Five Easy Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen
Quick, Toxic-Free Solutions to Reducing WasteEven as someone with over a decade of professional and educational experience in the field of sustainability, being mindful of my carbon footprint fell to the back-burner when I became a new mom. Suddenly, there was so much more stuff. Determined to rid of unhealthy and wasteful habits, I created a sustainable kitchen plan. What generates the most waste? What sustainable alternatives can I find? It was time to reel back, reassess and move forward with intention.
Below is my rundown of five easy strategies that will reduce household waste, lower carbon footprints and improve well-being with safe, toxic-free products.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Problem #1: Using Plastic Produce Bags at the Grocery Store
What good is a reusable grocery bag if it gets filled up with plastic produce bags?! Sorting veggies and fruits into separate plastic bags at the grocery store, and then disposing them into the recycling bin is not a sustainable solution. We all know that plastic isn't biodegradable and will most likely end up in our oceans even if we recycle it.
I made the switch to reusable produce bags and haven’t looked back. It is such an easy change to make, costs under $20 and has a huge impact on reducing single-use plastic waste. It puts a smile on my face every time I’m at the food store, knowing that I’m making a small difference.
Colony Organic Reusable Produce Bags – These organic, reusable, machine-washable bags show the tare weight which makes it easier for cashiers at checkout. As an eco-friendly alternative, these Colony bags are made from organic non-polyester biodegradable fibers.
If you like options, another brand that I recommend is Tiblue. There are plenty of other reusable produce bags to choose from although some are made out of nylon (which is a type of plastic) so just double-check the materials.
Problem #2: Plastic Sandwich & Snack Bags for Packing School Lunches
Easy to use but so incredibly bad for our bodies and earth. Ziplock, I’m looking at you.
Materials in plastic bags have been proven to cause major health problems including endocrine disruptions, DNA damage and other serious complications. Phthalates found in most plastic products are easily transferred into our skin and have serious health implications. That’s the last thing I want when packing my children’s school lunch.
Surprisingly, it's quite easy and inexpensive to tackle the popular Ziplock. For me, the winning combination is silicone bags, beeswax food wraps and multi-compartment containers. The combined one-time cost for these reusable products is around $35, which is a small price to pay for the associated health and environmental benefits.
Stasher Bags – Reusable silicone bags that are kid-approved and perfect for sandwiches, snacks and even toiletries. Stasher bags are easily found at Amazon, Target, etc. They’re easy enough for my 3 year old to use and cool enough for my 5 year old. Wins all around!
Rezip Bags – Similar to Stasher bags, these innovative bags are made of FDA-grade PEVA material (polyethylene vinyl acetate). PEVA is used as a safer vinyl and serves as a substitute for PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which is a known carcinogen. Rezip bag are also BPA and lead free. They are freezer safe, great for snacks and one Rezip replaces up to 300 disposable plastic bags.
Bee's Food Wrap – These stylish, eco-friendly wraps come in various designs and are made from organic cotton infused with sustainably harvested beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. They flood my Instagram feed and for good reason. They're easy to use, keep food fresh and are a hit with the kids.
Sistema Food Storage Containers - I use these containers daily for packing my kids' school lunches. It's a great way to give a serving of fruit and vegetables without worrying about it leaking all over their lunch boxes. The lids are easy for little fingers to open and close. It’s the only product on this list that is made with plastic, but it is phthalate-free, BPA free, lasts for years and kid-friendly. When my children get a little bit older I will switch to the stainless steel containers like the one below. But for now, these get the job done.
Stainless Steel Bento Box Containers – This 3-compartment container is great for packing lunches. You can fit a sandwich, veggies/fruit and chips. It fits inside standard size lunch bags and is half the cost of the Pottery Barn Kids version. Dishwasher safe, mom approved.
Recyclable Sandwich Bags – These colorful, recyclable Lunchskin bags can be found at Target and Amazon for under $5. They are single-use so it's not the best-eco alternative but it is a small step in the right direction. They’re very handy for on-the-go snacks and come in different designs.
Problem #3: Plastic Straws
My kids used to love bendable plastic straws with their smoothies. It made me cringe when I saw how quickly we went through boxes of plastic straws. It took trial and error to find the right eco-alternative, but happy to report we are a plastic-straw-free household.
Silicone Bendable Straws. - These silicone straws are the best alternative I’ve found. They’re colorful, bendable and so easy to clean. They won’t end up polluting our oceans or exposing my family to harmful toxins. The 10-piece package comes with two cleaning straws and is also dishwasher-safe making it very easy to reuse.
Stainless Steel Bended Straws - These stainless steel straws come with a cleaning brush. My kids are too young to appreciate the strength and quality of this product, so for now, the silicone straws are our #1 choice. But if you're looking for durability and strength, these are the reusable straws for you.
Biodegradable Paper Straws – If silicone or stainless steel straws don’t sit well with the kids, try these biodegradable straws which are still a good alternative.
Problem #4: Paper Towels
I love trees, I want to save the trees but paper towels have been my go-to for so long that I had a very hard time figuring out how I was going to make this change. What finally got me over the hurdle was finding a combination of easy alternatives that my family and I feel comfortable enough using daily.
Options are needed in the battle against the mighty paper towel. A winning combination of reusable bamboo towels, cellulose sponge cloths and color-coded reusable cloths helps keep Bounty at bay.
Bamboo Towel Rolls - For regular paper towel use, I found this great reusable alternative. It looks like a paper towel roll and will fit in your paper towel dispenser. One roll lasts up to 6 months and has replaced dozens of paper towel rolls in my house! The towels are absorbent, made of sustainable bamboo and washable.
Cellulose Dish Sponge - These fantastic cellulose sponge cloths are made of biodegradable cellulose and can be cleaned in the dishwasher and washing machine. Super absorbent and effective for cleaning, these are a great alternative to paper towels.
Bamboo Cloths - Great for cleaning up spills. Just throw in the wash and reuse.
Microfiber Cloths - Our go-to for cleaning outside the kitchen, these standard cloths are color coded which helps keep things more hygienic.
Problem #5: Teflon Cookware
Sustainable living isn’t just about taking better care of our planet, it’s also about taking better care of our bodies. Studies have shown that once the nonstick coating on Teflon pans breaks down, dangerous toxic chemicals get mixed into our food. That’s a no-no.
Cast Iron Cookware – All hale the cast iron. I recently made this upgrade/switch and I can’t sing enough praises for the taste difference. If your budget will allow for it, try Le Crueset. Amazon Basics also has their own line of cast iron at a fraction of the cost. Lodge is a brand that one of my most talented chef-friends uses and they are much more affordable than Le Crueset. Just remember to season those pans!
Ceramic Non-Stick cookware - There are so many options but I love my GreenPan Rio Ceramic Sauté Pan.
Access to easy and effective options is essential to successful sustainable living. I hope these simple tips help you create a healthier, sustainable kitchen.
Let's be grateful for our beautiful planet rich with natural resources, mindful of our consumption and exemplary in our approach!
Make your home a #mintedspace.