Low Waste + Non Toxic Kitchen Swaps
I joke a lot that in another life I would have been a hippie, I’m just too lazy. Which is partially true!
But can we all just agree that it’s super overwhelming? And expensive? And a lot of work? Ain’t no one got the time for that with a business and kids and a husband…and trying to sleep.
I’ve thought about “going green” and getting on the all-natural band wagon for a loooong time now. Before it was considered trendy. But whenever I get the bug, I went down the rabbit hole of looking up alllll the things to go green. From stainless steel straws to cloth napkins to composting to zero waste…and it gets SO overwhelming for me. There are so many green and natural alternatives out there, and my instinct is to switch everything at the same time. Again, overwhelming. And also unaffordable. We are on a tight budget, and I’m not able to drop a few hundred dollars on switching everything in my life.
A few months ago, though, I got the bug again. But I also got the drive to really to it. Only I knew it was going to be a slow, gradual process if it was going to happen. It would take time and patience and creating new habits. I’m not the most patient person, so it’s hard for me accept I can just go crazy with it, but that’s life, my friends!
I thought about sharing everything we’ve switched, but it’s actually a lot more than I thought. So I’m making this a series and dividing it by rooms of the house, starting with the kitchen! I’m sharing what greener products we’ve switched to (and prices vs prices of what I would usually buy) and honest thoughts!
Stainless steel straws $4.99
I’ve never been a huge straw user at home anyway, but whenever we eat out or I get coffee out, I’d like to not use plastic ones. These ones on Amazon were so cheap, so many different sizes, and I love the pouch they come with so I can take them with me in my diaper bag or purse. The trick is remembering to switch them between bags and asking for no straw since most places just give you one, but again, creating new habits.
Reusable baggies $11.98 (Walmart brand storage bags, $5.22)
I like the ones we got because they come with three big ones that can fit a sandwich and two smaller ones great for snacks. These were definitely more expensive for us. But we use baggies so much for Dan’s lunch and the kids’ snacks, so honestly I think in just a month of not buying these, we’ll have saved the money.
Dish soap (a free and clear brand) $2.88 (Dawn dish soap, $2.64)
This one is not that much more, but I feel a lot better switching to a cleaner dish soap. We don’t have a dishwasher (going on two years, it’s fine), so we go through a lot of dish soap. I tried a vegan dish soap bar with no plastic packaging, and I liked it well enough. But that was expensive and didn’t last as long as I thought it would. Definitely not feasible for our family for doing dishes 3 times a day. If we ever get a working dishwasher again, though, this will definitely be an option!
Charlotte also just got it’s first zero waste store (!!), and they offer dish soap refills. So from now on, I’ll be taking my dish soap bottle and just refilling it there to prevent having to buy more plastic bottles (and soap with chemicals. Even most of the “natural” dish soap options use a ton of icky chemicals.).
Produce bags $7.59
This is definitely an extra buy since you’re not technically swapping it for anything you’d pay money for. But. Plastic is bad. The plastic bags that you put your produce in at the store are bad. These are real cheap (I found mine in store at Target for $4, just can’t find online), and I just used them like crazy at the Farmer’s Market where they tried to give me plastic. So I think they’re definitely worth it. Also, cheap in comparison to other things we justify paying $8 for…
Silicone baking mats $8.38 (parchment paper, $6.68)
I bake. A lot. I was starting to go through a ton of parchment paper because it really does make a big difference in how baked goods come out. I bought these silicone mats to reuse, instead, and they’re a pretty equal cost. Another one I know that I’ll save the money in just a month or two. Also, reduces waste. I’ll also say that these reduced our foil waste a lot. When I would bake chicken or veggies or any meals, I would line my baking pan with foil. I now use these mats for that, as well, and I can’t remember the last time we bought foil.
