We can all agree that our collective use of plastic is a problem, yet it’s really hard to completely abstain from using it. I always thought I was doing my part by simply recycling, but recent articles exposed that despite our efforts, 91% of plastic never gets recycled. That fact, coupled with disturbing images of plastic in sea life (and that huge plastic island bigger than Texas!) made me want to do my small part. It can be really overwhelming to change your lifestyle overnight, but all change starts with an awareness followed by implementing small steps—just doing the best you can, within reason.
Here are some tips to help reduce single-use plastic in your kitchen. Even if you just do one step at a time, you can make a huge difference! Try not to penalize yourself for slipping or not being able to implement all of these steps immediately—just being conscious of plastic use is the beginning of improvement and change.
Eliminating plastic baggies for food storage from your kitchen is an important step in becoming more eco-friendly at home. I just stopped buying them altogether and found that if they weren’t in my house, I wouldn’t use them. I had to be resourceful for a while until I got used to it. Baggies are less ideal than little jars and tupperware, which fit nicely in your refrigerator and prevent food from getting smooshed when you travel. If you absolutely must have baggies, I love these reusable lunchskins. They also come in smaller sizes for snacks and sandwiches.
Consider switching to tin or glass tupperware for food storage. I prefer tin because it’s lighter, which makes it more comfortable if you are taking leftovers to work or on a plane (these are my favorite.) Additionally, start collecting glass jars for your kitchen. I’ve become somewhat of a jar lady—if I buy a glass jar of something at the market, I wash it and reuse it to store nuts, grains, sauces, etc. There are so many great uses for glass jars. You can go out and buy fancy Mason or Weck jars (which I do love), but I’ve built a collection just from simple repurposed ones I buy at the store.
Instead of covering your food with plastic wrap, switch to beeswax paper! I simply love my beeswax paper. It smells nice, looks nice and is sustainable. It works great for covering open top bowls or wrapping up cheese. And, the wax paper actually allows food to breath while covering and protecting it.
Many of you likely bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store already — well done! But have you considered bringing your own produce bags, as well? I love these produce bags! They keep lettuce and other fresh food much better than plastic bags, because they allow the food to breath. You can wash them easily too (cold cycle, hang dry). I started buying them for stocking stuffers at Christmas— they can make great little gifts.
This one is the hardest because jars can get heavy and you have to take the time to weigh them. But, once you do that, just write down the weight directly onto the jar and each time you bring it to the market, the grocer can tare it for you. Most bulk items can temporarily go into the produce bags until you store it properly in a jar at home. If you are buying any food with liquid, such as olives or nut butter, you’ll need a jar. Since I’m a jar lady, I just keep a few empty jars in the reusable bags in my car.
Whenever possible, buy things in bulk with your own packaging. If that’s not an option, opt for products that aren’t packaged in plastic. It can be difficult in the produce section of the grocery store where so many fresh veggies are wrapped in plastic. In fact, I just stopped going to Trader Joe’s because of all the plastic packaging. Even at Whole Foods or other supermarkets, I sometimes have to make a hard decision not to buy certain produce (ie. lettuce) if it’s in a plastic bag. If there are two items avialable: one in plastic and one in glass, support the brand packaging their product in glass. Then, add the glass container to your collection at home!
It’s a lot easier to stay away from single-use plastic at the farmers’ market. They tend to put their produce in paper-ware, and you can use your produce bags for most items like lettuce, tomatoes and other fruits and veggies. I always give rubber-bands and baskets back to the farmers, or store them at home and bring them back the following week.
When shopping for cleaning products and tools, choose the ones that aren’t made from or packaged in plastic. I love this EcoCoconut kitchen cleaning brush. The shape is really nice and I find that it easily gets into the little nooks and crannies of my dishes and kitchen tools. There are other great options out there with changeable heads, as well. Here is a set of different wood cleaning brushes—I love the veggie scrubber brush. I also love this French block soap for doing dishes. To use, I wet my dish brush a bit, rub it directly on the soap, and scrub away! It lasts a long time and smells so good.
It is much cheaper to make your own cleaning products and you can store them in glass spray bottles with a mix of essential oils, vinegar, alcohol, etc. Here is a great post about making your own cleaning products with a downloadable PDF (I save it to my iBooks to refer to). She shares a lot of recipes for different types of cleaning, but I normally just make a batch of the disinfecting cleaner and a glass cleaner. I use a suds cleaner (Sustain LA sells some in bulk) mixed with water to clean my floors and most things.
Paper towels aren’t plastic, but they are usually wrapped in plastic and tend to be very wasteful. Instead, use cotton rags and microfiber cloths. You can get both at the hardware store for very cheap. Microfiber cloths are great for cleaning stainless steal, glass or any surface that tends to streak. I keep two little pouches in the kitchen and the laundry room: one for cleaning rags (like bathroom and dusting) and another for kitchen rags used on counter tops or to clean up food messes. I wash them separately on sanitary mode (extra hot) and then store my kitchen towels in the kitchen and cleaning towels in the laundry room with the other cleaning supplies.