What is a sustainable kitchen? These answers can be endless, depending on who you ask. And good chance, they might all be right. There is a great buzz today about sustainability in our society, and many people want in on it. We like to keep it simple here, though. Small steps, made consistently over time, make significant differences. That’s what we’re all about here.
Let’s get started. Here are five easy things you can start doing today to have a more sustainable kitchen. To make it even easier, remember these five words: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Refuse and Repurpose.
1. Reuse Your Shopping Bags
Remember the good old days of “Paper or Plastic?” Unfortunately, it’s not that way anymore, at least not where I shop. Most grocery stores now pack your food into plastic bags without even asking. With food being the most common commodity we regularly bring into our homes, that is many bags in the world. While sometimes, those bags are used again at home, it’s not always the case. Plus, sadly, they’re not accepted by most recycling plants*, as they get stuck in the gears of their sorting machines, creating costly damage.
So, what do we do? Easy. Bring your bag. You can start with something you already have. I suggest using a sack made of cotton, hemp, or bamboo. The material is not as important as the ability for that material to be washed. Something will inevitably spill or leak. You want to clean it for your subsequent use, so the washing machine is your friend.
*Some stores offer recycling programs, so if you forget your reusable bags and paper are not an option, be sure to return it to the store you got it from for recycling if that is an option.
2. Reduce single-use plastics.
There are many options on the market today that can easily replace single-use plastics. The top two that I am referring to are baggies and saran wrap. I can’t lie. We have easily torn through an entire box of baggies in under a week in years past. It has taken my family a while to figure out how to live life without baggies. It’s not easy, especially if it is all that you have ever known.
We now use stainless steel lunch boxes for the kid’s lunches. We also have silicone zipper pouches where snacks can be stored. Both of these options are reusable once washed and reduce the use of single-use plastics. And that beloved saran wrap so many still believe is a staple – there are other options here too. I often cover food with a clean dish towel and place it in the fridge. Want something more air-tight? Your answer is Bees Wraps. Merely wrap the wax-coated cloth on top of, or around, the food you want to preserve. The wax creates a hold around the product using the heat from your hands. Be sure only to hand wash in cool water with mild soap, though. Otherwise, your wax will pill away, leaving you with a crumbly mess and a shortened life span of the product.
Our Kitchen Essentials 2021 Box contains Bees Wraps. They are so fun. They come in a variety of designs that allow you to color coordinate with your kitchen, or you can collect all selections over time and use them according to your mood. Each wrap lasts approximately one year if maintained properly.
This one is obvious to many. It might even be evident to you. But I am not just talking about the items with a triangle symbol containing a number in the middle that goes into a little blue bin by the curb each week. What I am talking about here is recycling our food scraps, otherwise known as composting.
Don’t run away. I promise to keep it to the basics. Not everyone has a big yard to put a compost pile in or a big paycheck to buy a fancy composting machine. Neither of these things is necessary to compost. There are three items that you can compost today, straight into your potted plants. If you don’t have any indoor plants, seek out the dirt around your favorite tree. Any earthy spot along your morning walk will be happy for the nourishment.
If you have eggshells, a banana peel, or used coffee grounds, you can return these to the earth with minimal labor. Crush your shells, chop your peel, or carry your grounds. Using a kitchen spoon, dig in and loosen the soil. Then, spread your compost items, cover them with soil, and voila, you are finished. You have minimized waste to the local landfill, returned to the earth what it gave to you, and nourished some landscape along the way.
I am the girl that struggles to say no to something for free, seriously, notoriously known as that girl. Somewhere in my old soul is either a person that believes I can make use of any item if given enough time or a wanna-be hoarder, as my husband loves to joke. The concept of refusing is a struggle for me.
There are three questions I now ask. The first is “Do I need it?” That could be a free crockpot or a discounted overstock of canned pumpkin. If I’m still lingering on a decision, then I ask, ” What am I going to do with it?” I don’t have another crockpot (I already have two) or more canned food. Besides, I did fall for that overstock, discount, canned pumpkin. I still have three cans in my pantry. Finally, I ask, “Is this something that someone else might have a greater need for?” For example, a college student with no crockpot or budget for Pumpkin Bread ingredients.
Now before you judge the order in which I ask these questions, remember I am human. I am not immune to selfish streaks. The good news is that God is not finished with me yet. The point is to help you think twice when an offering presents itself (especially when it is free). Do you need it?
I’m surprised by the number of items that are not recyclable in my community, from glass bottles to food packaging. Where I live, even those little tags on bread bags aren’t recyclable. I try to minimize non-recyclable waste. Still, I found the trash bin filling faster and faster. Then, one day, I learned a magic word that has changed my world for the better: REPURPOSE.
Glass jars were repurposed into food storage containers, flower vases, and drinking glasses. Empty wine bottles were repurposed into candle holders and water bottles. Single-use plastics became storage bins. I was able to use those tags on the bread bags to secure the loosened tongs on my kids’ flip flops and bind cords together behind our tv and desk. The possibilities were endless.
For me, this realization took place a few years ago. But it’s nothing new. There are environmental movements and non-profit projects founded on repurposing.
Are you interested in how to repurpose something before it hits the trash? Just type into Pinterest: Repurpose + (whatever you want to repurpose), and you will most likely find an answer. It might be a fun project for you to attempt, a collective item for a community center, or even donations to non-profits that have found practical uses for your article.
So, next time you shop or hang out in your kitchen, think about the five ways to a sustainable kitchen through the 5 R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Refuse and Repurpose.
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Blog Post Written by: Jaime Snell