I get it- sustainability can be an intimidating topic. The data of all the waste we create everyday and the climate countdowns you see online might make you wonder… well, what’s the point? Where do I even start? The problem with that mentality is that it totally overlooks that fact that everything counts. And contrary to what you might see online, something is always better than nothing and we don’t have to strive for perfection with all of it. If you do the math, millions of people doing a couple of things to live more sustainably makes a waaay bigger difference than a handful of people living perfectly zero waste.
I think of the kitchen as a good place to start, because even if you don’t consider yourself much of a cook, I bet you still use a microwave. Or drink coffee. Or… eat? This list below includes 10 little swaps that you can make that have a big difference in how much waste you’re creating. I know that some of these might seem like investments up front, but you end up saving money in the end because you are buying so much less! A few good quality dish and hand towels vs hundreds (or thousands) of rolls of paper towels. The math is right in front of you. So if the Earth is not a good enough motivator, do it for your wallet!
Instead of buying Dawn every few weeks, make the switch to a simple, cleaner soap. These will have much less chemicals in them (ideally none!) making them not only safer for the Earth, but safer for you, your family, or your roommates. There are several brands that sell a concentrate, so you get 3 times the amount of soap for one bottle. My favorites for nontoxic soaps are Dr. Bronners, Blueland, and Branch Basics.
2. Buy in bulk
So many plastic containers! For little items! Buying in bulk is a very simple switch that will make a big difference quickly. If you live in the Boston area, Cleanland is my favorite place to stock up on bulk cleaning goods and you can bring your own container. Most grocery stores will even let you bring your own container to buy bulk nuts, grains, beans, etc. Just bring it to the front of the store and have them tare the container before filling it! I’ve also been loving getting zero waste bulk dry goods delivered from The Wally Shop. This will also result in less clutter in your kitchen, and I think glass jars are just the nicest touch in a kitchen. I like to reuse old nut butter and coconut oil jars for my bulk goods!
3. Glass Tupperware
While the most sustainable item is the item you already have, next time you’re in the market for some new Tupperware- go for the glass. The world just doesn’t need more plastic, and these are great because 1. They look pretty and 2. You can microwave your food in them without having to worry about any of those chemicals leaching into your meal. I know they can be heavy for on the go, but just getting a couple for fridge storage is a great start!
This one is pretty self-explanatory. While sometimes paper towels come in handy, there is just no need to solely rely on them in your kitchen. Between drying dishes, little spills, big spills, hand drying, and more, you could easily go through a roll of paper towels a day. Investing in just 2 good quality dish towels will make a huge difference in the amount of trash you create but also the money your spending. Again: think about the wallet!
Plastic wrap has left the building, people! Beeswrap is IN and plastic is OUT. That plastic cling wrap is not only a wicked pain to use, but it is incredibly wasteful and can also leach chemicals into your food. I love using this Beeswrap, but there are other brands out there that make the same type of product. Multiple sizes make this great for storing leftover avocado, sandwiches, covering bowls, etc. They’re super easy to wash in the sink and they last forever!
K- cups. Nespresso pods (yes I know they’re compostable, but still). Coffee filters. The amount of plastic that comes along with all of this single cup coffee consumption really adds up quickly. There are a few easy swaps here. Brew an actual pot of coffee and save the rest for the next day, or make a small pot. There’s also the FUNNEX coffee pot from Chemex that allows you to brew individual portions. These reusable coffee filters are an easy swap to use here as well!
I know the idea of composting sounds intimidating. I spent a long time thinking it was fine to throw away banana peels, veggie scraps, etc, because it’s not plastic, not manmade, not what we typically think of as “trash”. But when food rots in landfills it actually produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is even more potent than carbon dioxide- yikes! Composting is easier than ever these days- you can actually have your food scraps picked up each week and someone else will do the work for you. Of course, you can also compost yourself for a fun backyard project! Checkout your local composting resources here.
Did you know that almost all tea bags have plastic in them? That can actually leach into your drink due to the temperature of the water? A very simple solution to this: loose leaf tea! It’s my favorite way to feel fancy on a Tuesday morning. Invest in a cute steeper and you’re good to go.
9. Produce bags
Transitioning a bit to grocery shopping, but still on the topic of food. Let me cut to the chase- you don’t need produce bags! But really, the avocados made it all the way from Mexico, California, or wherever they were grown to your local grocery store without needing individual plastic bags. And so did the oranges. And the tomatoes. You get the point. Skipping the bag altogether is always an option, but I like to bring my own produce bags for looser produce like green beans, mixed greens, brussels sprouts, etc. They look super hipster, and often can help extend the life of your food in the fridge. Check out my favorite bags here.
10. Reusable sandwich and snack bags
Whether you’re packing food for work or on the go, or storing leftovers, reusable baggies are the easiest swap! My favorite brand for these is Stasher bags, but I have an assortment of a few different brands that I’ve acquired over the years. It doesn’t really matter the brand, as long as they’re durable and get the job done! I use these for bringing lunch to work or on trips, storing the other half of an avocado in the fridge, or chopped veggies that are ready to grab for a snack throughout the week. These are an investment up front but will last you years!