Here are 10 simple things you can do in your day to day life to help our beautiful earth. Adopt as many or few as you can – every little bit helps! If you’re trying to work yourself into a greener way of living, try picking one or two to start this week, and consider adding on more every month or two.
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Buy or make reusable grocery bags and keep them somewhere you’ll remember to use them. I keep some small bags in my purse and larger bags in my car. Some people have found it works well to store the bags near the front door, or over the door knob.
Buy used instead of new. Manufacturing new products use a lot of resources including water and electricity, so when you are able to purchase an item used, you not only saved money but also helped save the planet! Use your discretion – obviously there are some things that could pose a health risk or it’s just not right for you to purchase used. Some examples of used items I have purchased include: clothing, wood furniture, mason jars, handmade blankets.
Repair instead of replace. Learn simple sewing to mend a tear or sew a button back on a shirt. Search youtube.com for videos to repair broken household items. If you can’t do the repair yourself, consider bartering with a friend or hiring someone. There are often inexpensive fixes that both save you money and keep your items out of the landfill.
Conserve resources at home: turn off lights when you leave the room or don’t need them. Turn off water when you’re brushing your teeth. Take shorter showers and/or use a water flow restrictor to reduce water flow when lathering shampoo in your hair, soaping up, etc.
Avoid single use products. Water bottles. Plastic utensils. Paper plates. Paper towels. Commit a few more minutes (often as short as seconds) to your day cleaning, and use reusable products.
Purchase quality products. Consider value of a product, not just price. Purchase items that will last. You’ll help the planet by keeping products out of the landfill longer, and by reducing the need for more items to be manufactured. Plus you’re saving yourself money in the long run.
Donate good condition items that you no longer want or need. Keep these unwanted items out of landfills! If you look around donation collection organizations in your area, you’ll likely find that items from wearable clothing and furniture to torn towels and excess holiday decor can be donated!
Recycle. When can’t avoid buying products in packaging or the endless junk mail, be sure to recycle the recyclable items! Check with your town or state to identify what can be recycled and how to recycle items.
Compost. Much of Americans’ household garbage that ends up in the landfill is food waste. Check if your town has a compost program, or start your own compost pile for your fruit and veggie kitchen scraps. Read here for more information about what can and cannot be composted in a backyard compost pile or bin.
I love finding products that are better for me, and better for the environment. I like cooking, I like making my own food. And I want to make sure when I am cooking, storing, and heating my food, I am not adding chemicals to my food. I also try to reduce or eliminate waste – especially plastic (which, once created, never biodegrades). I’ve also found that replacing single use, disposable, and limited use products with reusable products, I save money in the long run. Here are 6 of my favorite products, what they replace, an why I love them!
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1. Silicone Lids: I love these! They’re a fantastic reusable replacement for plastic wrap. I usually soak my grains overnight before cooking to reduce phytic acid content, and it’s so easy to just toss one of the flat lids over a bowl and I’m done! No struggling to get the plastic wrap to stick, nothing to throw away when I am done. It’s great for quickly packing up leftovers, too. I just stretch the covers over a bowl or place a flat cover on top. These form an airtight seal, keeping my food fresh longer.
2. Mason Jars: Anyone who has seen my fridge, or my lunches at work, knows I am obsessed with mason jars. They are so versatile, great for food storage, and very inexpensive compared to products that serve a similar purpose. While is seems the consensus is that microwaving food in plastic is not in fact dangerous, I still prefer glass. Glass is non-reactive so I have complete confidence that it cannot in any way contaminate my food. Plus, it doesn’t stain like plastic. And it is VERY difficult to break mason jars. I have dropped several from the top shelf of my freezer. The lids may get dinged (not a problem – they’re recyclable and very inexpensive to replace) and I may think I have broken a toe, but the glass has never been damaged. The only way I have managed to break a mason jar was by pouring boiling water into a jar to sterilize it (we all know from reading warnings on pyrex bakeware that thermal shock can break glass; this is why you should sterilize jars by placing in room temperature or cold water in a pot, placing on the stove and heating, so the glass heats evenly). The pint (2 cup) mason jars are a great size for packing my homemade meals for lunch, chopped raw veggies for snacking, or cut fruit. The half pint (1 cup) jars are a great size for yogurt and other snacks. At roughly $12/dozen (I can often get them cheaper) – $1 each or less, I have yet to find a less expensive non-plastic option. And these last so much longer than plastic food containers!
