So you’ve already got yourself a reusable silicone straw or two and you recycle and compost to the best of your ability, but you’d like to make your kitchen even ecofriendlier — which isn’t always easy. “It’s not always possible to make the choices you prefer to make due to constraints like time and money,” says Micaela Preston of the natural-living blog Mindful Momma. “My philosophy is to help people understand the small choices they can make, and that any choice they make is a good choice.” Avoiding plastic wrap and paper waste is a great place to start. Plus, as Preston notes, these items are durable, attractive, and nicer to use than disposable products. To find out other simple ways to achieve a more sustainable kitchen, we turned to Preston and other experts who make it their business to live as sustainably as possible.
Best alternatives to paper towels
Instead of onetime-use paper towels, Preston opts for reusable cloth towels. Try this set of 100 percent bamboo towels that are durable and fast-drying.
Best alternatives to plastic wrap
Plastic wrap is a workhorse of a product in any kitchen, but if you’re trying to cut out plastic, you’ll want to find a more sustainable option. Preston’s choice is this set of reusable bowl covers that are made from food-safe laminated cotton. They have elasticized edges that allow each cover to fit snugly around a bowl and can be wiped down or laundered.
For those looking for a microwave-safe bowl cover, Preston recommends one made out of silicone. “Silicone is inert, so you don’t have to worry about leaching. It’ll keep the splatters from coming up and keep heat in there, too.”
Ali Rosen, author of potluck cookbook Bring It!: Tried and True Recipes for Potlucks and Casual Entertaining (who recently shared her favorite picnic accessories with the Strat) also loves beeswax paper. “For me, it is the gold standard to start with when you are trying to be greener in the kitchen,” she says.
Another super-basic solution for avoiding plastic bags is to keep a set of flour-sack dish towels in your kitchen, Preston suggests. “I use them to wrap up bread, cover bowls with them for short periods of time, and I use them to cover my kombucha while it ferments,” she says. “They’re lightweight and breathable.”
Best alternative to Ziploc bags
Preston’s favorite alternative to plastic storage bags are these reusable silicone bags by Stasher. Billed as “the world’s first fully functional, self-sealing, non-plastic bag,” Stasher bags come in a variety of sizes and are airtight, can be put in the freezer and microwave — and even in boiling water for sous-vide cooking.
Strat contributor Alison Freer also swears by reusable food bags, specifically Rezip’s stand-up, leakproof, zipper-top bags made from FDA-grade PEVA material, which are “the closest thing I’ve found to the classic disposable zipper-lock storage bag,” according to Freer.
Best nonplastic food-storage containers
Glass food-storage containers are pretty obvious, says Preston, but these by Frego are fun and come with added cushioning. With a double-seal silicone lid and a silicone sleeve for protection and insulation, they are BPA-free and are freezer-, microwave-, oven-, and dishwasher-safe.
Bea Johnson, a pioneer of the zero-waste lifestyle and author of the book Zero Waste Home, favors French canning jars by Le Parfait for all of her food-storage needs. Not only do the lids stay attached (preventing a drawerful of mismatched tops), the jars can be refrigerated, put in the freezer, used for bulk goods in the pantry, taken to the store when grocery shopping, and even used to store trash. It has eliminated the use of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, wax paper, and Ziploc bags from her home.
Lauren Singer, who is behind the blog Trash Is for Tossers and a follower of zero-waste living in New York City, stands behind the humble Mason jar for a number of purposes, including food storage and grocery shopping. She recommends bringing them along to the farmers’ market or the store, where you can buy grains, nuts, and other items in bulk, a.k.a., without any packaging. (If you buy through her Package Free Shop, you can rest assured that the packaging will come with no plastic.)
Stainless-steel containers came up as a favorite among our ecoconscious experts. “I lived in India for a while, and this is the staple item everyone uses for lunch,” says Rosen. “I like this one because it doesn’t leak, is good for the dishwasher, and is made from great materials.” Singer also prefers stainless-steel containers, especially for storing meat and fish.
Best reusable produce bags
For grocery shopping, Singer also recommends reusable cotton produce bags, which can be netted or not, come in a variety of sizes, and can be used for just about anything. The Vejibag was also the top choice for writer Mattie Kahn; she calls it “the best piece of cotton cloth I have ever spent money on.” Just wet it, throw in some fresh produce, then toss the whole thing in the crisper drawer, and voilà, enjoy unwilted greens for much longer than if they were kept in a plastic bag.
Environmental-lifestyle expert Danny Seo, of Naturally, Danny Seo, also loves cotton produce bags. “My biggest pet peeve is plastic bags,” he says. “These bags I found on Amazon have been a game changer. They’re breathable, lightweight, all-natural, and hold everything from loose lettuce to lemons. I love not using any plastic at the store to get my groceries.”
Best reusable shopping bags
Preston likes Esse’s reusable shopping totes, which come with pockets that are great for storing your cotton produce bags.
Best reusable beverage containers
Laurel Miller, editor of Edible Aspen and the blog the Sustainable Kitchen, goes out of her way to avoid convenience trash like plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups, which is why she turns to YETI insulated beverage containers for hot drinks, cocktails while camping, and everything in between. “They’re indestructible, and for someone like me, who travels a lot and is active, I’ll just clip one of those to my backpack with a carabiner or toss it in my bag, so I don’t have to rely on plastic and paper containers.”
The same goes for her Klean Kanteen water bottle. “I’m never without my Klean Canteen, either,” Miller says. “I even travel overseas with it and decant bottled water, if that’s a necessity, into it and cut down on plastic by only buying gallon jugs or larger.”
Best ecofriendly dish soap
“There’s so much talk about pollutants going down the drain and how to prevent everything from microplastics to petroleum-based surfactants from getting into waterways,” says Seo. “There are a lot of ‘green’ dish-washing soaps out there, but many of them need twice as much soap to get greasy pots and pans clean. I like the Mrs. Meyer’s brand because there’s a lot of chemistry behind their formulations. And their motto is simple: Basically, if it goes down the drain, it’s biodegradable.”
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