Use This Not That Series: sustainable kitchen swaps to reduce waste at home
A worldwide, mountain of research tells us that our waste and consumption patterns need to drastically change if our children and grandchildren are to lead a sustainable and healthy life. This was the reason I started @NourishbyNumbers – a movement to help people make more sustainable choices.
But often making those sustainable choices can feel overwhelming – one more thing to do, right? But what if we made it easy?
Here are 9 simple-to-adopt, economical and sustainable KITCHEN SWAPS that we can adopt to reduce plastic and food waste.
9 Sustainable Swaps to Reduce Waste in the Kitchen
Swap 1: Paper towels for rags or dish towels
Most people reach for paper towels to clean up messes and spills in the kitchen. I did. Instead, keep a drawer filled with cloth cut out from old t-shirts, reusable wipes and dish towels. Assign a different colour for different activities. Floor, counter, pet-related etc. Rinse and allow them to dry between uses to prepare for the next time. I have started a routine of running a towel wash every Sunday evening and keep going during the week.
Swap 2: Cling Film for Beeswax wraps
No more cling film. Switch it out for beeswax wraps — there are many options out there that are made of natural materials, and they are as effective as cling film. No food wraps around? Containers with lids or a plate on a bowl will also do.
Swap 3: Plastic Shopping Bags for Reusable bags
A trip to the grocery store often means a whole lot of plastic. Carry your own reusable tote. I have a few – one for groceries and a prettier one for the mall. I keep a few in various places — one in the car and another by the door for when I’m walking. For plastic bags that you already have or can’t avoid — reuse for garbage. Sadly though, these bags take hundreds of years to decompose. 100’s of years!
Swap 4: Plastic straws for steel or glass straws
For most people, plastic straws have got to be one of the most wasteful items we use on a regular basis. They were for us. Most of these straws end up in landfills or the ocean. Need proof? Straws have even been found in the bellies of turtles and whales. If you don’t have a health-related reason to use a straw, avoid them. At home, swap plastic straws with stainless steel ones. They come in all different varieties and sizes and you can even throw one in your purse so you have one to-go.
Swap 5: Disposable coffee cups for reusable cups
Carry a reusable cup in your purse, car, keep one in your office and stick one in your older child’s backpack too. Simple enough, right? It took me a while to remember to carry one. It was only when I started to punish my brain with no coffee or force myself to sit down to finish my cuppa in the coffee shop that my habits actually shifted. You can do it too. Just imagine overflowing garbage bins with coffee cups at every street corner. They are there even if you can’t see them.
Swap 6: Plastic produce bags for mesh bags
Walking through the grocery aisle, looking over fresh produce is one of my favourite errands. What I don’t particularly love is the plastic that comes home with me. Rolls and rolls of plastic produce bags are used every day. Instead, swap out for mesh produce bags that are light enough for weighing and mesh so that I can wash the produce and store directly in the fridge. Easy peasy.
Swap 7: Paper Napkins for Cloth napkins
Like most paper-based products, paper napkins are also compostable. The thing is though with kids in the house and packed school lunches, we go through a lot of them — EVERY DAY. Switching to cloth napkins is an easy change and it reduces the amount of stuff we throw away. Add the used cloth napkins to the Sunday dish towel wash and you’re good.
Swap 8: Disposable Plastic bags and containers for steel and glass
Plastic was the discovery of the century for a reason. It is durable, tough and transformed health and safety for people around the world. But it was never meant to be disposable because it takes a millennia to break down. Say it with me – no more disposable plastic. Switch plastic baggies and containers for glass jars and steel. And if you do have plastic, use it! Run it into the ground. Don’t throw away stuff to buy more stuff. Just don’t.
Swap 9: Portion-sized food for Bulk-sized
We all have rushed lives. There are routines to keep, work to get to, and kids to feed. So when we see portion-sized yoghurt containers on the grocery shelf, they look convenient, right? After all, they are packaged for school lunches the next day. So convenient, priced well. We can’t afford the convenience though. And our kids can’t afford it. They will be paying for the price of this convenience for the next millennia. There’s no other way to say this. No more individually wrapped cheese, yoghurt, apple sauce. cheese wrapper. Buy in bulk.