You don’t have to overhaul your kitchen in order to cook and clean more sustainably. There are many simple changes you can make that still have a positive impact on your family’s health. Try these five green kitchen product swaps to get started.
1. Dish Towels, Not Paper
As a mom of two kids and a dog, messes are a daily part of my life. But paper towels don’t have to be. As convenient as they are, they’re so wasteful. And while it’s hard to give them up entirely, you can cut down on how many you toss by using dish towels to dry hands, dishes, countertops, and floors.
The key is to have plenty of them and make them easy to grab in an instant. When my daughter spills her drink across the counter or the baby flings his food on the floor, the last thing I need is to be fumbling around for a strip of paper towel of which I’ll end up unraveling too much. I realized that if I want to stop relying on them, I need to make dish towels just as easy to use. Keep a couple on the counter and a kitchen drawer full of them, and your kitchen waste will drop dramatically. You might consider getting different colors to distinguish between water cleanup and everything else.
2. Natural Cleanup
Keeping your kitchen clean doesn’t mean you can’t be green. These days it’s pretty easy to find eco-friendly solutions, but you can also make your own natural kitchen cleaner with items you already have in your cabinet.
I use items like baking soda and vinegar to create my own DIY stain-remover. Add some vinegar and a few drops of lavender essential oil (or some lemon rinds) to a spray bottle, and use it as an all-purpose formula to lift the spills that don’t need much else. If you have a mess that needs more abrasion to clean, mix baking soda with a little vinegar to create a paste you can use to scrub away ground-in spots. Buy a bottle of vinegar and box of baking soda that’s dedicated to just cleaning, not cooking. Store them where you normally store cleaning products to make them easier to grab when it’s time to scrub.
Not only am I able to keep my kitchen clean, but I also feel better about my family’s safety having eliminated some chemicals that’d make our home’s air unsafe.
3. Sustainable Kitchenware
When it comes to cooking green, how you prepare your food is just as important as the ingredients you use. Swap out your plastic utensils for bamboo, which is not only a highly sustainable natural resource, but, in my experience, much more durable.
Another place to make an eco-friendly switch is with your pots and pans. Non-stick cookware is easier and less expensive to keep clean, but the chemicals used to make it can be harmful to the environment, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Instead, opt for stainless steel or cast iron, which, in addition to being more eco-friendly, are both much more durable. This means you’ll get longer use out of them.
4. Spray It
Cooking spray is one of my kitchen staples because it’s easy and healthier than cooking with butter. The aerosol can it comes in, however, is not so healthy for the environment. Although cooking sprays don’t typically contain the aerosol chemicals that are known to be dangerous, they do have additives beyond just the oil. They can also be difficult to recycle. To enjoy convenience without being irresponsible, I invested in a reusable olive oil sprayer so I’m not creating new waste. Take a quick look at the products in your pantry and see if there’s any you can swap out for an eco-friendly version.
5. Pre-Prepped Food DIY
Pre-prepped and packaged foods, like frozen meals and pre-chopped salads, can be convenient—but create a lot of packaging waste in the process. Instead, prepare your own meals and frozen fruits and vegetables; all you need are some reusable storage containers to keep them fresh. The convenience of frozen produce is that it’s already cut and ready to go, as well. To create that same convenience, assemble the ingredients as soon as you bring them home from the store instead of waiting until you’re ready to use them. As I’m putting my groceries away, I’ll wash and chop anything I want to freeze and store it in an airtight, reusable container.
The key to creating a green kitchen that works for a busy family is convenience. When you make small changes, you set yourself up for success by making your swaps just as easy as the less eco-friendly option. How do you go green in your kitchen? Let us know at @TomsofMaine!
Image source: Sher Warkentin
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.