Your kitchen is likely where you keep your garbage can and your behaviors and purchases in your kitchen can determine how quickly your garbage can fills versus your recycling bin. Today we’ll talk about some kitchen hacks that I’ve implemented to try to reduce our food and packaging waste.
1. Ditch single use plastics wherever possible
We purchased a ten pack of reusable snack and sandwich bags on Amazon that replace our use of single use Ziploc bags. I do not put raw meat in these bags, but I store virtually everything else in them! These are great on roadtrips and hiking trips where we can pack pre-portioned snacks in the bags and keep them in the cooler.
Another way that we reduce the use of single use plastics is by using less plastic wrap. We purchased these silicone stretch lids on Amazon and use them for both covering leftovers in the refrigerator and for reheating items in the microwave.
2. Buy in bulk – and that doesn’t necessarily mean Costco size!
When I say buy in bulk, I don’t mean that you have to buy portions geared toward families with four kids. Try buying items that are not broken down into individual servings. Not only do you pay a more competitive price for non-individually-wrapped items, you reduce the amount of packaging waste that ends up in landfills. A great example of this is oatmeal – you can still microwave your oatmeal if you scoop it out of the bag or tub with a measuring cup. It takes a few seconds longer, but reduces the need to have 12 individual bags inside of a cardboard box.
Another way to avoid additional packaging is to buy items in the bulk food department and fill up your reusable ziploc bags with them. I often buy nuts and seeds this way – I typically need a specific, small amount for a recipe and don’t bother with buying a large plastic wrapped package that will take me forever to use up.
3. Buy items with recyclable packaging wherever you can.
It’s important to remember that recycling is the second best option to reducing waste (don’t take something in packaging if you don’t have to!). But recycling is always better than using non-recyclable packaging. Have the chance to buy something in recyclable plastic over non-recyclable styrofoam? That’s great! Have the chance to forego the packaging entirely? Even better. Bringing your own containers and bags is one way to reduce packaging. Make an effort to be conscious of what kinds of packaging are available for each item, too. Let’s say you’re buying soup, for example. A metal can or Tetra Pak boxes are recyclable in most markets. A styrofoam cup from the deli department is not recyclable. Brands are becoming more conscious to this and we’re seeing an emergence of biodegradable and more fully recyclable packaging coming into our market.
4. Replace some or all of your paper towel use.
We do still use paper towels, but we’ve minimized much of our use by using cleaning rags and washable bamboo paper towels for cleaning and food storage in the fridge. When I rinse off berries and put them in a bowl in the fridge, I put a washable paper towel underneath them. When I spray our counters down with disinfectant after cleaning, I use our cleaning rags instead of a paper towel. I do still use traditional paper towels for blotting dry meat, but reducing some of our use has become a new habit and saves us money. We switched over fully to cloth napkins about four years ago and it’s just a force of habit now to toss our napkins in the laundry bin after a meal.
5. Hack your dishwasher.
Using your dishwasher is a much better environmental alternative than handwashing. In fact, you can use up to 5x as much water when washing by hand. Remember to run your dishwasher when it is full (rather than more frequently running partial loads) and to ensure that you are washing on the appropriate level. If you fully scrape your plates before loading your dishwasher and hand wash messier items (like skillets), you may not need to clean on the Pots and Pans cycle.
We swapped out our generic dishwasher detergent pods for eco friendly ones from Dropps. Dropps makes a subscription dishwasher and laundry detergent program that ships detergents made without dyes or harmful chemicals directly to you quarterly in fully recyclable packaging. Take their brief questionnaire to figure out how many loads of dishes or laundry you do per week and they’ll help match you with a subscription package that fits your household.
If you sign up for a subscription to Dropps using this link, you can get $10 off a new subscription. (Full disclosure, I get a coupon, too when you sign up!). I recommend signing up for their emails and waiting for a coupon code to come through – I got 25% off my first order by waiting a few days. Want to just try Dropps without the commitment of a subscription? It costs a little bit more, but you can order a one time shipment directly from Dropps or on Amazon.