What better day than Earth Day to remind ourselves how we can make our kitchens a little greener. Don’t worry, we here at startcooking.com are not hardcore environmentalists about to suggest you get a worm composting operation going on the counter!
There are less drastic measures we can all take to make a difference. In some cases, it’s as simple as a more environmentally friendly choice at the grocery store. In other cases, it involves changing day-to-day habits in the kitchen. It takes time, but eventually it sticks.
I am proud to say that my kitchen has been plastic wrap-free for months. But, on the other hand, I still regularly forget to bring my own grocery bags. I’m working on that.
Here are seven ways we can go greener in the kitchen:
1. Bring your own bags to the grocery store: Let’s address this one right away! You can eliminate the use of hundreds, if not thousands, of bags by bringing your own reusable bags. If, like me, you keep forgetting to bring them, try getting the ultracompact kind, which fold up into a small pouch that fits in your glove compartment, purse, backpack or pocket. You can even get the kids in on remembering these bags; in fact, there’s a new children’s book out called My Bag and Me.
2. Wean yourself off plastic and packaging:
- Rather than relying on plastic cling wrap and re-sealable baggies, store food in reusable, lidded containers. Start by NOT buying plastic wrap the next time you run out, and you’ll quickly find other ways to store and cover food. Reusable plastic containers are one option, but you can also save glass food jars and seal them with reusable lids. Keep in mind that glass or Pyrex are better options than plastic containers, which might contain harmful chemicals. Avoid containers imprinted with the recycling codes 3 – 7. As for aluminum foil, you can actually buy 100 per cent recycled foil from a company called If You Care.
- Stop buying bottled water: The next wonder of the world will be Mount Water Bottle if we don’t stop buying this high-maintenance stuff. If you don’t trust tap water, spring for a filtration pitcher.
- Aim for litterless lunches: With solutions like the Laptop Lunchbox, you can pack school and work lunches that don’t require any disposable packaging. The product is a lunchbox with its own removable compartments.
- Green things come in small packages: Consider how much paper and plastic goes into the convenience products you’re buying. Go for the large-size yogurt, rather than individual cups – simply pour yogurt into reusable containers for snacks. You’ll see that the preparation time involved is negligible.
3. Recycle: Your local municipal website typically describes what can be recycled and how to do it. Start by recycling only paper and cardboard just to see how much food packaging doesn’t have to go to waste. You’ll be amazed. It might initially seem annoying to have various trash receptacles, but these days there are recycling bins in all shapes and sizes. Find a system that works in your kitchen space.
4. Greener cleaning: One of the easiest changes to make is to switch from heavy-duty chemical cleaning products to more eco-friendly options.
- Go for phosphate-free dishwashing detergent, for example, instead of the kind you normally buy.
- Use the natural power of household items like lemon juice and baking soda wherever possible. Fill a spray bottle with a solution of one part lemon juice and one part water to use for counter cleanups.
- Get out of the habit of using paper towel by placing it under the sink or out of reach. Dish towels are an inexpensive, washable replacement. Bamboo cleaning cloths are gaining popularity and worth a try.
5. Buy environmentally friendly kitchen gadgets: When replacing kitchen equipment, go for products made of recycled materials. A company called Preserve makes cutting boards and a number of other products from 100 per cent recycled materials.
6. Make it meatless: Here’s another easy one – try eating vegetarian a little more often. Raising livestock has a more significant impact on the environment than cultivating plants and grains. Startcooking.com offers many vegetarian recipe options.
7. Buy local and organic: Next time you’re in the produce section, just notice the tags telling you where all that fresh food comes from. Consider whether you really need to buy Japanese apple pears or South African oranges on a weekly basis. Chances are, you’re buying these things out of habit, and might be just as satisfied with foods from closer to home. When it comes to buying organic, you’ll definitely pay more, but will at least be assured that you’re not getting potentially harmful pesticides in every bite. Here’s a list that will help determine when to splurge on organic.
(We should note that there are some people who debate whether buying local is , in fact, more eco-friendly and what, exactly, organic means! Take a look at the popular book The Ominvore’s Dilemma for arguments on both sides.)
Please share your tips and tricks for going greener in the kitchen!
If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.