By Kristina Strain |

For many families, the kitchen is the center of home life. It’s where the most decisions are made, time is spent, and the most meaningful interactions take place. If you’re someone who’s recently begun living more sustainably, or if you’re itching to start, why not begin with the kitchen? This guide will show you seven simple things that will make your kitchen a greener, more enjoyable place to be.

The guiding principle behind most of the tips you’re about to read is this: consuming has environmental costs. Everything, from manufacturing to packaging to shipping, costs resources and makes waste. One way to bring this idea into your everyday shopping habits is to consider an item’s “life cycle” before you plunk down your bucks. Ask yourself, is this item disposable? Is its entire useful life over in two minutes of wiping up a spill — in the case of paper towels — or will it continue to serve its purpose for decades — like a cast-iron pot. Bringing yourself into that mindset is probably the best overall thing you can do for the planet, right now. For the rest, break your kitchen habits into small, manageable steps with these seven basic tips.

1. Bag the bags. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this one, from reusing plastic zip baggies (check out our tutorial for making a plastic bag dryer), to keeping plastic bags out of your kitchen to start with by sewing your own cloth bags. Plastic bags are darn convenient things (let’s be honest), but they’re also ubiquitous landfill-cloggers with plenty of eco-friendly alternatives. Ditching plastic bags– or at least reducing your consumption– is a great first step to making a smaller impact.


2. Start an indoor garden. Needing a pinch of basil for a recipe shouldn’t require a separate trip to the store. Circumvent the gas, time, and money you’d spend by using part of your kitchen real estate as growing space. It’s not as involved as it sounds. Start with one of our indoor garden kits, or try your hand at growing sprouts or windowsill garlic right in your own kitchen. The trips to the store you’ll save — along with the packaging, time, and money — will really add up over time.

3. Start composting. Though carrot peels and coffee grounds have reached the end of their “useful life” for humans, they still have plenty of use left for your houseplants or garden. Make them into fertilizer by composting. You’ll not only keep these things out of the landfill (reducing your waste in the process), you’ll give new life to the kitchen scraps you used to throw away.

4. Improve your appliance efficiency. Here’s a tip that requires an up-front investment of a little time, as opposed to constant vigilance. Take a few simple steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your kitchen appliances. Your fridge is likely your home’s biggest electricity user, and taking a few simple steps to improve its efficiency will save resources and money.


5. Green your packed lunches. Whether you’re eating out for lunch or bringing your own from home, greening your daily lunch is an easy, manageable way to make a difference each day. Skip the paper coffee cups, chip bags, and juice boxes in favor of more eco-friendly solutions, and try bringing a reusable water bottle or mug, using a sturdy “mess kit” for leftovers, or bringing your lunch from home.

6. Ban paper towels. Even if you’re using 100% recycled-content paper towels, you’re still giving in to the disposable mindset. There’s so many costs, even with eco-friendly towels: shipping, packaging, manufacturing.

7. Get toxics out of your kitchen. Naturally, your kitchen is the last place you’d want toxic substances, but believe it or not, there’s lots to be found. The best place to start is by choosing non-toxic cleaners. Take it one step further and make your own (common ingredients: lemon, baking soda, vinegar). Then, read up on Teflon and learn why non-stick pans aren’t the healthiest choice.

Any other ways you’ve greened your kitchen? Let us know in the comments!