Put Eco-friendly Alternatives to Work for You to Cut Waste in Your Kitchen.
Do you find yourself pulling several paper towels off the roll for every mess? How about reaching for single-use plastics like water bottles and plastic wrap more often than not? Is your trash overflowing with smelly food scraps? You’re not alone. Thankfully, there are many ways to reduce the amount of waste in your kitchen.
Explore the Eco-Friendly Alternatives.
Did you know that the average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees? This amounts to about two billion trees per year, according to data from Middle Georgia University. The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year would be enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years.
Paper towels are a huge source of unnecessary waste that falls into that category. Americans use 13 billion pounds of paper towels a year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It’s not surprising when you consider families go through an average of nearly two rolls a week. A whopping 110 million trees are downed annually to produce paper towels alone.
Thankfully, there are many eco-friendly alternatives to help clean up messes in the kitchen and beyond.
Cloth towel rolls, often made of flannel or cotton to easily stick together and include a simple stitch along the edges to prevent fraying, are super easy to make for the novice seamstress. If sewing isn’t your thing, we recommend the ones pictured here from Cheeks Ahoy. A quick search on Etsy can deliver plenty of variations to choose from – plus, you’re supporting a small business!
Swedish Dishcloths have taken the sustainability world by storm.
By adding a few of these absorbent little squares to my kitchen, I’ve been able to nearly cut paper towels out of my life. They are super absorbent, compact to store, and easy to keep clean for everyday use.
“Invented by a Swedish engineer in 1949, the rags are made of 100 percent naturally biodegradable cellulose or a combination of wood pulp and renewable cotton,” writer Ashlea Halpern noted. “They are superabsorbent, able to soak up 20 times their own weight in liquid. They are soft and pliable when wet but dry quickly in between uses.”
Looking for a cheap and simple solution to replace old paper towels? Cut your old bath towels and cotton t-shirts into squares. Not only will you be giving this fabric a second life, but well-used cotton is ultra absorbent! This is a completely cost-free solution you can implement immediately.
Still not sure if this Joyful Change will make an impact? Think again. If each American household swapped just one roll of paper towels for a recycled version, nearly 54,000 trees could be saved each year!
Plastic wrap is another culprit for unnecessary trash in the kitchen.
That sticky, flimsy plastic cannot be recycled because it contains PVC. Considering that 5.3 million Americans used ten or more rolls of plastic wrap in 2020 alone, landfills are filling up fast. When sent to the dump, plastic cling film can take about 450 years to decompose. That’s where beeswax wraps can save the day. Instead of breaking out the roll of harmful, single-use plastic, invest in a few different sizes of beeswax wraps – fabric squares, often organic cotton, coated in naturally produced beeswax that you can rinse off and use over and over again.
Speaking of flimsy plastic, we all know how intrusive plastic grocery store bags have become in the environment.
Make the switch to a canvas tote or foldable tote bag instead. Stash one in your car, purse, or backpack so you always have one available for those spur-of-the-moment stops at the local grocery store or farmer’s market. Do you have some flimsy bags tucked in a drawer at home? Do some research on where you can take these to recycle since most curbside recycling can’t utilize them. A lot of grocery stores have drop-off bins available for these items.
Do you find yourself packing plastic water bottles and single-use cutlery into your family’s lunches?
These items are notorious for overloading landfills and aren’t easily recycled. Instead, opt for a water filtration system and encourage reusable water bottles in your household. Filtration systems give you that same fresh taste, and reusable bottles will often keep water cold for much longer. To cut down on single-use cutlery, try substituting a washable set, like the pouch sets we have available in our eco-store.
Give Composting a Try.
We’re all trying our best to combat the food waste problem. However, we inevitably end up with bits and pieces of food that get tossed into the trash can – potato peels, coffee grounds, or the moldy cucumber that never made it to our lunchtime salad. Before you toss this waste into the trash can, consider composting it.
