paper towels and napkins, plastic wrap, and foil. These items are used once and thrown away. The goal of a sustainable kitchen is to substitute long-term use items with single-use items. And when the long-term item can be composted at the end of its use? Then you are truly rocking the sustainable living charts!
Use What You Have First
Do you have three rolls of paper towels on the shelf? Use them!
Is there a roll of plastic wrap in the drawer? Use It!
Once these items are used, THEN replace them with more sustainable choices. Save money and materials by always using what you have first.
Ten Sustainable Kitchen Swaps
Switch to bar soap for both hands and dishes. Bar soap is less expensive than liquid soap and creates no waste. A 2009 study done at the Institute of Environmental Engineering concluded that liquid soap leaves a 25% larger carbon footprint than bar soaps. It makes sense. Liquid soap needs a container and requires more manufacturing than bar soap. Liquid soap often requires added chemicals to create the foam we all like so much. Both the container, and added steps needed to manufacture liquid soap, increase both the financial and environmental costs.
Studies also show that liquid soap is used far faster than bar soap. How many times have you said to your kids, “Only push the pump once!” A lot of liquid soap ends up down the drain wasting money. Choose a bar soap wrapped in paper rather than plastic and then compost the wrapper to be 100% waste-free.
Bar soap is fabulous for dishes. I recently discovered French Marseille soap. Marseille soap, or Savon de Marseille, is a traditional hard soap made from vegetable oils produced around Marseille, France, for the past 600 years. Once enormously popular, manufacturing of this soap took a steep decline in the last century. Recently however, consumers are realizing the benefits of this beautiful soap. Besides making a great hand soap, Marseille soap is also perfect for dishes. Rub a sponge or scrubber on the bar and then on your dishes. You can also grate the soap into boiling water, mix, and then pour into a reusable pump bottle for a liquid version. Voila!
2. Sponges and Scrubbers
Sponges originally came from the ocean. Today, most sponges are synthetic and will sit in landfills for decades to come. Once you have used all your sponges and scrubbers, look for options made from hemp or coconut fiber.
Hemp has had its fair share of negative press over the years, but it is actually a champion for the environment.
Hemp is basically nature’s purifier. The plant rapidly captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and makes what we breathe much cleaner. In fact, for every tonne of hemp produced, 1.63 tonnes of carbon is removed from the air, which makes hemp a much more effective sequester of carbon dioxide than trees. www.goodhemp.com
Another eco-friendly option is a scrubber made from the husk of coconuts. My daughter bought me this one 18 months ago and it works great! I can use it on any type of pots and it easily works through baked on food. After daily use, mine still looks brand new! If it ever does wear out, it can go in the compost pile once I remove the metal hook.
3. Bees Wrap
Move over plastic wrap, there’s a better choice in town called Bees Wrap. Bees Wrap is a cotton cloth soaked in beeswax and other oils. Bees Wrap is sold in different sizes and used to wrap up all leftovers except for raw meat. With the warmth from your hands, the wraps mold around food items or the top of a bowl. Rinse it in cool water and reuse it over and over again. When it eventually wears out, toss it in the compost pile. Don’t let the price fool you. I’ve been using my wraps for over a year. For me, they are much more economical than plastic wrap and you don’t have that annoying problem of unsticking the plastic wrap from itself!
4. Cloth Towels for Cleaning
Switch from paper towels to a basket of cloth towels that can be used for years. Americans use more paper towels per person than any other country in the world-5.7 billion dollars a year! That’s a lot of money for something used once and thrown away.
Create a basket of cloth squares to clean counters and wipe up spills. This is a great way to repurpose old shirts or worn out clothes. If you prefer nicer, color coordinated options, there are now many options available. Be sure to only purchase sustainable and biodegradable fabrics like hemp or bamboo. Stay away from anything synthetic.
Have one basket of clean towels and one for used. Once the used basket is full, toss them in the washing machine.
If you must buy disposable paper towels, look for those made from recycled paper or a more sustainable option like bamboo.
