A Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Kitchen Products
Where do you start when it comes to making the switch to a more sustainable kitchen? It can be really inspiring to see so many people making efforts to lower their carbon footprints and taking personal accountability when it comes to caring for the environment. But making those changes in your own home can be tricky.
With so much information out there about eco-friendly kitchen products, you might feel like you’re overwhelming yourself (or your wallet) when you start researching how to make the switch to a more sustainable lifestyle. Your search might even spark more questions like “What does BPA free mean?” or “How do I know if a product is recyclable?” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we understand! That’s why we put together this beginner’s guide to sustainable kitchen products to guide you through the basics. Let’s dive in!
What Are Sustainable Products?
You already know what the word “sustainable” means in a literal sense, but what exactly does it mean in the context of consumer goods? To be sustainable, a product must be produced and/or used in a way that does not cause environmental or societal harm or destruction. A product is unlikely to be deemed sustainable if its manufacturing needs nonrenewable resources, harms the environment or causes harm to people or society.
Sustainable products are made using renewable resources that cannot be depleted completely. At this time, almost no production is able to be completely free from environmental impact. However, sustainable goods are produced, distributed and consumed using the least amount of energy possible and with responsible transportation and waste disposal practices. Socially sustainable businesses are also conscious of the impact they have on their employees and the communities in which they operate. If you would like to ditch single-use plastics or upgrade your kitchen with more sustainable products, there are a few steps to take to get started.
You don’t have to turn your life upside down on day one of being more environmentally conscious. We all have routines and specific products we can’t live without. Starting small by making a few easy changes to your kitchen is a perfect way to, eventually, change your entire lifestyle. There are lots of small changes you can make that will lead to a much smaller environmental footprint over time.
Easily Reduce Plastic Waste
A great first step is to reduce the amount of plastic waste you’re generating in the kitchen by turning to reusable products instead of single-use items. Swapping out plastic wrap for reusable food storage containers reduces plastic waste and keeps your food fresher. Plastic wrap has a very loose seal and can be messy if dropped or spilled. Switching to reusable containers is a no-brainer. They come in a wide variety of sizes to fit various foods, and there are options for the fridge, freezer and pantry.
You can also swap out your plastic bags for reusable silicone bags. Making the switch to reusable bags instead of single-use bags saves you money in the long run because you don’t have to keep going through box after box of bags anymore. Plastic bags are a huge waste and can even leach chemicals into your food. Our reusable bags are just as convenient as regular plastic bags, and they offer several benefits. They’re super easy to wash because they are dishwasher-safe. You can even microwave food in them.
Discover Our Curated Kitchen Bundles
If your family drinks a lot of sparkling water or soda, you’re probably generating more trash than you realize. You can easily make your own soda and sparkling water at home by using a soda maker. These nifty contraptions infuse water with CO2 to give you that bubbly, carbonated perfection we all love. You can pick from a wide variety of flavorings to create your own beverages. They taste great, and they are often healthier than store-bought soda or sparkling water. Stock up on reusable bottles that are easy to wash, so you can keep a steady flow of your favorite drinks.
Eliminate Paper Waste
Have you ever thought about all the paper coffee cups and paper towels you use regularly? Chances are, you generate a ton of paper waste in the kitchen without even realizing it. And these soiled paper items usually can’t be recycled as they’re covered in food waste. Plus, all of those bright white paper products are bleached to achieve that color, and the process is super harmful to the environment.
Using reusable, lightweight kitchen towels in place of paper towels isn’t as inconvenient as it sounds. Treat your new kitchen towels like you would a paper towel. But when it’s time to throw it away, toss it in the laundry basket instead of the trash can, and wash it with the rest of your towels. Because they’re so lightweight, they don’t add too much to your laundry and they can be easily stored for use without taking up too much space.
Using paper coffee cups might not seem like a big deal until you realize how many you go through in a year. If two people in your household take one cup of coffee out the door with them every weekday for a year, you’re throwing away about 520 paper cups a year. That’s why reusable insulated drinkware that you can take with you is a much better option. Plus, it will keep your coffee warm for several hours. Paper can’t do that!
Switch Out Your Soap
Another easy switch to make is soap. Switching to sustainable dish soap, hand soap or dish detergent practically changes nothing about your routine and supports your efforts to preserve the environment. Choosing a hand soap that is free of unpleasant chemicals and fragrances that can be harsh on your skin is also a win-win. Plus, they usually come in reusable bottles that can be refilled, and some hand soaps come in a tablet form that dissolves in water to create liquid soap. The same thing goes for dishwashing detergent and dish soap. Dish soap bars last a long time and are usually pretty big. They lather nicely and are better for your plumbing too. Grabbing a scrub brush with natural fibers instead of plastic bristles is the last piece to your eco-friendly dishwashing transformation!
