You don’t need fancy stuff to start a sustainable lifestyle – in fact, that’s missing the whole point! Anyone can take small actions to live a greener existence. I find it’s easier to start with one room and pinpoint ways you can reduce waste. Here are 5 easy tips for a more sustainable kitchen that are low-cost and time-friendly!
1. Cut up fabric instead of paper towels
You can cut up an old bed sheet or towel for kitchen rags/ reusable napkins. Store them in a drawer in the kitchen and use as necessary. For the dirty ones, you can store in an old pillow case and wash together on your next laundry day.
2. Reuse glass jars for bulk storage and cups/glasses
If you live by a bulk grocery store, you can use old glass bottles for bulk storage. I usually take fabric bags (also can be made from old scrap fabric!) to fill up my bulk items and then transfer to glass jars when I’m at home, so I don’t have to lug the jars to and from the store. I also use mason jars for cups and soup freezer storage (and sometimes as vases!).
3. Use diluted castile soap or bar soap for washing dishes by hand
I buy castile soap in bulk and then dilute it with water for washing dishes by hand. There is an upfront cost ($15 for 32 oz or Dr. Bronner’s) but it lasts me about 2-3 months before I run out - a little goes a long way! I like to have castile soap on hand because you can use it for cleaning almost anything and it's cheaper then dish soap in bulk and creates less waste. If you don’t live by a bulk store, buying the largest castile soap container works because it will last you a long time and is super versatile.
Alternatively, you can buy bar soap and use a brush to scrape off some while washing dishes. This is a great zero waste swap! To keep the soap dry, you’ll want to invest in a soap dish (I've found nice ones at thrift stores). You can also make your own castile soap with bar soap – grate the bar soap and dissolve it in a gallon of warm water and leave overnight. Then blend it in a blender or immersion blender.
4. Turn vegetable scraps into broth
One of my favorite low cost / low waste hacks is to turn veggie scraps into broth. Get second life out of your vegetable scraps before composting, putting them down the garbage disposal, or throwing them away. Not only does this reduce your waste, you can make your own broth at home and eliminate the need to buy store-bought. Creating less food waste that ends up in landfills is a great way to live more sustainably.
After you're done making broth, you can freeze it in the jars you save using tip #2. Just make sure to leave enough room to expand from the top, and extra room if your jar has shoulders!
In reality, not everyone has access to composting. Some cities have city-wide composting which I highly encourage you to take advantage if you do! If you have some outdoor space, you can also set up a home composter or worm bin. If none of those are options, put the strained vegetable leftovers down the garbage disposal. A lot of cities’ divert disposal matter to treatment facilities where the food waste is turned into energy, and not into landfill!
Last option is to throw away the scraps – try to avoid if at all possible.
- Store smartly! Imperfect Produce, a company committed to reducing food waste, has a great guide and tips on storing produce for optimal freshness and a longer shelf life. Some great pointers? Store asparagus stem end down in an inch of water in the fridge. Wrap your lettuce greens in damp cotton towels in the fridge. Look at the photo above for a quick reference guide on where best to store your produce in the kitchen.
- There are also plastic-free products you can use over and over again, but there is an upfront investment. My favorite products are:
Stasher Bag - a silicone storage bag that can replace plastic baggies. Stasher bags are made of silicone and can be used in the freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher.
Abeego beeswax wraps – beeswax and tree resin-covered cotton that can replace single use plastic wrap. You can use these to cover leftovers, bowls, and wrap cut food (such as cheese!) to preserve for later. They can also be used over and over again with proper care. At the end of their life (I’ve used mine for a year!) they can be composted or used as fire starters.
What are some of your favorite low cost / free tips for your low-waste kitchen? Share in the comments below!