I’ve started a new blog series for Zero Waste Swaps! Let’s be honest, the world is going to shit and I can’t do anything about the current government administration, but I can do little changes to keep as much plastic and waste out of landfills, not to mention vote with my dollars and let big businesses know that they need to change and they need to change NOW! So below I’m sharing my Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps that I’ve been working with for the past 6 months to really give you a good review so you aren’t wasting your money or needless plastic on items that may or may not work.
So, I know the correct terminology is Zero Waste (and I know that zero doesn’t really mean absolutely zero), but I’m not trying to be perfect over here, I’m just trying to reduce my waste and my impact on the world, so in reality, these are more like “Lower Waste” Kitchen Swaps! The kitchen is the most wasteful room in the house, so even making a few changes can really reduce your environmental impact.
And, I know I’m not an expert on this subject at all. There are bloggers out there who focus on eco-friendly products for the home. But I wanted to share what I’m doing in order to make little changes around the house. I’m never going to get to the “Trash-in-a-Mason-Jar” level of zero waste. Yes, that’s a thing – collecting your trash in a mason jar to show how little waste you produce. However, as Anne-Marie Bonneau of Zero Waste Chef has said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” So, hopefully I’ll just be one in millions doing this imperfectly and I just hope to inspire you to make some swaps and do this with me!
Bring Your Own Grocery and Produce Bags
First things first, the easiest one. Bring your own grocery and produce bags when you go to the grocery store. Or shopping anywhere, honestly!
My husband does really well with this one. He does the weekly grocery shopping in our house (because Trader Joe’s give me anxiety) and takes a stash of reusable grocery bags with him every week.
Sometimes I do really well with this one, other times I leave the house and forget to check if there are bags in the car, and then I stop at a store while out and about and buy something. On those occasions, I kind of “punish” myself by saying no to a bag at checkout and I carry the items out in my hands. Or, I have everything put back into the cart and I take it out to the car, drive home, and then I have to go into the house to get out my bags, go back out to the car, and do all the bagging myself. By doing these little punishments, it’s been making me check the car before I go so I don’t have to juggle multiple items in my arms or do extra work when I get home.
And I still need to purchase some good produce bags which are also great for other items such as bulk bin items, bakery items, soaps, etc. I’m looking for some good ones with no plastic toggles which have the tare weights on the tags. Let me know if you have a brand you recommend.
Reusable Water Bottle
I’m going to add this to the Kitchen Swaps list since water is often kept in the pantry or the fridge.
I swear the water dispenser on refrigerators is always the first thing to break, so often times we need to either purchase water or purchase a water filter. We use a Brita (yes, it’s made of plastic and has plastic filters, but baby steps) and refill our glasses or our Hydro Flasks throughout the day. It’s much more environmentally friendly than using single-use plastic water bottles (which have their time and place, no judgement or shame when using them occasionally.)
Maybe eventually when we need to replace the Brita, we’ll swap to a glass container with a piece of activated charcoal, but I’m just not there yet.
Use Less Paper Towels
The first thing we did to start using less paper towels was simply to move them across the room to the other end of the kitchen so that we would need to make a conscious decision on whether we truly needed a paper towel or if we could just use a dishtowel. I can’t tell you how much this little change has helped. If you have a small kitchen, try putting the paper towels into a cabinet.
If you’re going to keep using paper towels (Which is fine! No judgement! There are some situations that call for paper towels!), then try to be sure you’re not purchasing a multipack of paper towels in which every. single. roll. is individually wrapped in plastic. (I’m looking at you, Sam’s Club brand!).
Also, try switching to compostable paper towels, recycled paper towels, using a “tear-a-square” brand, or using bamboo paper towels. I haven’t looked into inexpensive compostable or bamboo paper towels just yet, but I will be and I will report back once I do.
Or, if you’re ready to ditch the paper towels for good, try using “Unpaper Towels” or “Paperless Towels.” I picked up a set from Etsy and they are awesome! I use them more for food-related tasks such as greasing a pan or drying fruit after washing. For me, these unpaper towels are a great alternative because I’m already washing wash clothes that I use to clean up the twins after they eat, so adding more kitchen towels and these unpaper towels into the mix wasn’t a huge adjustment.
Vegetable Cellulose Sponges
Did you know that some scrubby-style sponges are made from plastic? Most commercial-brand sponges are made of wood cellulose, but some then have a scrubber side that is made from plastic. So I decided to swap ours out for some Vegetable Cellulose Sponges. I get mine from Trader Joe’s, but I also found some here on Amazon. What’s awesome is that they take up way less storage space under your sink AND they’re better for the environment AND my toddlers are fascinated with them (I can easily kill 5 minutes entertaining my toddlers whenever I need a new one and “hydrate” it)!
I still need to test them in the dishwasher to see if they hold up, but I will update my review after I do.
There’s also these non-scratch scouring pads made from walnut shells that are a great alternative to those green scouring pads made of plastic.
Snapware Glass Tupperware
Don’t go and throw out all of your plastic Tupperware, but instead, when you go to replace it, replace it with glass Tupperware. Glass Tupperware is both better for the environment and you because over time certain types of plastic can leech into food and eventually cause cancer. Use glass Tupperware when you need to store food or leftovers instead of using plastic Tupperware, plastic storage bags, or plastic wrap (more alternatives for these last two below.)
Since the twins have been eating solid foods, I started doing more meal prep and noticed that a majority of our plastic Tupperware was missing lids, didn’t latch, was old, etc. So we went through our plastic Tupperware, culled what didn’t match up with bottoms or lids or just needed to be tossed, saved a lot of containers for non-food uses (like play dough and crayons) and then I purchased this set of Snapware Glass Tupperware and I love it!
