How sustainable is YOUR kitchen?
For my resolution last year, I decided I would make a conscious effort to try and reduce some of our waste and plastics. My goal was to replace one thing a month and see how things worked. Here is what I learned from my kitchen swaps.
Swap One – Paper Towels
We went through paper towels like crazy. We used them in place of napkins, to clean up all the spills, to kill bugs, the list goes on and on. When the Unpaper® Towels from Marley’s Monsters went on sale, I decided to make the swap. The 24 towels come on a sturdy cardboard roll that can be used again and again. They are pretty absorbent, and – besides one small gathering – we haven’t used a single paper napkin in our home since July. They’re easily washed, but I’m bad at pre-treating stains, so I’m glad I went with a busy pattern that hides that coffee spill from last week. Cost analysis: as long as we get a couple of years out of them, we will be ahead of the spending game. We still do use paper towels, but at a much slower pace.
Swap Two – Grocery Bags
I was overwhelmed by how much plastic was being used once and then tossed in the trash after a trip to the grocery store. Reusable grocery bags were on pause during the early stages of the pandemic, but once they could be used again, I stocked up. With these bags, I have been able to cut my plastic bags down to two since October. I also keep one in my purse for any last-minute shopping. If my cart is too full, I ask for paper bags – they make a great table cover for arts and crafts time, can be used to wrap presents, or can go right in the recycle bin. I also ordered a set of 12 produce bags. They are light-weight, breathable, and come in a variety of sizes to accommodate everything from your large head of romaine lettuce to your tiny limes.
Swap Three – Plastic Wrap
The most used item out of our pantry was plastic wrap. I would curse it as it got wrinkled before covering my bowl of leftovers – but I would use it anyway. First, we tried beeswax wraps – they worked OK but quickly wore out and wouldn’t seal bowls or keep the block of cheese from drying out (that could totally be my fault for washing incorrectly). Next up, I tried silicone bowl covers. I ordered an assortment of five sizes and have been pleasantly surprised. There are a couple of bowls that aren’t the right size for these lids, but for the most part, they stretch nicely and keep things sealed. I also ordered fruit huggers – they work well – I just need to remember to actually have some fruit in the house.
Swap Four – Plasticware
As I started going back into the office for work, I started grabbing my lunches out and bringing the food back to the office. The plastic forks began adding up. I ordered a bamboo travel set from Mighty Nest, and it has been awesome. The set includes a fork, spoon, knife (that actually cuts), and chopsticks, all in a nice travel pouch with a carabiner to attach to my purse or lunch bag. My pouch is big enough to slide in a compostable or metal straw! My husband doesn’t think the fork stabs his food well enough, so he got a metal set for Christmas.
Swap Five – Trash Bags
Thanks to recycling, we typically only go through one bag of trash a week, but I still wanted to see if there was a way to lower that impact on the environment. Enter compostable trash bags. Our first attempt was a failure. They actually were stronger than I expected – but couldn’t be as stuffed as our regular bags. Our main problem was they didn’t fit our trash can, so it was (and is) a battle to keep the bag in place – and no one wants to dig a bag back out of the trash. I will try this again— I just need to find a different size.
I started small, and that has helped keep me on track to lessen our carbon footprint. Even the simple swap of a reusable lunch bag, a Stasher® Bag for sandwiches or a water bottle can make a big impact. If you want to learn more, I recommend The (Almost) Zero Waste Guide: 100+ Tips for Reducing Your Waste Without Changing Your Life by Melanie Mannarino or follow Dr. Anita Vandyke on Instagram @rocket_science. Both have great tips!