Learn to Compost
Adding a compost bin to your list is an excellent idea. Learning how to compost in your own backyard is a great way to give back to your own little slice of earth. Plus, saving up compostable food scraps in a compost bin stored in your fridge or freezer can cut down on the odor coming from your garbage can. Once the container is full, just empty it into your main compost bin or pile outside and return all those nutrients back to the earth. If you have a garden, you can even use your compost to make the soil more nutrient-rich.
Start your compost pile on bare ground. Worms and other beneficial organisms can then aerate the compost and move it to your garden beds. First, lay twigs or straw a few inches deep. This improves drainage and aerates the pile. Layer compost materials, alternating between “greens” and “browns.” Greens include things like fresh grass clippings, plant scraps, coffee grounds and fruit and veggie scraps. Browns include dead leaves, dry grass, eggshells, shredded newspaper and cardboard. Aim for a ratio of one part greens to two parts browns. This will allow you to achieve the perfect balance of carbon and nitrogen.
Keep your compost moist. Water every once in a while; or if you have sufficient rainfall, let it do the work. You may also want to cover the pile. Covering helps compost keep moisture and heat, and both are critical. Covering also keeps rain from over-watering the compost. The compost should be wet but not saturated.
Turn the mound with a pitchfork or shovel every few weeks. This helps to aerate the material. This is crucial because the process requires oxygen to function. Turning incorporates new oxygen into the deeper layers of the compost pile. If you have a ready supply of coarse material, such as straw, you can omit this step. After you’ve constructed your compost pile, mix in new items rather than piling them in layers. You can even purchase a rotating composter if you’d rather. These make it even easier to mix your compost regularly.
Remember that if you’re having any issues with odor coming from your compost bin, there are ways to solve the problem. Don’t put meat or bones into the composter. Always add a layer of dry grass or mulch over new additions to the bin. You can also add odor-eliminating lime or calcium into your mixture to help neutralize the smell. Once you achieve a good balance, odor shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Learn How to Spot Sustainable Products When Shopping for Food and Essentials
Making your kitchen more sustainable doesn’t have to end with the suggestions above. You can also practice sustainability when shopping for the food you’ll prepare and eat in your kitchen. Most people understand the importance of preserving the environment, and the worldwide movement to reduce environmental harm is ever-growing. Unfortunately, this also means that corporations are capitalizing on the public’s desire to do better by using tactics that may lead consumers to believe their products are sustainable when they really aren’t. With all this marketing mastery, how can you spot a sustainable product?
Determine How Products Are Sourced
When grocery shopping, check out how the product is sourced. Most sustainable businesses will have this info on their packaging or website because they’re proud of it. Look for seafood that’s wild-caught with low bycatch rates. Make sure livestock was raised ethically and not factory-farmed. Look for free-range meat and eggs from farms that feed their animals healthy diets. Finally, seek out produce with pesticide-free labels to ensure no harmful chemicals were used in the growing and harvesting of your food.
Learn to Understand Food Labels
Labels and certifications can also be confusing for the average person. There are three important labels when looking for sustainable products. “USDA Organic” labels mean they meet the federal USDA qualifications for growing and processing foods. These standards address factors such as soil quality, animal raising practices, pest control, weed control and use of additives. “Fair Trade Certified” labels mean the producer provides fair pay and safe working conditions to their employees. “Demeter Certified” labels refer to products that meet the Demeter Farm Standards when it comes to the treatment of animals, soil quality and water conservation.
Pay Attention to Packaging
Next, you can check products for sustainable packaging. Plastics are difficult to recycle and often contain harmful chemicals. Recyclable packaging, like paper or materials that can be repurposed, is gaining popularity in many industries. Some brands even make use of compostable packaging that can be put right into a compost bin. A few even have products that are completely packaging-free.Shop All of Our Quality Food & Drinkware
Consider Community Involvement
When researching a product or company’s sustainability, it can really help to take a look at the company’s involvement with the community. Many sustainable brands have initiatives beyond sheer profit and make meaningful efforts within the community. Find out if they donate to any nonprofits or participate in any causes that improve the world around them.
If you’re on the spot and wondering if the product in your hand is sustainable, there are a few warning signs to watch for. Though not a guarantee that the product isn’t sustainable, these red flags might indicate a company is trying to mislead you into believing they are. If a product uses vague language like “green,” “eco” or “natural,” you may want to find out if the product truly is eco-friendly or if the marketing team simply added a buzzword to the packaging.
Certain imagery can also subconsciously trigger a sense of environmentalism when looking at product packaging. Just because the box has a cartoon Earth on it does not mean it’s great for the environment. Last, check the ingredients. If the product contains harmful ingredients like parabens or synthetic ingredients, it likely isn’t sustainable.
There’s a lot to take into consideration when you’re making the decision to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Changing things up in your household isn’t as difficult as it sounds, though. Making small, simple changes, like investing in reusable food and beverage containers from W&P, and you’ll find easing into a new lifestyle fairly simple. Start by choosing some of the items from this list that you feel will be easy to integrate into your home and go from there. You’ll be lowering your carbon footprint in no time.