Making eco-friendly kitchen swaps is a great way to reduce your environmental impact and save money. Here are some tips to get you started.
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Rule number one when buying new eco-friendly products
The first rule of being more eco-friendly is not buying something unless you really need it, and if you do need it, then think about buying secondhand first. I want to preface this article by saying that many of these items can be found at thrift stores, flea markets, and other secondhand shops.
Some items on this list aren’t things you’ll want to buy secondhand unless they’re in the original unsealed packaging. Things like reusable straws and consumable items like dish soap and dishwasher liquid, obviously.
But other than that, do your best to shop second-hand when at all possible, because the reality is that a huge chunk of things that are in thrift stores end up in landfills. Now, let’s get into the eco-friendly swaps for your kitchen!
Here’s one item you probably won’t find in a thrift store but you can find readily available online. Lots of common dish soap brands are harmful to the environment on multiple levels. The plastic packaging, the acute aquatic toxicity, the dyes and fragrance, the list goes on. Here’s some info about why that stuff is actually harmful.
You can get dish soap that is dye-free, fragrance-free, doesn’t pollute the soil or aquatic life, and comes in home compostable packaging (like a cardboard or paper box.) Dish soap is usually an easier swap than some of the other items on this list. An easy win if you will. Here’s some great options for eco-friendly dish soap.
- No Tox Life dish soap bar
- Tobe dish bar
- re:Dish dish bar
- Grove co dish soap (I buy these at Target to skip the Grove subscription because I hate having subscriptions, haha. Just remember to recycle the aluminum packaging if you get this one!)
Dish scrubbers and sponges
Sponges and scrubbers are often made from plastic, which is not biodegradable. They also usually come with packaging, even if it’s just a thin layer of plastic wrap. You can find eco-friendly alternatives to these things that actually work better than the traditional sponges and scrubbers.
I highly recommend using a loofah sponge. They are 100% biodegradable and compostable, they last a long time, and they actually work better than traditional sponges. You can get more natural-looking loofah sponges or you can grab some loofah sponges that are shaped like kitchen sponges. Same effect. Just throw them in your compost bin when you’re finished with them!
Wooden dish scrubbers with replaceable heads are one of the best options I’ve found for a dish brush. You can use each brush head for about 6 months and re-use the handle for years.
You can find loofah sponges online, at health food stores, and you can even buy them from people who grow them themselves. (Check Etsy for this.) You can even grow loofahs yourself if you live in a somewhat warm climate and have the space for this kind of sprawling squash plant.
Dish towels, cloths, paper towels
Just like sponges and scrubbers, dish towels and cloths are often made partially from plastic, which is not biodegradable. They also usually come with packaging, even if it’s just a thin layer of plastic wrap. You can find eco-friendly alternatives to these things that actually work better than the traditional towels and cloths.
- Tea towels and flour sack towels (some of these are biodegradable)
- Swedish dish cloths
- Unpaper Towels (Reusable paper towels in prints and soilds)
- Microfiber cloths
- Old cotton clothing pieces and scraps
Even if the cloths you buy aren’t biodegradable or compostable, using cloths that you launder and re-use is so much better for the planet than using paper towels and other single-use cleaning cloths.
This is a pretty easy one all things considered. Ditch the plastic trash bags and get some compostable bags instead. They usually come in a box that is also compostable.
You can find them in quite a few places – Amazon, EcoRoots, Zero Waste Outlet to name a few. The only real downside to buying eco-friendly trash bags is that they cost more per bag.
Important note: Make sure that the trash bags you buy are actually home/backyard compostable, which is different than “compostable” via a facility. Some products labeled as compostable actually will not break down in a backyard compost bin. So check for the specification that the product will break down without needing the help of a special composting facility.
Tea bags – swap for tea strainers
Getting some metal strainers for tea and buying loose leaf tea in bulk will save you money and eliminate sending teabags and tea to the landfill every time you reach for a cuppa.
For this swap, you’ll want to get:
- Bulk bags of tea as needed (I have 3-5 flavors on hand at a time)
- An airtight container for each tea flavor
- A few metal tea strainers that you can use for 1 cup of tea
- If you use a teapot, you’ll want a larger strainer for making a whole pot of tea
This swap was one of the easiest for me to make because I’m not attached to any brands of tea specifically. If you think that might be a struggle point for you, I understand! Try moving down the list of eco-friendly kitchen swaps and doing whatever you can.
Food storage containers
Ditching plastic storage containers in favor of glass is a great place to start if you’re interested in making your kitchen more sustainable.
