Starting and keeping a green kitchen might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! When we think green, a great place to start is with the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. With the help of the three Rs, here are 10 easy steps to start and keep an eco-friendly and healthy kitchen.
- Reduce: When Shopping for a Green Kitchen, Buy Less
When stocking your eco-friendly kitchen, buy only what you need. This seems like an easy one, but I can’t tell you then number of times, I’ve overbought and later found myself throwing things out. Meal planning can make a huge difference when trying to buy less. By making a meal plan, I know exactly what I have and what I need, so when I go to the grocery store I only buy for the meals planned this week. Threre are some awesome meal planning resources out there, but to keep from throwing out paper lists, I like reusable, dry erase boards like this one.
- Reduce: Buy Frequently Used Products in Bulk
This may seem opposite of the goal, but it can make sense for the things you use a lot. When you buy in bulk, you greatly reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging materials thrown into the landfill. Even with bulk buying, check for recycling info. I’ve found that much of the packaging I previously assumed couldn’t be recycled is accepted by our local recycling center. For example, some bulk products are wrapped in recyclable #4 plastic, so the only thing that goes in the “trash” is the product itself. Yeah!
- Reduce: Clean your Green Kitchen Smarter
Do we really need 10-15 products for kitchen cleaning? For general cleaning, I use four eco-friendly products: castile soap (foaming hand soap, and hand dish washing), Poofy Organics all-purpose cleaner (countertops, floors, dusting, etc.), baking soda (scrubbing), and hydrogen peroxide (disinfecting, stain removing). I’ve found that these four products by themselves and in combination with each other are a very effective green kitchen cleaning arsenal. Safe, eco-friendly and cheap!
- Reuse: Forget Paper Towels & Napkins
Buy more reusable kitchen towels, cloths, and napkins. Not only do you reduce the amount of paper towels in the landfill, but it will save you money in the long run. I used to think that because paper breaks down easily, it’s a more eco-friendly option, but we need to think about the process of making paper products too. Making paper towels is an environmentally dirty process from the amount of trees consumed for virgin pulp to the bleaching process that contaminates the huge amount of water needed. Here is a great overview article about paper consumption titled “Paper Chase” from the Ecology Global Network, if you’d like to learn more.
- Reuse: Glass/Stainless Food Storage Containers
Forget the toxic, disposable plastics and Ziplock bags and replace them with reusable glass and stainless containers. Disposables are not only bad for the environment, but they can also be bad for the health of your family when dangerous chemicals leach into your food. BreastCancer.org has written a easy to understand article on the dangers of plastics. You can read it here. Although glass and stainless storage containers are a bit of an investment upfront, more stores are beginning to sell them individually, so you can buy one or two at a time without breaking the budget. Glass and stainless containers last a very long time, are healthier for your family and make organizing the refrigerator easier too!
- Reuse: Buy Eco-Friendly Water Bottles
I can’t say enough about this. Please buy and use reusable water bottles — NOW. Saying that plastic, disposable water bottles is “bad” is a huge, Huge, HUGE understatement. They are SO BAD on pretty much every level including your wallet. Invest in a few stainless steel or glass reusable bottles now and save on your health, your budget and the environment. Here is a great video by The Story of Stuff Project called The Story of Bottled Water. If you are still buying bottled water, please watch this video and share it with your family.
- Reuse & Recycle: Take-Out Packaging
I admit it, I don’t always have time to cook and even though I know take out is not the healthiest option, my kids still like junk food sometimes. Much of today’s take out and fast food comes in environmentally-frienldy recyclable and reusable packaging. You can reuse the paper bags for other things around the house or add them to your compost pile. Plastic cups can be reused too. I use them for bathing the dog, scooping potting soil, etc. and when they’ve lost their usefulness many of them are recyclable including their straws. Bonus tip: Skip the restaurant paper napkins and silverware when take out is really on the go. Ask the restaurant to not include them in your order and carry your own in the car.
- Recycle: Do Your Green Homework
With just a little research, you can easily find out what recycling programs are available in your community. With as little as 10 minutes of “Googling,” I was able to find information on our local landfill and all the recycling options available in our county including drop off locations, recycling rules and the contact info of several companies that offer curbside recycling. I was very excited to discover that our local recycling location accepts many more items than I realized!
- Recycle & Reuse: Grocery Bags
The key is to find reusable bags you love and commit yourself to using them. I’ve had the same ones for about 4 years and they still look and work great. I bought some huge ones from our local Sam’s Club and a couple of mid-size ones from Marcs. All of them are made with wide comfortable handles and strong washable plastics, so when I accidentally spill chicken or meat juices in them, I can confidently clean them before reusing. Despite my commitment to my reusable bags, when I do forget, I always reuse and/or recycle the disposable bags. Our local grocery store has convenient recycling bins placed just inside the doors. I just toss them in the car with my reusable bags and recycle them on my next shopping trip.
- Recycle: Upcycle
Upcycling, or reusing something for something better or higher usefulness than its original purpose is not always easy to do well, but worth some Pinterest or Google time to try! Here is one of my favorite sites dedicated to upcycling called Upcycle That. Great ideas and so much fun!
These are just a few ideas on how to start living with a greener kitchen. Do you have a great one I’ve missed? If so, let me know below! Darlene