So, you want to make some eco-friendly changes, but don’t know where to begin? Reportedly, most Americans want the government to do more when it comes to the changing climate and the environment. But individual lifestyle choices can also have an impact.
Your kitchen is one place to start implementing change. A quick peek into many of our cabinets, refrigerators and pantries can reveal plenty of room for improvement. Think of all the plastic wrap, paper towels and sandwich bags that get used once or twice and then tossed. Or the food that goes bad before it’s eaten.
The good news is that there are lots of easy, reusable swaps that do a great job at wrapping up leftovers, mopping up messes and preventing food waste. Ditching single-use products could also save money in the long term, all while looking good in your home, too!
Here are some of our sustainable favorites.
Instead of heaps of paper napkins, switch to cloth.
Linen is one of the greenest options as making it produces less greenhouse gases and uses less water than cotton napkins.
Bonus: beyond the waste you’ll avoid, this set will look great on the table, and comes in recyclable packaging.
Paper towel alternatives
Each of If You Care’s absorbent sheets are made from cellulose, non-GMO unbleached cotton and natural mineral salt. These paper towels last up to a week. The sheets can be rinsed in the sink and disinfected in the dishwasher or the microwave. When you’re done with a sheet, compost it.
For a festive alternative, check out Three Bluebird’s merrily printed Swedish dishcloths. Each one purportedly replaces 17 rolls of paper towels and doesn’t fall apart when faced with vigorous scrubbing.
Having a stack of cotton dish towels handy is a great option, too.
Reusable food wrap and covers
According to the FDA, it’s estimated we waste 30–40% of food in the U.S.
Instead of using plastic wrap, keep your leftovers fresh—and out of the trash—with reusable Bee’s Wrap. They are made from certified organic cotton that’s been coated with beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin. Check out their variety sized pack, decorated with sweet patterns.
Another good plastic wrap alternative is these silicone cups; they snugly ‘hug’ cut-up peppers, onions, citrus and more. No browning, wilting vegetable halves or wasting money on produce any more.
For larger leftovers or taking food on the go, a set of stainless-steel containers is a great option.
Stainless steel is food-safe, lightweight and, unlike plastic containers, free of chemicals that could leach into food. Glass is another good material. A free option: Reuse glass jars of salsa, peanut butter or pasta sauce for storage once you finish their contents.
As for those ubiquitous sandwich bags? Try reusable silicone ones instead. These bags come with a mix of sizes, including ones that stand upright.
Wasted food is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of sending them to the landfill, add scraps that can’t get used up to this little bin, which can sit on your counter without taking up too much space. Take it by its handle to a local compost dropoff or start your own compost pile.
Another free option is putting food odds and ends in a bag or container in your freezer.
Dread doing the dishes a little less with package-free tools at your disposal. Package Free offers a dish soap sans plastic bottle. Then add this walnut-based sponge to get cleaning.
Many of us are doing more cooking, so it’s a good time to consider the pots and pans you’re using.
The Environmental Working Group recommends stainless steel or cast-iron cookware, which also happen to last for years if you take good care of them. A cast-iron skillet, which can be used on the stove, in the oven, on the grill or over a fire, is a great place to start.
Grocery shopping essentials
If you’re somehow without an oversupply of reusable bags, this one takes the cake (and eggs, and milk and flowers). Sturdy, with pockets galore, and even an insulated insert, take it to the farmers market or the corner store for streamlined shopping.
Don’t forget to pack smaller reusable cloth bags for produce and bulk goods in lieu of the plastic packaging at the market. Even if you’re diligent about recycling plastic bags and food containers from the store, only a small fraction of plastic actually ends up getting a new life.