Bamboo or Wooden Brushes and Food Scrapers
Instead of plastic dish brushes, I’ve been making a conscious decision to spend a little more money and purchase sustainable wooden dishes. Yes, I’m aware that not everyone has the budget for this, but if you take care of your wooden brushes, they’ll last a long time!
There’s also some hybrid brushes available that use bamboo handles and recycled plastic for the scrubbing head. I really like this one, we’ve been using ours for over a year and haven’t had to replace it yet, whereas I would have needed to replace a cheap plastic one once the bristles start getting smashed. My mom and my in-laws also both have one of these and they really like it, too! I also own this smaller version of the brush that comes with a soap dispenser and it’s great!
For washing our Hydro Flasks and water bottles, I upgraded to this beechwood and horsehair bottle brush. No plastic at all! It’s held up really well in the last 6 months, although I wish my husband wouldn’t put it in the dishwasher every night.
Instead of using plastic cling wrap to cover a bowl or wrap up fruit, use some Beeswax Food Wrap! It’s a piece of fabric coated in beeswax so it sorta has that same stickiness that plastic cling wrap has. This is also a great alternative to using plastic storage bags or aluminum foil when covering leftovers or wrapping food.
To be honest, this was one of my hardest swaps. I tried using the Trader Joe’s version of a beeswax food wrap, but it was really, really stiff. So then I bought this cute fruit version on Amazon and it was much better. Much thinner and more pliable so it acted a lot closer to the plastic cling wrap that I was trying to replace.
However, you have to follow the cleaning directions and keep them stored in the fridge after exposing to food or else they will mold!
The Bee’s Wrap brand also has great reviews!
Reusable Freezer Storage Bags
Unlike the beeswax food wrap, the switch to these reusable freezer storage bags has been much easier. I only purchased a pack of two to try out in the freezer, but I really like them and I am going to purchase a few more for other uses including a pack of these smaller bags in multi-colors.
Most everyone else seems to use the Stasher brand bags, but I didn’t love some of the bad reviews they were getting on Amazon (ripping at the seams, holes, hard to clean, etc.), so I went with these reZip bags instead and I’ve been really happy. Plus, the reZip bags are available in a large 1 gallon size (see below) which is great for meal prep and freezer meals like my Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Tacos!
Switch to a Concentrate Soap
By switching to a concentrate soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap or Dr. Bronner’s Sal’s Suds, you’re buying 1 plastic bottle that will last a lot longer than another cleaner. Plus, you can use Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap or Dr. Bronner’s Sal’s Suds on SO MANY DIFFERENT THINGS.
I’m still working on this swap, it was a bigger change for me, but so far so good. The Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap is great to use as a personal soap whereas the Dr. Bronner’s Sal’s Suds is great to use as a house cleaning soap in place of other cleaners such as Windex, tile cleaner, countertop sprays, and hardwood floor cleaner. From my research, I learned that Sal’s Suds is manufactured and has a different formula to make it better for cleaning, I believe it leaves less streaks or residue.
However, please note that both of these products use a variation of Palm Oil. We recently took the twins to the zoo where we learned that orangutans will likely be extinct in a few years due to palm oil production. Some palm oil is grown sustainably by eco-conscious companies, and other palm oil is not. Plus, it comes in a myriad of different names so it’s hard to figure out if a soap product contains palm oil or not. I still need to check out Bed, Bath & Beyond’s Face Value’s brand Castille Soap which does NOT appear to use palm oil, and I will check back in once I use/review it.
Switch to Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Products
If you’re not ready to make the swap to a concentrate soap for household cleaning, you can instead make the switch to environmentally-friendly cleaning products such as Bon Ami powder cleanser, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, vinegar, or any of the method brand, Mrs. Meyer’s, Seventh Generation, or Branch Basics brands.
Other changes/swaps I still need to look into:
I didn’t make all of these changes at once, it’s taken some time, but here are the next things I want to concentrate on swapping out or switching over to:
- Shopping in Bulk and visiting the Farmer’s Market
- Growing Our Own Veggies
- Eating More Plant Based
- Compostable Trash Bags
- Composting food scraps either in an odor-free countertop container or in the freezer
- Recycled Aluminum Foil
- Foaming Hand Soap
- Plastic-Free Dishwasher Tabs or using Concentrate Soap in the dishwasher
A couple of points:
Please note that I did NOT throw out my unused sponges, plastic wrap, or plastic tupperware in order to make these swaps. I did a thorough purge in my kitchen where I cleaned and organized all our drawers and cabinets and then we started “using up” whatever products we had already purchased. Since these items were already in the consumer stream, throwing them out wouldn’t do any good, so I committed to using any sponges, plastic wrap, paper towels, etc. I already had. Then I made sure to purchase my new “lower waste swaps” and have them ready to use only once I needed a replacement.
And have you seen the obvious efforts to capitalize on this growing Zero Waste movement? I see ads for zero waste items in my Instagram feed and stories all the time. So, just remember, you don’t need to purchase something new just because it’s the eco-friendly thing to do. Can you reuse, borrow or DIY an alternative? Have you used up what you already owned? Only purchase a new eco-conscious swap if you really need it, after you’ve done your research, and you know you’re going to use it. It’s not all about the new gear!
Be sure to also check out my other Zero Waste posts:
Friday 21st of February 2020
We're perfectly imperfect too.
We sort ALL of our trash, glass containers, and very rarely use paper products at home.