3. Ceramic nonstick skillets: The most environmentally friendly cookware I have found are solid cast iron. The heavy pans heat evenly. Cast iron pans can last for generations if cared for properly, and when (if) they reach the end of their lives, iron is recyclable. However, I have never been able to cook food to my satisfaction on cast iron. Despite purchasing pre-seasoned pans, then seasoning some more just to make sure, EVERYTHING I cooked stuck, so I felt like I wasted a lot of food, then I had to clean off all the stuck food. I was determined to find a more Diana-friendly pan. I have a couple stainless steel pans, but need to use a lot of oil to prevent sticking. This works well for some meals, but I don’t always want a lot of oil. After much research, I found aluminum pans with ceramic nonstick coating. The ceramic won’t peel or scratch off like teflon can, so my food is safer. Sadly, the pans I found all have plastic handles. I have the 12.5″, 11.5″, and 9.25″ Farberware ceramic nonstick skillets, and I love them. Just make sure you don’t expose them to heat higher than medium, and they will stay nonstick. I can easily cook eggs, brown onions or my “veggie chicken,” and stir fry. Bonus: the pan cleans up SUPER easily!
My friend over at PharmaFarm has an excellent, informative post about cast iron. I recommend you check that out to help you determine which type of skillet would be best for you.
4. Bamboo cutting boards: Wood or bamboo cutting boards are the best for so many reasons! It’s the best material for your knives – its softer than your knife blade so the wood/bamboo always gets cut by the knife, never the cutting board damaging your knife (avoid glass and ceramic cutting boards – they might be nice for presentation but they can dull your knife blade); wood/bamboo is naturally antibacterial so it’s the safest for preventing illness; it’s made from a renewable resource and is completely biodegradable; and extra props for bamboo: its the fastest growing wood (ok, technically it is grass), doesn’t need a lot of space (look at a bamboo forest – the bamboo grow happily and healthily a lot closer to each other than trees can) making it an extra great resource to use to make our products. If you do opt to use bamboo or wood cutting boards, you will need to care for them by seasoning with oil. I recommend mineral oil – it will not go rancid, and it’s not a common allergen. I oil my cutting boards with mineral oil until they are well seasoned, then I do a final coat with a beeswax-mineral oil paste. This seals in the mineral oil seasoning and cuts down on the frequency that reapplication of oil is necessary. Mineral oil is sold as a laxative – you should be able to find it at a local drugstore or Walmart.
5. Silicone making mat: Years ago I discovered that parchment paper makes clean up from baking so much faster. No more scrubbing tiny bits of burned on cookie fragments from my pans. The cookies peel right off, the cookie sheet stays clean. But the part I never liked was tossing the parchment paper in the trash. I looked into composting parchment paper but the consensus is that there are components added to the parchment paper that affect its compostability. This article does a good job of summarizing what I found. I searched for something else that meets the same need, without the waste. I found silicone baking mats and loved them. Cookies come off easily, and the remaining cookie dough comes off the mat even easier, with just water and a gentle scrub with a sponge or brush. I use this mat for my 14″ x 16″ cookie sheets (I just cut it down to size), and these for my rimmed cookie sheets. I also use these silicone mats instead of aluminum foil in a rimmed cookie sheet for roasting veggies. After roasting, I soak the mat in a little water then scrub off any burned bits. I also use these baking mats to line my dehydrator wire racks. Not only do these silicone baking mats help me cut down waste produced from my cooking and baking, but they also save money since they are reusable for a very long time (my oldest baking mat is over 10 years old, used at least monthly and typically more often, and it still works as good as the day I bought it.
6. Silicone cupcake pan/Silicone cupcake liners: Similar to the silicone baking mat, silicone baking pans and liners eliminate the need to use disposable cupcake liners while still looking nice and presentable (when I am just cooking for myself, I often just grease/grease and flour directly in a metal baking pan). I also use my silicone cupcake pan for a lot more than cupcakes and muffins. I like to make mini tortilla wrap or pita bread pizzas in the cupcake pan, and I’ve use it to make mini baked omelettes.
Do you have any favorite earth friendly/reusable kitchen products?