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Taking care of the earth is everyone’s responsibility but it’s hard to always know what to do. These 12 easy steps to a greener kitchen will get you started. They range from easy to a little more difficult but hopefully you can implement one or two into your routine.
With everything that’s been happening in the world lately, it’s made me stop and think a lot more about steps I can take to be better prepared and also less reliant on the grocery store. Things that I can do to take care of our planet and the people in my life. Turns out, taking steps to make your home more earth friendly and emergency prepared also often save money and trips to the store.
Re-usable grocery bags/paper bags-this is a no-brainer. We know that the soft plastic bags are damaging the earth and the oceans. But, sometimes it’s so hard to remember to bring the re-usable bags in with us. Quick tip: store them in your car. And if you forget, ask for paper bags. Paper grocery bags make excellent liners for your recycle can and one or two big trips with annoying paper bags and you’ll stop forgetting your re-usable bags.
No more paper towels-right now, paper towels are hard to come by here in the U.S. For me, this hasn’t really been much of an issue because I pretty much never ever use paper towels at home. What do I use instead? For counter messes-I simply use a dishrag to wipe it up. For bigger messes, I have a bag full of odd socks/cut up old tee shirts that I use for cleaning rags. For eating, I have a handful of cloth napkins. For those of you with kids, these same principles can still apply. My sister has 4 little ones and nary a paper towel to be found in her house.
Biodegradable dish soap–this is something that never occurred to me until I went backpacking and ethically you are supposed to use biodegradable dish soap since you pour it directly onto the ground. It’s a little more expensive than traditional dish soap but with the number of dishes that I wash, it seems like an easy addition to my kitchen to help heal the earth.
Wash out your plastic bags-in an ideal world, we would give these up all together but sometimes you just can’t beat the handiness of plastic zip lock bags. Especially for freezing food or taking snacks to work. But here’s the thing, you can totally re-use them. I buy the freezer bags, because they are more sturdy, even though they’re a little more expensive and I wash them out lots and lots of times before they fall apart. The one caveat to this-don’t use washed out bags to freeze things in, they just don’t work as well.
Make your own iced coffee-summer is coming and for many of us that means making the switch from hot coffee to ice coffee. I love me some iced coffee but the reality is the cups are plastic, the straw is plastic and you are mostly paying for ice. Make your own at home in about 3 minutes and for a fraction of the price.
For the Baker
Buy in bulk-if you can manage to store it/use it, buying a bag of 10 lb flour is cheaper and uses less packaging than a 5 pound bag.
Switch to unbleached all-purpose flour-fewer chemicals into the environment, fewer chemicals into your body. You won’t notice any change in flavor or texture to your baked goods.
For the Cake/Cookie Decorator
Paper straws instead of plastic for cake supports-paper straws work just as well as plastic straws except that they will break down and not kill the sea turtles.
Biodegradable or reusable piping bags-honestly, this one is a hard one for me. The biodegradable bags are expensive and the reusable ones are a pain in the butt to clean. But when you use so many piping bags to decorate one cake or set of cookies, it’s worth considering.
For Those Willing to go the Extra Mile
Plant a garden-of course if you are lucky enough to have a yard, this one is almost a no brainer. Sometimes planting a garden seems intimidating, but here’s the deal-if you put plants in the ground, for the most part, they will grow. I don’t always have luck with everything I plant in my garden but I usually have something come of it. Don’t want to dig up a huge patch of your yard? Don’t. My parents plant vegetables in various patches of their yard amid the landscaping. It doesn’t take a lot of space to grow your food.
Looking for somewhere to start? Tomatoes. Home grown tomatoes are the best tomatoes you will ever eat and if you start with plants instead of seeds, they are almost fool proof.
No room to grow a garden? I get that, I live in an apartment with no balcony-try growing some fresh herbs. Basil, rosemary, maybe a little lemon sage. All these herbs can be dried or preserved in oil to keep them for future use.
Learn to preserve and make your own food-I grew up in a family that raised their own meat, eggs, and vegetables. We didn’t need to go to the grocery store more than once a week, probably less than that. Now that I’m an adult and living in an apartment, I still do a fair bit of food preserving. I make my own salsa, pickles and pizza/pasta sauce. I preserve the summer’s tomatoes, peaches and pears and make a hella good strawberry jam. And you know I can bake my own bread. None of these things are hard to make and yet you will be shocked by the how delicious they are, regardless of whether or not you are trying to avoid going to the grocery store.
An excellent resource for getting started preserving-Food in Jars. She’s amazing, her recipes are amazing, and she does it all in a teeny tiny kitchen. Her small batch recipes are perfect for small families and those of us just getting our feet wet canning.
And if preserving your own food seems overwhelming, learn to shop for your fruit and vegetables seasonally so that food isn’t shipped long distances. Plus seasonal fruits and vegetables are healthier and tastier.
Composting-composting breaks down organic matter and returns the nutrients to the earth. You can use the by-product to improve your soil quality-basically free fertilizer. It also keeps organic matter out of the landfills. It’s a bit of extra work, but once you get the hang of it, it’s no big deal. When I had a house with a yard and was able to make a compost pile I used a little bucket like this to keep my food scraps in and then just dumped it in the pile every day or so. No space for a dedicated “pile”? Try one of these complete compost containers.
What can you compost? Fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, tea bags, lawn clippings, and tree branches. What can’t you compost? Meat, rice, cat litter, dog/cat poop, diapers.
Every little bit counts. It’s up to all of us to do our part to make our earth a little bit healthier.