Wash Clothes ($2.97 at Walmart)
I bought a cheap pack of washcloths at Walmart when we slowly started replacing paper towels. We used to use paper towels constantly. For anything and everything in the kitchen. Then I bought these wash cloths, and now that’s what we use to wipe up spills or use on our counters, etc. These are tiny, and I just throw them in the laundry with whatever else I’m washing. They are not much extra work and no extra laundry. Also super cheap to buy, and you’ll more than save your money by not having to buy paper towels every single week.
Cloth Napkins ($16.99)
I feel like I could just combine this with wash cloths- these two items together have eliminated our need for paper towels. These are more cost up front, but you can easily get at Target or World Market for cheaper. (Just make sure to get 100% cotton ones!) Again, I just throw in the laundry with whatever I’m doing, and it’s no extra work. You save the money back by not buying paper towels every week. Save the trees and such.
Glass Tubberware $29.99
We are slowly moving over to glass tubberware. I’ll be honest, this is an expensive switch, which is why it’s taken us so long. We’re doing this slowly. At Aldi they’ve had 3 piece glass tubberware for sale, so I have bought that twice. We haven’t thrown away our plastic yet because, honestly, I hate waste. I’m careful to not heat anything up in it anymore, but still use it to store leftovers. I do like the glass a lot better, and it definitely makes Dan and I feel more adult, ha! I am all about sustainability, though, so use what you have until it doesn’t work! As we need more tubberware we replace it!
Reusable water bottles ($14.95)
I almost forgot this one because it’s so second nature to us. We do not buy water bottles. We have a Brita water filter, and Dan and I both (and the kids) have reusable water bottles. We also have reusable coffee mugs. If you haven’t gotten on this bandwagon yet….what are you waiting for?! I feel like everyone should do this, but then I see plastic water bottles flying off the shelves! (Although apparently Nestle has noticed a massive decrease in sales of plastic water bottles, so we’re getting there!)
Bees Wax Wrap ($15.99)
I like these way more than I thought I would! These have essentially replaced foil and plastic wrap in our home. They take a little longer to seal because they need the warmth of your hands, but they do seal well. We use this around avocados, and it actually keeps them greener longer. We also use this around our cheese. It’s perfect for so much, and they’re easy to rinse with cold water. This was one where the upfront cost kept putting me off, but it has saved us buying so much foil that it was more than worth it! Plus all the waste it’s saved!
Natural Loofah Dish Sponge ($6.99) (Scotch brite sponges, $4.97)
These were meant to replace sponges as a more alternative option. Natural loofah sponges are completely biodegradable and a fast growing resource. This is another switch that I think will work better when we don’t have to hand wash all of our dishes. But for now, this doesn’t hold suds so it’s a little more work and effort. We’ve been using Scotch Brite Greener Clean sponges that are made of recycled material and plant fibers, and we’ve been happy with those.
Like I said, this is a process. We still have a long way to go, and there are still some items high on my list.
I did get a question about a better alternative to garbage bags. We’re still finishing up our box of garbage bags, but I have been doing research about better alternatives. I’ll be honest- there’s not a ton out there. Every suggestion I can find just suggests to line your trash can with paper. That’s not doable for us, so we’ll probably just switch to Seventh Generation garbage bags as theirs are at least made with 65% recycled materials. There are biodegradable/compostable garbage bags out there, but those are small and typically good for bathrooms. We don’t use garbage bags in our bathrooms, but if you do, I’d definitely recommend using them there!
One of the biggest areas we create waste in the kitchen is with food and food packaging. We started composting a little bit ago, so I’m excited to see how that goes. I’ve also started making a few snacks at home that we were buying- small changes that I’m excited to work more on!
As it can get easy to go down the zero-waste rabbit hole, I’d love to organize our pantry into glass containers and try to shop bulk when I can. I also recently found our Target has a whole Natural Home section in their kitchen section which has bamboo and silicone utensils, bowls, and measuring cups, so that’s #goals, as well, for my dream green kitchen.
So that’s where we are in our kitchen! Let me know what switches you made or if there’s anything I need to switch out that I forgot about! I’m always reading and looking to see what else I can make greener options with! I recently started following The Eco Warrior on Instagram, and they post some great things you can replace with greener options!