Although Earth Day is always a good reminder how important it is to take care of this planet we call home, I truly try to find ways every day to lessen my personal environmental load. That's not to say I'm perfect; I drive a regular car, I certainly buy mixed greens in plastic clamshell containers (trying to cut that out!), and sometimes go to Starbucks without my own reusable coffee cup.
But I do believe every little bit counts, and since I spend so much time in the kitchen, I make probably the most effort there to be more environmentally friendly. Not only does that mean I produce less waste, I also am likely doing a favor for my own health + wallet.
I shared some of my favorite tips + products I use in the kitchen for cooking + cleaning on my Instagram stories this week and saved to my highlights; check out the ECO-KITCHEN highlight for more.
If you just want the down-and-dirty (err, clean?) details, I've included links to my favorite products below. Please note that in some cases, I may receive a small affiliate kickback for referring you. (It takes time + money to buy, test, and recommend after all!) Keep in mind if you check out the company websites (vs. Amazon), you may be able to get a discount for signing up for their newsletters.
Reducing food waste has long been a cause close to my heart. I really feel like it started with my Dad; his youngest child of 5, Midwestern upbringing probably had something to do with his refusal to waste any food. He would put together all sorts of leftovers to create odd concoctions that meant nothing would go to waste. (He also HATED when people overused paper towels, like as tissues or just more than was needed; what a trailblazer!)
So for as long as I've been cooking, I've always focused on eliminating food waste; throwing away perfectly good food just seems so... wasteful! Whether you are motivated by environmental, sociological, or just plain financial concerns, it's a simple step that makes a big difference.
Hands down the easiest + most impactful thing I have done to help eliminate food waste on a larger scale is sign up for Misfits Market. Over 50% of all of the produce grown in the United States ends up in the trash; a lot of that comes from "imperfect" produce that is not fit for sale.
Misfits rescues this "imperfect" produce, packages + ships it straight to your door. Did I mentioned *all of the food is organic? And often, local + seasonal. (*At times, Misfits rescued conventional items that they will throw in as a "bonus" - I love that they are so dedicated to the cause, and not their bottom line!)
If you haven't heard of "imperfect" produce, their website does a great job of explaining, as well as going into details about sourcing and their attempts to ship in an as environmentally friendly way as possible. But in short, "imperfect" produce is usually either ugly - too big, too small, misshapen, or has dents/dings/bruises - or just a surplus.
For $19 a week + shipping, I get a 10lb box of organic, seasonal, mostly local produce shipped right to my door. It's actually HELPED me with meal prep, because instead of going to the store and trying to figure out what to buy, I just base our meals on what I get from Misfits. Then I'll go and buy a few extras to complement what we got, or round out with what I always like to have on hand (like sweet potatoes or onions) if I didn't receive them.
If you'd like a 25% discount off of your first box, use my referral code: http://misfitsmarket.refr.cc/lizsimmons
Other lower-waste grocery shopping tips:
use reusable produce bags
bring your own canvas or cloth shopping bags
opt for foods with minimal-to-no packaging - also a great tip for your health!
buy from the bulk bins: grains, nuts, seeds and in some cases, loose produce like greens or mushrooms
I love my morning cup of coffee as much as the next person, but right now, using a traditional coffee maker (that makes multiple cups) or even more en vogue, using a French press, is just not realistic for our daily lives. But one day I realized just how wasteful (and expensive!) those single-use coffee pods are. (How bad are K-Cups for the environment? Interesting that the inventor purportedly doesn't use them because they are expensive + bad for the environment...)
That's what I got us reusable coffee filters, which I fill with organic coffee I've ground myself. I just get a big bag at Costco, grind a bunch at once, and keep it in a special sealed canister that promotes freshness.
We also have a Nespresso machine, which we don't use as much, but I did start ordering biodegradable, compostable espresso pods so that they at least break down. (Future goal: start home composting!)
Reusable coffee filter pods for Keurigs
Compostable espresso pods for Nespresso
Coffee Gator canister
In the past 6 months, I also ditched my Soma water pitcher (a supposedly more eco-friendly, design-oriented refillable water pitcher) for the GoPure Personal Water Filter. You simply drop the little pod in whatever vessel you want - a watch pitcher, water bottle, etc. - and it pretty much instantly + continuously filters your water. I keep one in a glass water pitcher in the fridge, and put in one of my stainless steel water bottles when I'm on the go and can't be sure if there will be filtered water available. Even knowing that the little filter itself lasts 6 months (so less to throw away) is enough reason for me to use it.
With all of the meal-prepping, leftovers-eating, car-lunching I do, food storage containers are key. I do still have some (BPA-free) plastic containers in the rotation, but lean heavily on glass, stainless steal + silicone.
I also avoid using or taking plastic utensils if we do order takeout (as well as the excessive amount of condiments + napkins restaurants often automatically throw into your bag).
To Go Ware Bamboo Travel Utensils (with carrying pouch)
UKonserve Stainless Steel Bento box with divider 1
UKonserve Stainless Steel Bento box with divider 2
Silicone collapsable lunch containers
Packit Freeze-able lunchbox (no separate ice pack needed)
Yeti coffee tumbler - the best I've used for keeping coffee/tea hot! Not leak-proof, however
32 oz Hydroflask - seriously, no plastic water bottles! Drink at least 2 of these per day, if not 3
Stasherbags - great for food storage, snacks, freezer, sous vide, even for toiletries when traveling
Food Huggers Silicone Food Savers - great for the tops of open cans/jars
Silicone Stretch Lid Huggers - love these for anything from small ramekins to large glass bowls; these are more versatile than the Food Huggers since they stretch
Beeswrap Reuseable Food Wrap - perfect to replace plastic wrap or even aluminum foil; I often use to wrap a partially eaten piece of fruit; perfect for sandwiches
Wine Glass Writer - to label mason jars
I have an entire separate post cooking up in my head covering non-toxic (and what that even means) cleaning products. With the intention of focusing on eliminating waste, I have a couple of suggestions to consider when in the kitchen:
Ditch paper napkins + towels and go old school; linen napkins make you feel fancy, and there are so many paper towel replacement options (see below).
With cleaning products, if possible buy concentrates to which you just add water. At the very least, try to buy refill packages (like those from Method).
Believe it or not, running the dishwasher uses less water than hand-washing dishes.
Consider composting! Produce scraps, coffee grinds, eggshells + more can be composted (including compostable espresso pods!). Check with your local town or city to see if they have a composting program; some community gardens will accept compost as well.
Branch Basics cleaning concentrate - I'm obsessed! I purchased the starter pack at least a year and a half ago, and I'm just now getting to the bottom of the bottle. I use the multi-purpose cleaner in the kitchen and other products throughout the house.
Moon Valley Organics hand soap refill - like Branch Basics, just add water!
Full Circle Reusable Cellulose sponge - great replacement for a paper towel to clean up messes; you can disinfect in the dishwasher; Full Circle has a ton of other eco-friendly home cleaning products to check out.
Three Blue Birds Eco-Friendly Reusable cleaning wipe - like the Full Circle clothes, but Swedish with kitschy designs.
Marley's Monsters Unpaper Towels - felt towels that you can actually wrap around a paper towel holder and "rip" off one at a time! I use these in my lunchbox to replace paper napkins as well. Marley's Monsters is another company I love, and use other products in the bathroom as well.
Questions? Tried any of the products mentioned, or have your own recommendations? Let me know in the comments!