9 small eco-friendly kitchen upgrades

We have been slowly but surely making micro adjustments in our kitchen to live a little greener AND simplify overall. We haven’t been able to get even close to being completely zero waste, but these simple switches are a move in the right direction!

Meal planning

The single biggest thing that we’ve done to reduce our food waste has been as simple as planning our meals for the week. It’s taken some practice, but after getting in the groove with meal planning, we are able to not only reduce our waste (I’m weirdly proud of the fridge being almost empty at the end of every week) but also save time by not having to make multiple trips to the grocery store.

Reusable grocery bags + produce bags

Speaking of grocery stores…one of the easiest things you can do to take a step toward reducing your waste is using reusable bags. I love Baggu reusable bags because they are made from 40% recycled nylon sourced from pre-consumer waste, each bag holds up to 30lbs or 2-3 normal bags of groceries, and my favorite feature is that they pack down into a flat 5”x5” pouch. They are so small that I can keep a couple in my purse at all times and never find myself without a grocery bag.

Buy used

A huge thing we’ve done in the kitchen is buying things secondhand. Not only is that an eco-friendly route, but also cheaper and for real…they just don’t make things like they used to. All of my thrifted and vintage kitchen items are high quality and mostly cost me only a dollar or two. We’ve collected a handful of colorful depression glass goblets and a few more practical everyday items, like a juice reamer and a set of stainless steel mixing bowls. And on the flip side, make sure to donate or sell anything you want to get rid of.

Replace single use items.

Pretty much any single use item has an alternative. Think about the little things that you’re buying and using frequently, and try to make a more sustainable upgrade. We’ve upgraded to stainless steel straws, stainless steel coffee filter, and glass food storage containers.

Repurposing food waste

This is something that I’ve been trying to get better at. I always look to @zerowastechef on instagram for inspiration and insight about how to use every last scrap.

My recent favorite thing to do with vegetable scraps has been to make vegetable stock. I save up scraps for a couple of weeks and make about 5 quarts of stock with this recipe:

Directions:

Put all ingredients in large pot and fill the pot with water. Make sure all ingredients are covered and leave 1 inch of room on the top. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

When it starts boiling, reduce head until the liquid is gently bubbling. Cook until vegetables are completely soft, about 15 minutes or up until an hour for more flavorful stock.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and carefully strain the stock into the bowl. Compost the solids.

Cool completely and refrigerate the stock in airtight containers for up to 1 week. Freeze up to 3 months.

Ingredients:

Carrot peels from 1 pound of carrots

Scraps from 2 celery stalks

Scraps from 4 onions

1 head of garlic

10 fresh thyme sprigs

10 fresh parsley sprigs

10 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon salt

Eliminate paper

This one goes hand in hand with eliminating single-use products. Use old tshirts to replace paper towels, fabric napkins to replace paper napkins, and real plates to eliminate paper plates. All of these upgrades have felt luxurious to me. I swear food tastes better when served on a ceramic plate with silverware instead of single use serveware.

Clean greener

Green cleaners — create your own cleaning products using everyday ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda, which combine to make a great all-purpose, non-toxic cleaner. This is my go-to recipe for all-purpose cleaner.

Directions:

Add ingredients to a spray bottle

Spray cleaner onto surface

Wipe clean with a cotton cloth or microfiber towel

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup water

1/3 cup white vinegar 

10-20 drops essential oil (I love lavender and eucalyptus)

For a super simple room spray, I swap out the white vinegar for a tablespoon of vodka and it works wonderfully!

There are so many more things you can make yourself instead of buying. Just do a little research next time you run out of cleaning supplies.

Soda stream

I have a pretty serious love for sparkling water, but was having a hard time seeing all of my cans pile up. Not only has the soda steam been less expensive over the long run, but it has also been helpful in reducing our waste in the kitchen. Plus, soda steam has a great recycling program to keep things green even when you have to purchase more CO2.

Plan ahead

This last one goes one step beyond the kitchen. When you go out to eat, bring a food storage container with you to cut on a to-go container. Leave a coffee cup in your car to fill up on your morning coffee run. Put a set of cutlery and a cloth napkin in your purse to avoid having to use plastic cutlery when you are out and about. It’s the little things that can have a ripple effect in living a greener life.




Grace van Meurer