Creating a greener kitchen doesn't necessarily mean you have to go out and buy a bunch of new stuff. As we discussed in our Beginner's Guide to Zero Waste, using what you already have is the most zero waste choice you can make.
Grab a fork from your kitchen drawer, turn an old sheet into produce bags, turn old t-shirts into rags and choose to drink your coffee in a mug at the coffee shop.
Sometimes, though, investing in new-to-you tools can make it easier to make more sustainable choices. The way I see it, if getting yourself a thermos allows you to live your life and produce less waste, I call that a win.
So we've put together a list of our Green Kitchen Essentials.
These are the kitchen tools we use on a regular basis and things I couldn't imagine living without.
Ideally use what you already have or look for second-hand online, at a thrift store or from a friends - that's the best! If you can't find them used, look for reusable/compostable/recyclable packaging.
Keep reading as we discuss our going green kitchen essentials that will help you switch wasteful habits into sustainable strategies.
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If you have a quality water bottle, it can double as an insulated mug. I’ve had my Contigo mug for years and it works great. But when I travel, I simply use my Hydroflask water bottle, and fill it with coffee or tea as needed. Then drink it and refill it with water again.
These towels have been a game changer. Using non-paper towels is 100% the way to go. They’re more absorbent than paper towels, and can be washed and reused time and time again. I remember when I used to clean with paper towels. I’d find myself going through a whole roll just to clean the house!
But now I can use just a couple towels and I don’t have to buy more when I’m done. You can buy cleaning towels for a little bit more than paper towels. And once you own them, you don’t have to keep buying more.
We have our bamboo utensils whenever we travel. They’re great to have on hand, especially when restaurants only provide plastic utensils.
Glass storage containers
For any liquids (like soup) or leftovers we use glass containers. We have both Tupperware-like containers and mason jars. These glass containers are nice because they fit in one another, but they aren’t spill-proof so make sure you don’t tip them over.
I love our beeswax wraps. We have both regular and vegan ones, and they both work great! They’re perfect for wrapping up half an onion or those bread rolls. They take up less space than tupperware and they’re lighter than glass containers. Making them great travel companions!
Compostable dish rag or washable rag
Sponges harbor bacteria and they start to smell… Dish rags can also harbor bacteria, but they’re washable! I love these compostable dish rags. They’re washable, and even compostable once you’ve worn them out!
Reusable grocery bags
A super simple swap. Reusable grocery bags are easy to find, inexpensive and so much more durable than plastic grocery bags. A broken plastic bag and a luckily unbroken toe, was my trigger to stop using plastic grocery bags. This is what started my zero waste journey. Switching to reusable grocery bags was our first zero waste swap and as soon as I switched, I couldn’t imagine going back. Just wish I had swapped sooner! They’re more durable, easier to carry and work for more than just groceries. Keep them in the car and stop accepting plastic bags no matter where you go!
If you shop from bulk bins, you definitely need bulk bags. We made the switch to reusable bulk bags after a grocery trip that left us with a pile of plastic bags. If we were piling up the plastic after just one trip, imagine the pile from every trip!!
These bulk bags are awesome. Simply fill up what you need from the bulk section, take note of the PLU number and provide the PLU number upon checkout. You can ask the cashier to tare the bag weights, but I usually skip it since the bags are pretty light anyway.
Similar to fabric cleaning towels, cloth napkins are just plain better than paper towels. They’re softer, look nice and they’re 100% washable. The switch from paper to cloth is a huge waste saver.
Reusable food storage bags
Great for backpacking, traveling and prepping next day lunches. There are several different sizes - some great for snacks, sandwich-sized and even larger half gallon sized. Once you have these reusable food storage bags, you won’t have to keep buying the little plastic ones - save waste and money!
No need to worry about harmful chemicals or that non-stick coating flaking off into your food. A cast iron pan is durable and great for cooking. Take care of it and it will last a lifetime.
I can’t imagine using my baking sheets without our silicone baking mats. They prevent food from sticking to the pan and they make clean up so much easier. I LOVE these mats and use them literally every time I use my baking sheets.
Reusable lunch box
Though I don’t often need a lunch box for my lunch (perks of working from home) I used to bring my lunch to work every day and this was a necessity. They keep things colder than a plastic or paper bag. And if something spills, clean up is a breeze.
I used to choke down my coffee from my drip machine. And I just couldn’t understand how people actually enjoyed coffee. Then I switched to a french press, and now it all makes sense. Bonus, using a french press means no filter. No more filters means no more waste! If you do use a brewing method that requires a filter, get a reusable one. Check out our Zero Waste Coffee post for more tips on reducing waste on the coffee front.
Stainless steel pot and skillet
My favorite brand is All-Clad. It’s just high quality cookware. They heat more evenly that cheaper pots and clean up is easy with just a scrubber. No need to worry about chemicals transferring to your food, and no rusting or warping.
Glass cutting boards aren’t great for your knives. Plastic cutting boards are often touted as being better because you can put them in the dishwasher, but some studies show plastic cutting boards harbor more bacteria than wood ones. Also consider that as you use your plastic cutting board, you may end up with tiny pieces of plastic in your food… Nobody wants that.
Wood or bamboo cutting boards are a better choice. Bamboo is harder than other woods (i.e. harder on your knives), but it’s non-porous which is great for sanitation. Wood is also more sustainable. If you’re getting a wood cutting board, look for beech or maple, as they won’t scar as easily as plastic ones.
Metal funnel set
If you’re buying from the bulk section, it’s pretty helpful to have a set of funnels so you don’t spill half your flour on the counter trying to transfer it into a glass container. A funnel is also great for transferring stock from the stock pot to your storage container.
Do you have some other green kitchen essentials that we didn’t mention? We’d love to hear about your going green strategies!
What are your green kitchen essentials?
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