Are you guys ready for this? We’re speeding up a bit…we eased in the with the bathroom, the bedroom was pretty mellow, dealing mostly with purchasing decisions with a little sexy spice thrown in the form of eco-friendly sex toys, but now? NOW it gets real.
So much waste happens in the kitchen, phasing things out is one of the big focuses this week. Don’t stress, it’s going to be good!
What To Phase Out: Take a deep breath – and then wrap your mind around eliminating basically all disposable storage solutions. This means zip top bags, plastic wrap, and throw away tupperware containers. If this seems impossible remember that plastic wrap has been around for just fifty years – there were ways to keep food fresh before then! Don’t feel like you have to rampage through your cupboards and throw everything out right away, but do commit to not purchasing any more after your current stash has run out, and use this time to gently segue into exploring alternatives for food storage. Ditto to paper towels, keep the roll you have, and pledge to never buy it again.
What To Bring In: Sub in a beeswax wrap like Abeego for plastic wrap. I LOVE these. I use them to wrap cheese and cover bowls, tote sandwiches and keep cut vegetables fresh. The fact that they’re the brainchild of a Canadian woman and absolutely adorable doesn’t hurt either. Use them until they wear out (I usually get a year or so out of mine before I feel like they need replacing) and then chuck them in the compost pile.
-Buy (or make!) a few zippered fabric pouches instead of ziptop bags. I use these for Olive’s snacks on the go. I’ve typically got a big one filled with mixed nuts, and a small one filled with cut up fruit. Rinse them as needed, or throw them in the washing machine.
-Do not feel like you need to throw out your plastic containers – you’ve got ’em, might as well use them! But as they break or get lost, replace them with glass instead. I prefer glass because you can easily heat up leftovers directly in the container, and they’re a little pricier so when I leave something for waaaaay too long in the fridge I’m more likely to dig it out and wash the container instead of throwing the whole thing in the garbage. Slowly making this transition will ease the financial cost of the containers, too.
– Don’t just recycle old jars! I keep a horde of these on hands at all times and use them for everything – travel coffee mugs, to freeze soups and smoothies, vases for lilacs and other purloined flowers, and of course, to store my various skincare concoctions. Rinse and keep your jars and use them instead of buying new.
– I haven’t bought paper towels for about five years now, and the only time I miss it is when I cook bacon for my father-in-law (father-out-law? What is the terminology here??). For everything else I use kitchen rags or tea towels – and if I could do it with a gross English Mastiff and a chaotic toddler, you can, too! I wash tea towels and kitchen cloths separately on hot, just to be sure they’re getting clean each time.
Recipes: This might be the recipe you use most from this whole series, it’s my favourite all-purpose cleaner. Since having Olive, I find that I tend to make less usage-specific products (floor spray, toilet bowl cleaner, tub scrub etc.) and often end up using this for everything. It’s fantastic.
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap
1 Tbsp Borax
Fill your spray bottle about 3/4 full with hot water, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Gently shake/swirl until the borax is dissolved, and you’re good to go! You can add 10-15 drops of tea tree essential oil if you’d like to boost the antibacterial properties of the spray. Use it anywhere! I find it helpful to tape the recipe to the back of the bottle so it’s easy to mix up a new batch when you run out.
Extra Credit: Composting! I really wish that this was more of a kitchen basic rather than extra credit, but I know it’s tough to get started. Here’s what I want you to do, commit to buying (or building) a compost bin in the next week or two. Your kitchen waste will be instantly reduced by up to 50%, your garbage will smell less, you’ll use less trash bags, and after a year or two, you’ll be able to harvest rich black soil that you helped create from your old banana peels and coffee grounds! This is a great beginners guide provided by the Suzuki Foundation, feel free to print it out and keep it in your kitchen for easy reference.
If you’re in an apartment or condo, just think about vermicomposting. Yes – worrrrrms! I did this for a yer or two when I lived in Squamish, BC, because bears would regularly stroll through my backyard so keeping a nice buffet of kitchen scraps out there was inadvisable. I loved it! The worms don’t smell, you don’t even have to think about them aside from the five seconds when you open the container lid to dump your waste in, and once a year you harvest the soil, which is a really fun project for kids to get in on. This is a great resource for anyone ballsy enough to take on this challenge.
P.S. If you’re not a gardener, and this is deterring you from composting (as in, what am I going to do with all of this “black gold” I’m creating?) Don’t give it a second thought. Putting up an ad on Craigslist for free compost will have you inundated with eager recipients.
Past posts in the Green House series:
Next Week: The Living Room!
If you want to read about my adventures in vermicomposting, smelling like a stir-fry, or alienating friends and family by become a diehard hippie, check out my book All You Need Is Less in your library, locally-owned bookstore, on Kindle/iTunes or here.