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For many of us, the kitchen is the heart of our homes. We cook and prepare food to nourish our families and to share time with our loved ones. It is not only the act of feeding and nourishing but also of spending time together, having a conversation, and creating good memories.
What if we also could save the planet from the kitchen by cutting down on plastic? You would not believe how much impact we have on the environment with what we bring to our kitchen. What do you usually shop for? Are you mindful of the packaging of the foods you buy? Do you use fresh ingredients and prepare your meals from scratch?
Let’s have a look at how to reduce your plastic use by changing a few habits. There is a list of steps you can incorporate into your day to day routine to become more eco-friendly and reduce significant amounts of plastic in your kitchen.
You don’t need to start with all the steps at the same time. Pick the ones that sound easy and doable and add more later. Enjoy the process, and celebrate small victories!
First, before you change anything, assess your particular situation. Look around your kitchen and see how many plastic items do you have. Do not throw them out! That would actually make things worse because these items would go to landfills while still usable. If you already own something, you need to find a way for this item to be used. Decide which items are useful to you and keep them.
If you want to get rid of some plastic items, find them a new home. Donate them to anyone who will use them: family, friends, or a charity. The longer they are useful the better.
If you find a broken item, see if there is a way to repurpose or recycle it. Try to avoid putting it in the garbage.
For the future, resolve not to bring any new plastic items to your kitchen and home. There are many alternatives made of glass, wood, bamboo, ceramics, rubber, or other more eco-friendly materials.
Second, for a week or two, observe what do you usually buy. What containers or packaging does it come in? How much unnecessary plastic bags, plastic jars, and other plastic packaging are you bringing in?
Inspect your trash. What do you throw out? How much of your trash is the packaging? Make a mental note or write it on a piece of paper. At the end of the inspection period, point out the main culprits, and search for more eco-friendly alternatives.
Based on what you have observed in your kitchen, pick the steps that will make the most immediate impact. Add them to your routine, keep adding additional steps, until you are satisfied with the improvements in your lifestyle.
1. Stop buying bottled water
Bottled water is a great marketing trick. It is literally thousands of times more expensive than tap water, and it is usually the same or even lower quality than tap water. Several studies and articles mention that the world’s population buys more than 1 million plastic water bottles a minute! Imagine how many do we consume a year? Unfortunately, only a fraction of them are recycled, the rest ends up in the landfills, rivers, oceans, and other natural spots.
If you are concerned with the quality of your tap water, consult the local authorities or water company. Install a good water filter or buy a jug with a water filter... and stop buying bottled water! If you go out, just take the water with you in a reusable water bottle and refill when necessary.
To take it a step further, avoid buying any other drinks in plastic bottles. Replace soft drinks with homemade lemonade, fruit-infused water, fresh juice, or even tea or herbal tea.
2. Prefer Farmers market
Fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets are often packaged in plastic bags or boxes. Visit the close-by farmers market to buy fresh fruit and veggies in your own reusable bags.
When choosing reusable bags, use a durable textile material like organic cotton, hemp, or jute. Avoid reusable bags made of polypropylene or other plastic material. They brake fast after exposure to the sun, they are not biodegradable or compostable and are made of non-renewable resources.
3. Find a local package-free store
Most basic not perishable ingredients like beans and legumes, rice, pasta, cereal, and others often come in some form of plastic packaging. Fortunately, there are now stores that help us avoid most packaging. These stores have many names: package-free, zero-waste, refill, bulk store, and others.
In general, they offer a wide variety of basic ingredients and oils, tea, coffee, herbs, sometimes even cosmetics or cleaning products without any packaging. You buy everything in a paper bag provided by the store or in your own container.
4. Make your favourite ingredients from scratch
Do you buy a lot of peanut butter, tahini, ketchup, mayonnaise, hummus, spreads, dips, and other sauces? They are often presented in a plastic jar. Make these at home and have more control over what you eat. They are easy to make at home, from ingredients you can buy in the package-free store and farmers market. Some will keep in the fridge for a very long time, and you can make big batches and preserve them.
Alternatively, buy them in glass jars whenever possible and available. Glass is a material that can be recycled over and over again without losing its quality. Moreover, recycling glass uses less energy than making new glass.
5. Batch cooking instead of frozen meals
If you are busy and buy frozen foods to expedite dinner time, try batch cooking instead. Frozen meals come in all kinds of plastic packaging, and there are virtually no other eco-friendly alternatives on the market.
Reserve the time to prepare big amounts of a few meals, then separate them in individual portions and freeze in the containers you own and reuse. You can make 2-3 different meals and make as big of a batch as possible.
You will be able to have home-cooked, delicious, healthy meals made with fresh ingredients, and serve them fast during the days you are busy.
6. Prefer local bakeries, or bake at home
To avoid plastic packaging when buying bread and other baked products, prefer a local bakery that will accommodate your need to purchase everything in your own textile or paper bag.
You will get extra eco-points if you start baking your own bread, using ingredients that you bought without packaging in the package-free store.
If you have never baked bread before, you might need a bit of practice, but soon enough, you will see that it is not much work and the result is worth it. Bake a big loaf or two that will last several days, store in an airtight container or freeze it to last longer. The smell of fresh-baked goods will make your home feel cozy for hours.
7. Buy meats, cheese in your own container
Meat and cheese usually come in plastic or styrofoam plate and a plastic film. Find a store that will accept putting your products in your own containers to lower the amount of plastic you bring home.
If there are any other ingredients and foods that you buy packaged in plastic, you can always find a place where they will be willing to sell into your own container.
8. Avoid all chips and snack foods
The shiny aluminum-like packaging is not recyclable. Alternatives usually come in paper bags, but unfortunately, those are lined with plastic, so they are not possible to recycle either. Avoiding them is better for the planet, and better for your health.
While you are on your way to cutting down on plastic, recycle everything possible that you still purchase. Deliver clean and separated plastic materials to your local recycling center. Unfortunately, there are plastic materials, that are not recyclable, as they are made of mixed materials (plastic N°7), try to avoid these if possible.
You can notice, that many of these actions will have threefold results. They will lower the plastic you bring to your home. You will make healthier choices that will nourish your family more. And lastly, they also might help you save some money.
This all might seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but with good planning, this is attainable. As mentioned, start small and start with what feels most comfortable. When you are ready, add more. Soon enough it will become your new normal and you will want to do more to become even more eco-friendlier and take better care of the planet. Start your journey today!