Habits are hard to break, we keep buying the same products over and over because it is easy, we know where to get them, we are happy with the brand; it is an automatic decision. When it comes to trying to live a greener life and minimise our waste, it is a lot about questioning those habits, making a decision to change them and be willing to try something different.
If you are like me, you spend a lot of time in your kitchen. This is by far the most visited space in my house. It is not only the place for cooking and eating, it is our hub. For that reason, earlier in my journey, this was an excellent place to start checking some of these habits. Today, I am sharing my experience swapping some products in my kitchen.
Around 5 years ago, when I started to wake up more to the plastic pollution problem, this was one of the first products I stopped using and buying. I realised that I used it out of habit because I could easily cover my food with other reusable items.
Cling film can be made out of different formulas (including PVC) and depending on that, it could be recycled as soft plastic, however because it is hard to distinguish which one is recyclable, some companies like RedCycle here in Australia, recently stopped accepting this material, so it has to go to landfill.
Also there are so many concerns about wrapping food in plastic, especially if it involves some heat. According to this article from “Daily Mail”:
“Even Cancer Research UK, which has so far been sceptical, is now warning that cling film should not be allowed to touch the food it is covering during microwaving”.
So, no thanks, even if it is used for food at cold/room temperature, I prefer keeping food away from cling paper – at least what I can control.
Alternatives? To cover food in the fridge I use a lid, a plate or a container with a lid. These days you can also find reusable food wraps like Beeswax/Wax wraps, they work exactly the same as cling film, but you wash them in cold water and reuse them. I bought mine around 4 or 5 years ago and they are still ok. I don’t use them every single week, so they have lasted a long time.
Majority of conventional sponges, brushes and even wipes are made of plastic and other synthetic materials, which means that they have to go to landfill and they will remain in there for years.
These days there are many alternatives to choose from, if you want to avoid all that waste. My initial attempt to move away from the conventional stuff were two long-lasting reusable sponges. They are very durable, I still have them. I have used them for 4 or even 5 years (but they look a bit shabby). These are better than regular cheap sponges, because they last way more, but they are made of synthetic materials too, so it is not the ideal solution.
Currently my dish-washing tools are a wooden/natural bristles brush, a coconut fibre scrub pad and some cotton knitted sponges. All of these items are compostable, so they won’t linger in the environment. I also have a regular metal scrubber for heavy-duty special cases.
For cleaning the kitchen, I use old rags and cotton reusable wipes.
Another change that I have been doing slowly over the years is getting rid of plastic utensils. They are reusable, and that’s fine, but after all I have learned about plastic and its toxins, the idea of using plastic when cooking at high temperatures, no longer seems very appealing to me.
The reason why I still have some of them is because they are in good condition, so I am using them away from heat and less often. Most of the “new” utensils I now have, came from opp-shops. I have been buying stainless steel and wooden utensils.
Ironically I still have many of these bags. When I stopped buying them, I had at least 4 boxes of bags in different sizes, so I just kept them in the cabinets for trips or similar. Today I don’t use them in the kitchen, but when my mum is around, she can’t avoid them. At least she washes them and reuse them many times until they have holes, but it is hard to make her change that habit, so I let it go.
When I stopped using these bags several years ago, I bought some silicone bags to help me with the transition. I must admit they are not the perfect solution, as these products are hard to recycle afterwards, and their production and silicon extraction seem to come with other set of environmental issues, but they work well and I can confirm they are durable – we have used them for at least 5 years and they are like brand new.
The other replacement for these plastic bags are just reusable containers and glass jars from sauces and other products you buy. If you are interested in making this switch, my suggestion would be to hide your zip bags away, and force yourself to use other containers to freeze your food. Check this article from the Zero Wast Chef about freezing without plastic for more information.
Serviettes/napkins & paper towels
I wrote a bit about this one on my post about ways to reduce our paper consumption. I procrastinated this change for a long time, in my mind I always thought it would be so hard not to have paper towels in the kitchen. Until one day I had enough and I decided to give it a go…. Seriously I haven’t missed them at all.
I replaced paper towels for rags. Basically I grabbed some old towels, cut them into small/medium squares and that was it. Later, we bought a sewing machine, and my mum sewed the edges, but for several years I used them without that last nice touch.
I use these rags mainly when I have some accidents and spills in the kitchen. I store them in the jar, so they don’t have to look pretty.
Serviettes (or napkins) replaced for cloth ones. In many restaurants these days, they give you this type of napkins, so it is not that different to use them at home. I bought around the dozen, and use them and change them as needed, usually after a couple of days because they are big and remain quite clean.
When these items are dirty, I let them dry and store them in a bucket in the laundry with tea towels, produce bags and similar reusable cloth products. When I have sufficient pieces, I just use a short washing machine cycle to clean them, easy!
“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” –
That’s it for today. Let me know in the comments below, have you tried any of these simple swaps? if not, which one are you willing to try soon?
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Thanks for reading,