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How to be Eco-Friendly in the Kitchen

Looking to become more eco-friendly? The kitchen is a fantastic place to start!

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How to be Eco-Friendly in the Kitchen

Looking to become more eco-friendly? The kitchen is a fantastic place to start! After all, we spend so much time choosing, preparing, and eating meals. Consider taking a bit of time to do a quick inventory (spring cleaning, anyone?) and create a sustainable plan going forward. Here’s how to go eco-friendly and low waste in the kitchen.

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Food storage

How you store your food matters. Keeping food as fresh as you can helps in the fight against food waste, which is good news for the planet (and your wallet).

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Food wraps

Step aside, single-use plastic wrap. There are so many amazing alternatives that can be washed and reused over and over again. Opt for wax wraps (such as those made from beeswax or vegan wax) or cloth bowl covers. Feeling crafty? Look into making your own. Or, the simplest option: simply cover with a bowl or a plate turned upside down.

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Food storage containers

What’s the most eco-friendly product? The one you already have, of course. To ensure that your products are bisphenol A (BPA) free, make sure they don’t say “polycarbonate” or “#7 plastic” on them, or choose glass or stainless steel containers.

Although many companies have stopped using BPA in their plastic products, it’s possible that newer products might contain BPA alternatives such as bisphenol S (BPS). More research needs to be done, but recent studies suggest that BPS causes hormonal effects just like BPA does, and there is a possibility that BPS might be even worse than BPA.

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Baby and kid products

Options abound when it comes to products for our little ones, including kids’ utensils and baby bottles. Glass or stainless steel remain popular and timeless choices for those wanting to avoid bisphenols.

Silicone products are also popping up everywhere. Kids love that silicone is colourful and parents love that it’s durable and easy to clean. This synthetic rubberlike material is thought to be safe, as long as you choose high quality food-grade silicone and follow the item’s instructions. Although silicone is wonderfully reusable, it does not biodegrade and cannot easily be recycled.

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Food packaging

Before you head out on your next grocery trip, keep these tips and suggestions in mind as you shop.

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Cans

The good news: cans are commonly recyclable. The bad news: canned goods may have a lining that includes BPA (or its substitutes). To find products that are free from bisphenols, read the product’s packaging, look up the company online, or contact the company directly.

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Glass

Although glass is nontoxic and technically recyclable, it is sometimes not accepted by curbside recycling programs. Check out your municipality’s rules to find out how glass is disposed of in your community. You may also be able to find some great companies that offer a takeback program for their glass packaging, wherein they sterilize and reuse the glass over again.

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Plastic

Packaging made from plastic differs widely, so it’s important to check your community’s recycling rules to see what is accepted. As a general rule #1, #2, and #5 plastic is more recyclable, whereas #3, #4, #6, and #7 plastic is less commonly recycled. Of course, reducing is even better than recycling!

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No packaging at all?

Even better! Shopping at refill stores or in bulk sections with your own containers can help reduce packaging waste. Many shoppers use lightweight bags at the store and then transfer the food to their own containers at home.

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Gear and gadgets

Whether you’re a kitchen minimalist or you have every gadget under the sun, the objects you use can be a conscious choice based on practicality, health, and sustainability.

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Pots and pans

Concerned about nonstick coatings on cookware? The issue is complicated. Research shows that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts might be carcinogenic based on animal studies; however, this doesn’t necessarily translate to humans and doesn’t mean there is a risk of exposure from using nonstick cookware. That said, PFOA is persistent in the environment, and its use is being phased out.

Nonstick cookware can be prone to damage unless treated very gently. From a waste perspective, investing in cookware that will last for a very long time is key. Stainless steel and cast iron are examples of cookware that can last for many years.

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Coffee makers

Making coffee at home can save money but often creates waste. To avoid unnecessary plastic pollution, steer clear of single-use coffee pods. Instead, consider a low-waste option, such as a pour-over (you can even use reusable filters), French press, or stovetop percolator. Don’t forget the organic, fair trade coffee!

10 quick ways to be eco-friendly in the kitchen

  1. Compost your food waste.
  2. Save veggie scraps to make into delicious homemade broth.
  3. Plan your meals ahead to reduce food waste.
  4. Use wax food wraps or cloth bowl covers rather than plastic wrap.
  5. Shop the bulk section with your own containers.
  6. Choose “ugly” produce that otherwise won’t be purchased.
  7. Ask for no plastic cutlery when ordering takeout.
  8. Regrow veggies (such as green onions).
  9. Use cloths rather than paper towel.
  10. Drink tap water when safe to do so.

Tea bags made out of plastic can release billions of tiny particles of plastic into the tea we drink. To avoid microplastic in your tea, try bulk tea steeped in a stainless steel tea strainer, or opt for plastic-free tea bags.

Can you reuse plastic?

You bet! But do so with caution, as plastic can be sensitive to its environment. If “stressed,” plastic may leach chemicals that have estrogenic activity. For that reason, you may wish to avoid microwaving plastic or otherwise heating it. Plastic that has become discoloured or damaged should not be used.

Eco food?

Of course, there’s no such thing as one “ideal” diet for everyone, as diets depend on one’s culture and religion, dietary restrictions and allergies, and personal preferences—among other factors. That said, there are some ways in which we can try to make our diets eco-friendlier, such as the following (generalized) tips:

  • eating more plant-based foods more often
  • limiting sugar consumption
  • opting for local, in-season food
  • choosing foods grown using regenerative agriculture practices

Want to store your food in glass? Rather than buying fancy new containers, consider cleaning out the jars you already have—including glass pasta sauce or applesauce jars—and putting them to good use. It’ll make your pantry beautiful, too!

If you have extra glass jars, you may be able to clean them and donate them to your local refill store, where they will be sterilized and used for future customers.

No longer want your slow cooker or rice maker? If there’s something you no longer use, a very sustainable choice is to pass it along to a friend or neighbour who will use it.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of alive with the title "Your guide to an eco-friendly kitchen."

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