What exactly is composting? According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, composting entails the following:
“A controlled, aerobic (oxygen-required) process that converts organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment or mulch through natural decomposition. The end product is compost – a dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling material. Microorganisms feed on the materials added to the compost pile during the composting process. They use carbon and nitrogen to grow and reproduce, water to digest materials, and oxygen to breathe.”
By composting anything from kitchen scraps to yard trimmings, you are implementing a resourceful habit of managing waste in a more sustainable way. All you need to get started is a compost bin in your kitchen. In no time, you’ll be able to generate free, high-quality soil for your houseplants or garden.
If you have space to set up a compost pit in your backyard, be sure to allow for enough room to turn over your compost regularly for even decomposition. If you live in an urban area, check out our map of curated composting services nationwide to get started.
Composting is an easy and rewarding sustainable practice; you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!
Pro Tip: Add some earthworms to your compost pit, “Vermicomposting,” to help speed up the decomposition process!
Save electricity in your kitchen.
In the market for a new kitchen appliance? Look for the blue “Energy Star” designation for energy-efficient models. The United States Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency has even teamed up to create a free online resource to search for efficient models.
If your refrigerator is over 15 years old, consider looking for a new one. It’s likely using twice the amount of energy than a new Energy Star certified model! Make sure to recycle your old one, too; by properly recycling your old refrigerator and replacing it with a new Energy Star-certified version, you can save more than $260 over the 12-year lifetime of the product.
Dishwashers are another appliance worth upgrading in your kitchen. A standard-sized Energy Star certified dishwasher costs about $35 per year to run and can save you about 3,800 gallons of water over its lifetime.
In 2020 alone, Energy Star certified appliances helped save more than 520 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and avoid $42 billion in energy costs. These savings resulted in associated emission reductions of more than 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses, roughly equivalent to more than 5% of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions.
Food production constitutes 8-16% of the total national energy consumption in the US, according to the Yale Environmental Review. Cooking accounts for 20% of consumers’ energy use. Refrigeration and dishwashing evenly split the remaining energy demand.
Is a gas or electric oven more efficient? The typical gas stove in America is only 40% efficient, whereas its electric counterpart is 80%, according to a 2013 study, “Review Energy consumption during cooking in the residential sector of developed nations: A review”. However, when you take a more holistic view of how each form of energy is generated, researchers determined that electric stoves powered with gas are the more efficient choice by approximately 20%.
Cooking methods can affect the amount of energy we use in the kitchen. Curious as to whether specialty appliances, like rice cookers and electric kettles, are more efficient? Most studies determined that these specialty appliances are more efficient than ovens and stovetops.
“The microwave showed trends that were less clear, but seems to emerge victorious for small portions and foods with short cook times,” the Yale Environmental Review reported.
Simple practices, such as cooking in large batches, putting a lid on a pot during cooking, and cooking food in full pots, are easy habits that can make a big difference in cutting energy waste in the kitchen.
The Energy Saving Trust recommends a few additional tips to implement when preparing meals:
- Only use as much water as you need – boiling extra takes more time and energy.
- Always cover your pots and pans – the water will boil faster and use less energy to heat your food.
- Turn off the heat a couple of minutes before your food is fully cooked – particularly if you’ve got an electric hob, as they take some time to cool down and will continue to cook your food.
- Don’t open the oven door repeatedly – you’ll let out hot air and waste energy. If you can, take a look through the glass door instead.
These tips are just a few simple ways your family can contribute to creating a more sustainable space. With a room as versatile as the kitchen, the possibilities are truly endless. Be sure to track and measure your efforts to reduce waste in your kitchen. Get the One Planet Life app and select the Reduce Waste Journey.
Written by Carley Kimball
Freelance Journalist and OPL Content Contributor
“I’ve always tried to implement planet-friendly practices in my life but didn’t quite realize just how much of an impact individuals can make until I was introduced to One Planet Life. I’m so excited to be able to utilize my professional skills to contribute valuable information and positive personal experiences to help make the world a better place.”