Earlier this week, we mentioned that we've drastically cut back on our paper towel usage. It's one of the ways we've tried to reduce our kitchen waste. A few Bitten Word readers asked for a little more info, so we thought we'd devote a post to cutting down on paper towels and other ways you can have a more sustainable kitchen.
First, a caveat: We're really not trying to be greener-than-thou proselytizers here. We're not trying guilt-trip you or tell you how to live. It's just that we got really fed up with how frequently we were filling up the garbage can, so we decided a few years ago to see what we could do about it.
We think that cutting your paper towel usage may be the single best step you can take toward a less wasteful kitchen. We came up with a method that allowed us to dramatically reduce the number of paper towels we use.
Wanna hear what our brilliant method was?
We moved 'em.
Yep, we took the paper towels off the kitchen counter and stuck them in the pantry. It's a distance of about six feet, but it makes all the difference in the world.
Now, whenever we need to dry off a plate or wipe up a spill, we reach for a cloth dish towel instead of a disposable paper towel.
We haven't completely ditched paper towels. We still use them for really messy tasks like wiping grease out of an iron skillet, or patting a piece of meat dry before cooking it. But simply by putting the paper towels out of arm's reach, we've gone from using about a roll a week to a roll every couple months. That's an eightfold decrease -- and we hardly noticed.
Here are a few other ways we've cut down on our kitchen trash:
Cloth napkins. Similar to the paper towels, we use cloth napkins instead of paper. This one, in our opinion, is a no-brainer. Cloth napkins are sturdier, nicer and more eco-friendly than paper ones. If you're using disposable napkins or paper towels with your dinner, switch to cloth today.
Composting. We've mentioned this in some of our gardening posts, but we began composting in our backyard about three years ago. We have a small metal lidded bin under our sink (it's one of our most cherished wedding gifts!), and a large compost tumbler outside. Composting is actually not hard at all, it doesn't smell, it's not messy, and you wind up with rich, premium gardening soil. Win, win, win!
Reusable canvas shopping bags. Well, obviously.
Washing and reusing resealable plastic bags. We'll grant you that this one is a step further in the march toward Hippietown. But if we use a zip-seal plastic bag to take a sandwich to work, or to store half an onion in the fridge for a couple days, it's still perfectly good for additional uses. Hand-washing it with a little dish soap takes about 20 seconds. And when you think that that bag's going to be on the planet for hundreds or thousands of years, well, cleaning and reusing it seems worthwhile.
Washing and reusing aluminum foil. Same as the zip-seal plastic bags, only aluminum foil doesn't biodegrade at all. Ever.
Water bottles. We quit buying water bottles about five years ago. We have some we keep in the fridge, and when they're empty we refill them right from the tap. We feel good about tap water, and we're happy to drink it.
Starbucks cups. We reuse these, too. We don't buy coffee on the go all that often, actually. But when we do -- and when it's convenient -- we'll take the cups home with us, rinse them out and stack them up. It works for the paper cups for hot drinks as well as the plastic ones for cold brews. Then, the next time we want to take coffee with us when we leave the house, we've got a great container (and one that we don't mind losing or throwing away later).
You know the best part about all these steps (in addition to, you know, helping the planet and whatnot)? They save us money.
Again, we're not fanatical about any of these. If a piece of foil is covered in caked-on food or if a resealable bag springs a hole, it's going in the trash. And if we're out running errands and don't have a water bottle, we wouldn't hesitate to purchase one. (But we'll be taking it home instead of throwing it away.)
What about you? Any great ideas for cutting waste in the kitchen?