Not only are glass containers more durable and safer to use, but they’re also better for the environment. Here’s a closer look at why you should make the switch to glass storage containers:
For one thing, plastic is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Glass, on the other hand, is made from sand, which is readily available and renewable.
What’s more, the production of glass results in far less pollution than the production of plastic. In fact, switching to glass storage containers can help reduce your carbon footprint.
Glass containers are also reusable and recyclable, while Most plastic storage containers are not.
In addition, it’s easy to clean and sterilize glass containers, which helps them last longer. As a result, you won’t have to replace them as often as you would plastic storage containers.
So if you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to store your food, switching to glass is the way to go. You’ll also end up replacing food containers a lot less frequently since they won’t crack or discolor nearly as easily.
Make sure to get a good-quality set of food storage containers when you decide to make the switch. You might be able to find some of these at thrift stores. If buying a whole set at once isn’t an option, you could replace one storage container at a time and after a year or two you’ll have a full set of them.
If you meal prep, replace your meal prep containers as well!
Making eco-friendly kitchen swaps is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. One easy swap you can make is to switch from disposable plastic straws to reusable ones.
Plastic straws are a common sight among litter, and they’re often used for only a few minutes before being thrown away.
Reusable straws are made from eco-friendly materials like glass, metal, or bamboo, and they can be used over and over again. Plus, they come in a variety of fun colors and styles and sizes. You can get larger straws for smoothies or boba as well as standard-size straws and kid-size straws.
You’ll also want to grab a set of reusable straw cleaning brushes to keep them from getting gross inside.
Swapping out disposable straws for reusable ones is a small change that can make a big difference for the environment.
Avoid single-use utensils and plates
I understand that single-use items are a great option for people who are differently abled and even some people who are neurodiverse, but if you’re not someone whose life is made more complex by removing single-use dishes and flatware from your life, please do it!
Just use what you already have and avoid buying paper plates, plastic or paper cups, and plastic utensils. If you need a separate set of utensils for picnicking or road-tripping, try a packable set like this one or the same idea for chopsticks.
Grabbing a set or two for each family member will reduce the impulse to buy single-use items for picnics or days out.
If you really, really need single use products, try to get compostable ones when possible. Generally, these are made of paper and don’t have a coating on top of them.
So, brown, untreated paper plates. Walmart, Target, and Amazon carry options like those but I don’t have a specific recommendation for you because it wouldn’t be genuine since I don’t use those kinds of things.
I’ll admit it, I was a heavy user of plastic baggies. I used them for everything from packing school lunches to storing snacks while traveling. But they’re so bad for the environment!
First of all, they’re made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. And even if you recycle them, they can only be recycled a few times before they have to be thrown away. Plus, plastic baggies often end up as litter. They blow around in the wind and end up in trees or in the ocean, where they can pollute the water and harm marine life.
So what’s a better option? Reusable silicone bags! These are made from silicone, a eco-friendly material that’s durable and can be reused over and over again.
They come in all sorts of sizes, so you can find the perfect one for packing a sandwich or snacks on the go. And they’re dishwasher safe, so you can easily clean them when you’re done using them.
The downside to swapping plastic bags to reusable silicone bags is that it’s cost-prohibitive. I’ve tried sooooo many brands of these and the best ones are some of the most expensive – Stasher bags. I’m working on building up a collection by buying one every month or so and I’m looking forward to having a whole shelf of these to use.
If you don’t make freezer meals or put much of anything in the freezer, you can probably get away with using a cheaper brand of these, by the way.
We already sorta covered this one in the dish cloths section, but I cannot stress this enough. You don’t need to buy paper towels for cleaning up spills and messes in the kitchen. Full stop!
Get Unpaper towels, another kind of reusable towel, or use microfiber cloths or other cloths to clean your kitchen.
You can save on that monthly paper towel purchase by eliminating them and buying maybe one case per year of them for any other use cases for paper towels (like getting grease off of bacon or cold-stratifying seeds and germinating them.)
Bonus eco-friendly kitchen swap: Start composting your kitchen scraps
If you have a backyard, starting a compost pile is one of the best things you can do for the environment.
You probably know this, but adding food to landfills creates methane gas and other gasses that damage the environment and contribute to global warming. Food scraps do not break down in landfills the same way they’d break down in your yard, with plenty of access to oxygen.
Composting is a process of breaking down organic matter, like food scraps, into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow plants. It’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment.
If you don’t have a backyard, there are still options for composting your kitchen scraps. There are all sorts of ways to compost, from using a bin in your kitchen and saving food scraps in your freezer to setting up a compost pile in your backyard. If you’re interested in composting, there are lots of resources available to help you get started.
Actually, I have an article on exactly that, so check it out if you’re interested!