5. Cloth Napkins
My parents once spent a month in Switzerland and one of things that made an impression with my mom was the cloth napkins used at all their meals. The Swiss are certainly known for being sensible, so it follows they wouldn’t be wasteful.
Like paper towels, paper napkins are just an endless supply of waste. Purchase a set of cloth napkins to be used at meals. And just like the Swiss, you can use a cloth napkin more than once. Depending on the meal, napkins can be used several times before tossing them in the washer. Fold it neatly at your family spot at the table and use it again.
Added tip: A set of cloth napkins make great gifts!
6. Reusable Grocery Bags
The pandemic changed some of the rules on bringing in your own bags to stores, but post pandemic, no one should be grocery shopping without your own bags. Gather a set of bags in various sizes and for varied purposes and always keep them in the car. As soon as I unpack my bags, I put them by the front door so I don’t forget to put them back in the car.
Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile. The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year. Source
Three types of bags everyone should have:
- Large, square bag with a reinforced bottom for heavy items
- Insulated bag for freezer items
- Small compartment bag for bottles
7. Reusable Produce Bags
Good news! You no longer need to use those single use plastic bags for produce! Make a one time purchase of produce bags to weigh and carry home your produce. Price stickers can be put on the outside of the bags and then removed at home.
8. Organic Cleaning
Cleaning your home doesn’t have to be toxic or expensive. All you need for your cleaning is:
- White vinegar
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Baking soda
- Essential Oils
Our blog post Cleaning Your Home Naturally explains how easy it is to ditch those expensive, plastic bottle options with just a few simple ingredients.
9. Cook From Scratch
Cooking from scratch eliminates the majority of packaging and therefore lowers the waste created in your kitchen. Although it isn’t likely most people have time to prepare ALL meals from scratch, even choosing 2-3 meals each week will significantly lower your weekly amount of waste.
Here are three ideas of ways to cook whole foods and lower your waste.
- Vegetable soup purchased in cans creates waste. Vegetable soup made at home with fresh vegetables has little to no waste, especially if you compost the vegetable scraps. Vegetable broth, normally sold in cartons or cans, is also super easy to make at home. Learn how at our blog post Homemade Vegetable and Chicken Broth
- Every time you bake your own bread, you aren’t using a plastic bag that will end up in the landfill. Although baking bread can be intimidating for non bakers, there are many recipes available that allow you to bake your own bread in less time than driving to the store to buy a loaf. Besides being less expensive, and eliminating waste, home baked bread doesn’t have all the added preservatives of commercially baked bread. If you do purchase bread, look for loaves in paper bags or buy from bakeries where you can bring your own bags. The French have been popping their daily baguette in a shopping bag for centuries.
- Make your own salsa from fresh tomatoes and peppers and you have eliminated the need for a glass jar that might, or might not, be recycled.
Added bonus? Homemade dishes are almost always healthier as there aren’t hidden salts, fats, and sugars.
One of the most important things to include when creating a sustainable life is composting. Composting is the process of transforming organic waste into soil. Most families put their fruit and vegetable waste down the garbage disposal or into a trash can. If you put it in the trash, it most likely ends up bagged in plastic and sent to a landfill where the nutrients aren’t able to replenish the earth.
Instead, composting turns organic waste into soil, also referred to as humus, which can be used to fertilize plants and improve soil. Composting returns plant waste directly back to the earth. Read more about the importance of composting here.
If composting at home sounds complicated, don’t worry! Remember, all living things in nature eventually die and are naturally composted back into the earth without any help from humans. With a few tips you’ll quickly be on your way to successfully composting at home. You’ll save money by not needing to buy bags of fertilizer or compost and have the peace of mind that you are following organic practices. Learn how here.
There you have it! Ten ways to create a sustainable kitchen that will save you money as well as helping to create a more eco friendly lifestyle. Remember, any step forward is progress. Choose one or two ideas that will be easy for you to start this week. Once you have a new routine started with those items, come back to this list and add a couple more. Every little bit helps. Thanks for doing your part!