Sometimes, it can all seem so overwhelming – you know, embracing an eco-friendly lifestyle. The process by which we recycle plain old paper, metal and glass has pretty much been a no brainer for decades now, but plastic? Aw jeeze... where to begin? Plastic used to be plastic… but then all sorts of numbers began materializing on the undersides of our bottles, tubs, clamshells and squeeze containers, which we soon realized – despite signifying their fully recyclable status – was actually the kiss of landfill death for countless municipal curbside collection services lacking the funds, specialized processing equipment or simply just the desire to mess with the more challenging stuff.
What about jar lids and plastic caps? It depends on who you ask. The vast majority of our country's collection centers don’t want the headache, citing the potential for equipment to jam while others say that various types of container tops can potentially endanger workers or even contaminate single-material recycling batches. A perfect example is those hard plastic caps typically made of #5 Polypropylene, a petroleum-based material that is (in 99.9% of all cases) totally different than what it’s screwed on top of. So, every time we think we’re doing the right thing by tossing our empty liquid laundry detergent containers into the recycling bin with their contrasting lids attached, all we end up doing is tainting our municipality’s recycling efforts. Metal caps/lids aren’t any better since they’re commonly lined with an inner bonded plastic seal, so they’re often just sorted and chucked since a better solution would require a lot more strategizing, man power and high-tech equipment.
So, in this specific case, Kermit the Frog’s insistence that it’s not easy being green certainly rings true, but that’s what the internet is for – to offer well-intentioned consumers like yourself easy-to-digest eco-strategies in order to save time, money and… while we’re at it… the planet. So, the first thing we need to do is cut through all of the green noise and really get down to the nitty-gritty. Aside from the time you spend sleeping, what room do you putter around in the most? Yup, the kitchen, so it makes sense to give it a good old green overhaul. Here’s how:
Use Washable, Infinitely-Reusable Tableware
That means fabric tablecloths/napkins, placemats, dishes, silverware and glasses! Yes, you’ll be spending a lot more time washing and laundering but think of all the room you’ll be saving in your garbage can.
Keep A Countertop Compost Collection Container Within Reach
Sure, cute little mini-trashcan designs available in metal and ceramic models certainly abound at all the major retailers – some with replaceable charcoal lid filters – but all you really need on a daily basis is a large bowl. That's it! Throughout the day, collect all your organic scraps inside and then right before you head off to bed, add them to your backyard compost heap. Bada bing, you're done.
Prominently Display Your Recycling Bins
Out of sight, out of mind isn’t the greatest philosophy to adopt when you’re sincerely trying to do your part to help save the planet, so one way to really walk the walk is to set up an unobtrusive recycling zone in your kitchen. No, it doesn’t have to be an eyesore. Coordinate your collection bins with your décor and before you know it, you’ll be recycling everything under the sun without even thinking twice.
Scrub Your Dishes With Sustainable Supplies
One of the simplest eco-kitchen switches is upgrading your dish washing supplies to versions that are greener and far easier on the planet, including using natural sponges/scrubbers, knitted dish rags and even natural rubber gloves. Purge the petroleum-based supplies from your sink top and enjoy a chemical-free tomorrow.
Use Chemical-Free Dish Liquid and Dish Washing Detergent
You’ve been diligent about kicking common kitchen chemicals to the curb and using natural-material alternatives to scrub your plates and cutlery, so why undo your efforts by sudsing up with synthetic, chemically-impregnated detergents? It’s actually rather easy to create your own family and planet-safe dishwasher soap, too. Take the plunge!
Store All Edibles In Plastic-Free Containers Or Food Wrap
We no longer have to be slaves to plastic wrap! There are so many other eco-options that will keep munchies fresh and perfectly yummy for days, weeks and months to come (depending on the preservation method you choose). Think handmade cloth or beeswax-fabric ‘shower cap’ style covers, cloth sandwich/snack bags and even inverted plates!
Rely On Reusable Produce Bags
What's one of the greatest advantages of making cloth or mesh produce bags a regular staple in your refrigerator (aside from the fact that they'll help you to personally reduce the incidence of marine wildlife deaths)? Reusable versions will enable fresh fruits and veggies to breathe... which will in turn prolong their shelf life... which will ultimately help you to reduce unnecessary waste. Phew, that's a whole lot of pluses!
Make Glass and Stainless Steel Your Go-To Food Storage Containers
Tupperware used to be the gold standard for tidy food storage, but then we learned that when exposed to extreme temperatures, plastic leaches all sorts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals into our food and ultimately our bodies. There will never be a better time to make the switch to nonreactive, eco-friendlier materials than now!
Get Everything Zippy-Clean With White Vinegar
This naturally occurring acidic substance – which also tastes super-delish on a salad – really is the one and only all-purpose kitchen cleaning whiz you’ll ever need. Clean fresh produce with it. Sterilize cutting boards and countertops. Bestow your wood floors with a streak-free shine. Go get yourself a ginormous jug, because it really is that great.
Disposable bleach wipes had their day in the sun but now the new eco-kid on the block can be made with materials you probably already have around your house. Place a bunch of hand cut, recycled t-shirt ‘squares’ inside a well-sealing container, douse them with a non-toxic yet super-cleansing mixture of white vinegar, castile soap and tea tree oil and get down to business!
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