I am constantly hovering around the kitchen. Sometimes I am baking or creating, but most often I am sneaking around looking for snacks...
When I first started considering my daily impact on the earth and how I could start transitioning to a less wasteful life, the kitchen stood out like the naughty kid in class. Cling wrap for left overs, plastic food packaging, paper towels for all sorts of odd jobs, zip lock bags for food storage and plastic utensils that will be here forevermore.
The more I thought about each item, the more I started searching for solutions. Some were pretty straight forward, simple alternatives while others took a little more getting used to integrating into daily use. Here are 5 of my favourite easy zero waste kitchen alternatives.
1. Glass Jars and Containers
Mason jars or even better - rinsed, repurposed glass containers from your used up jam, pickles, olives and so on, make perfect containers for all sorts of things from liquids (think homemade soups and stock to storing fresh cut vegetables in water to keep them crisp) salads, sauces and leftovers. I have a few growlers from TrüeBuch Kombucha and Local breweries that I love to refill with spring water for easy pouring in between refills of their original purpose! ps. if you haven't tried TrueBüch Kombucha yet... treat yourself! Delicious fresh refills are available at Amaranth and other good wholefood stores. I often use my jars to drink from also. So #rustic I know!
Not only will you eliminate the risk of BPA or hundreds of other potentially harmful chemicals leaching out of plastic containers into your foods, but glass can be continually and indefinitely recycled without compromising the integrity of the glass. A win for you and the earth! I love that.
Word of warning: becoming a jar hoarder is a strong possibility...
2. Fabric Napkins and Cloths
I admit, I was once a paper towel junkie. Every morning I would pop a 'drizzle' of oil in my pan to make my breakfast but more often than not, my hand-eye coordination would fail me miserably and I would rip off a good chunk of paper towel to spread the oil around the pan and soak up the excess. It saddens me to think about how much paper towel I used and threw away in those days.
I now have a lovely little collection of cotton napkins and cloths that I use for so many different purposes. I have my 'kitchen napkins' which, whilst my oil pour skills have improved somewhat, I still use for everything from greasing a tin to soaking up excess liquid before preparing tofu and wringing out veggies stored in water.
Having a few 'cleaning cloths' designated for various jobs such as bench tops, floor messes or heavy duty jobs helps to replace paper towel, disposable mop and duster sheets for everyday jobs and spring cleaning. Simply rinse out the cloths after use and pop them in the laundry, but make sure they are kept separate from any food related cloths.
A great tip that I picked up from my time living in Japan, was to use napkins to wrap lunch or snacks in. They had the most adorable prints on their napkins which made it that much more fun to use them and whether their lunch was in a bento box or was something as simple as an apple, it was wrapped in a napkin that you could set your food out on and wipe your sticky fingers on after if things got a little messy. Which is often, in my case.
Speaking of sticky fingers, I always try to have a napkin nearby for life's surprise occasions. I keep one in my car glove box, my desk at work and often one in my handbag to use in case of spills, snack stops and the occasional saving of half a muffin that I didn't finish and didn't have a way to store it to get it home. One time I spilt an entire mug of green tea in my car (reminder to self: check the lid is on the travel mug properly before driving off), two glove box napkins came to the rescue that day and I was so thankful!
3. Beeswax Wraps
Watching cling wrap shrivel and melt into a bowl of chilli being reheated in a microwave is a vision that I haven't yet forgotten. As I pulled out my chilli and tried to pluck the remaining plastic from my food, I wondered how much of the plastic chemicals I was going to eat with that bowl. Least of all the amount of plastic that I used to use in a week to cover left overs and wrap any number of items. Whilst I no longer own a microwave, there are still occasions that I would like to just wrap up my food in a situation that a mason jar isn't the best fit.
Enter Beeswax Wraps. The beautiful ones that I have in my kitchen come from a company in BC called Abeego, they are an absolute game changer and total crowd pleaser (seriously, I have had so many comments on them from visitors!). They are made from all natural materials; fabric with a beeswax and tree resin coating. The beeswax allows them to seal and yet remain breathable and can be used with everything from fresh produce such as avocados and herbs, cheeses and left overs to almost any situation where you previously used cling wrap.
The wraps easily shape and hold around containers or produce and are cleaned with cool water and a gentle dish brush or natural dish washing liquid such as Dr Bronners. They come in a few different sizes to accommodate a variety of uses although sometimes I overlap two of them to get just the right size. Whilst mine are still going strong at about one year of use, they will eventually degrade and go completely back to the earth and I will happily replace them. How's that lifespan comparison to single use cling wrap!
4. Stainless Steel Containers
When glass is too heavy or fragile to cart your food around, these shiny, light-weight sweeties will happily step up to the job. Made from stainless steel and on some types, a small rubber seal to leak-proof, these will transport or store meals without costing the earth. My local wholefoods store carries the Onyx range (as pictured) and has a great range of shapes and sizes to accomodate most needs.
Keep a couple with you in your shopping bag, as most wholefood stores and supermarkets with a deli will tare your container and fill for you to save having to use their plastic containers. These containers are my go-to for daily lunches at work and I can attest to the leak-proofness of the onyx containers, with vegetable soup on its side packed in my backpack with my laptop. Brave or stupid? I'm not sure which but either way, both the soup and tech made it safely to the office without any need to reach for a napkin. Mostly to dry my eyes if that were the case!
5. Natural Kitchen Utensils
Keep an eye out, this is an area that has a LOT of alternatives! From dish scrubbers with wooden handles and natural bristles to glass citrus juicers and stainless steel can openers, most small products for the kitchen have stainless steel, glass, bamboo, ceramic or other natural material alternatives that can be purchased at your local supermarket or home store.
I bought these beautiful 100% natural dish scrubbers (one soft and one harsh) pictured top right at Homesense for $8 each and on top of it being a great price they work fabulously and look a million times nicer in my kitchen than the standard plastic handled, green headed scrubber that used to ooze dish washing liquid out all over my sink. Next time you are replacing a kitchen utensil, check out the range offered at your local stores, there are often zero-waste gems hidden in plain sight, ready to help transform your home to a natural paradise!
Every little conscious change we make, has a positive impact. Sustainability starts with us and being a conscious consumer.
I would love to hear what your favourite zero waste kitchen alternative is? The more ideas the better!! X