Your Guide to a Greener Kitchen

Your Guide to a Greener Kitchen

Recently we celebrated our 45th world wide Earth Day in support of environmental awareness. Each year we celebrate the earth with community involved events and activities that last up to one week. It’s great that people come together and organize for beach clean ups and tree planting for a day of service, but what happens to that love for the planet when the day/week comes to an end? Earth Day should be a celebration of changes we have made to better the environment year round, not just one day of getting our hands dirty until it comes around again 365 days later. The question is, what small changes can we as individuals make in our daily lives to show our dedication to taking care of our precious planet?

There are so many ways to get involved and go green that it can sometimes seem daunting and financially draining. Purchasing a Prius or researching and installing solar panels and attics fans can feel like a huge commitment, but in reality you don’t have to think large scale lifestyle changes to make an impact. You can start with small changes, like putting in LED bulbs in all your lighting tracks. They can be more expensive but they are guaranteed to last longer, which really is a win-win.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, we suggest starting small and choosing one room in your house to make changes in. This week we have selected the kitchen as a starting point for going green and have included some tips, options and information to help get you started.

Start a compost bin

Perhaps as a child you remember your teachers leading the class outside to the compost bin full of worms, apple cores, orange and banana peels, and a whole ton of dirt. But did it ever really resonate in our adolescence what the importance and purpose of this dirt filled bin was? We now know as adults that compost bins have multiple uses and benefits including decreasing trash waste and acting as a natural fertilizer for home gardens and backyards. In fact, research has shown that using a compost bin can decrease trash output by upwards of 30%, which is pretty amazing! It’s so effective and easy to compost, you really should consider using one at home to dispose of all natural waste.

So how does one start a compost bin? It is actually fairly easy and can be quite fun getting your hands a little dirty. There are different ways to start a compost bin, but the easiest method is to find a large rubber trash can and to drill holes in the bottom. This will allow worms and other bugs and organisms to access your bin and aerate the mixture. You can then begin adding and layering items with high amounts of carbon and nitrogen such as eggs shells, coffee grounds, fruit peels, shredded paper, dryer lint, leaves, etc. Make sure to research the items you are putting into your bin to avoid adding harmful things that will not break down as easily (like glossy paper), and measuring proper amounts to keep the gas levels balanced. Add a nitrous compound like green manure to start the process and move it along faster.

Once you have started your compost bin, cover it and check in on the moisture levels regularly. Keep it moist but do not saturate it with water. Turn the pile every few weeks with a shovel to add oxygen until the mixture has broken down into a nice looking soil. Once your bin has become established, you can continue to add organic waste materials and skip the household garbage.

Swap Tupperware to non plastic

If you are looking for a way to store food without exposing last night’s leftovers or tomorrow’s lunch to harmful BPAs, then consider some of the best new and revamped classic storage containers currently on the market.

Steel containers are a great alternative to plastic because their physical and chemical structures don’t break down over time and they don’t absorb food odors or flavors. If you are comfortable with a metal lunch box, OM Goods has a set of Indian style tiffin lunch containers that are dishwasher safe and stackable for easy portability. They come in tiers of 2, 3 and 4, and sell for $12-$20.

Another option along those same lines is the Indonesian style of stackable containers called rangtangs.  Jenggala Keramik Bali is a company that makes rangtangs from recycled teak wood and ceramic. They have a beautiful rounded body and sit perfectly on top of each other in a wooden carrier complete with handle. Jenggala’s rangtangs sell for about $40 and are definitely worth the splurge.

If you are keeping food at home in the fridge and not for travel, then switch to glass containers. Most of these options today come with rubber lids for a better seal. Even though they tend to be heavier and more fragile, they don’t discolor or leech nutrients from the food within them, making the switch away from plastic manageable and ideal. Glass containers have been around for quite some time so you should have no trouble finding them online and in most kitchen and home stores.

Plastic bag alternatives

If taking plastic containers of food to work is not your only method for bringing daytime snacks, then you are probably guilty of using plastic bags and throwing them away after one or two uses. If you have ever wondered if there is a more ecologically friendly way of packing your sandwich, or storing your dry goods from the grocery store bulk bins, the answer is yes.

For a biodegradable option, try BioBag’s resealable sandwich bags. They are made from the starches of non GMO produce and can be safely added to your compost bin. BioBag also carries other plastic replacing items like compostable cling wrap and trash bags. It’s a great alternative for keeping food fresh and transporting the day’s lunch. Interested parties can purchase these products on BioBag’s website and as well.

If you are looking for an item that is geared more towards multi-use over a longer period of time, then look into the origami cloth food sacks from Molly de Vries of Mill Valley, California. She has created a furoshiki-style cloth bag for carrying bulk and produce items that can hold up to 6lbs. These neat, carefully crafted cloth designs are made from unused local cloth that has been repurposed to replace the use of plastic bags at the grocery store and are great for farmers market outings.  You can find a range of small to large bags on her etsy site and at local Bay Area farmers markets.

The tips and suggestions above are a good start for those looking to evolve their homes into a more earth friendly environment. Of course there are many changes that can be made all over the house to improve its ecological impacts, but start small and where you are comfortable if this is all new to you.

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