Welcome to the last installment of my plastic-free, sustainable living series! This post’s focus is on kitchen and “on the go” items. We naturally consume a lot of plastic when we’re on the move and in the kitchen because it’s convenient. It doesn’t have to be that way, though! There are plenty of options out there that will help you consume less and still maintain a level of convenience.
On the Go
Reusable water bottles and reusable grocery bags are the easy ones here. I’m confident to say that we all probably have a bunch of these lying around. I usually keep some reusable grocery bags in the trunk of my car so if I forget to bring them with me, they’re right there. I also keep a water bottle at my desk to bring if I go out to lunch so I don’t need to use a cup.
At some point in your life, you’ve probably received a reusable water bottle with a random company logo on it. I’ve taken to getting some cool stickers (like when I visit a national park!) and using them to cover up the logo.
Taking reusable grocery bags a step further, I was gifted a set of reusable produce bags. These have been really useful at the grocery store when purchasing small piece produce – think brussels sprouts or green beans. In general though, I typically use a bag for produce very rarely. In my opinion, you don’t really need it for larger items like tomatoes, potatoes, even if you’re getting a few. I don’t even use one if I’m only getting like one jalapeno. But if you’re buying small things like brussels sprouts, you do need a bag. These are really useful and I have them live in my grocery bags so if I don’t remember to actively bring it, chances are there’s one in one of the bags I’ve brought. I also keep a few in our cabinet to use for storing produce at home like potatoes or a half head of cauliflower.
I also carry a set of bamboo reusable utensils I bought off Etsy to keep in my backpack that I bring to and from work. It’s been really great to use when I need a utensil and the only ones available are plastic. It came with a handy holder, so I usually just wipe whatever utensil I used off with a napkin and wash it when I get back to my office. It’s also been great for using at the airport and traveling!
I think in general I typically do a good job keeping my kitchen plastic free. I rarely use cling wrap, and we have a variety of different tupperwares that we use to store food. The things I find myself using most in the kitchen are aluminum foil, plastic bags, and paper towels/napkins.
I reuse plastic bags as much as possible and invest in compostable ones for items I know I won’t want to wash (like meat). Depending on your location, you can likely find compostable sandwiches and snack bags at your grocery store. They’re a bit more expensive, but my suggestion is to only use them for things where you know you’re going to throw the bag away. I’d really like to try Stasher bags eventually, so stay tuned on those.
Etee is a great site that has a bunch of plastic free items for your home. I’ve purchased their vegan food wraps twice and they work really great. With moderate use, my first set lasted for over a year. They work well for covering bowls that don’t have a top, covers for the ends of produce (like half of a cucumber), and transport for things like hard boiled eggs (vs using a baggie). The best part is that when they’ve reached the end of their life, they’re compostable!
A tip: Use a milder dish detergent and cold water to wash and they’ll last longer.
I was gifted these and I really love them. They’re definitely worth the investment and we use them fairly often. I usually use one for a day or two and then will wash it when I’m ready to do a load of towels. In the in-between time, we usually use the napkins we’ve received from takeout if we have them.
Reusable Paper Towels
There are a lot of options out there for reusable paper towels! One option is Swedish dish towels. I was also gifted these (yes, same time as the reusable napkins!). They work surprisingly well, but do get a little gross-looking after a while (so I’ve spared you the picture). I haven’t quite figured out what their lifespan is yet, but despite their looks, they seem to still be working well after around nine months.
I was also gifted (can you sense a pattern here?! No complaints though – I love it!) a complete roll of reusable bamboo paper towels. In my first few uses, these have worked very well and wash easily. They feel like regular paper towels, but much stronger!
All of these reusable napkins and towels have come in handy during COVID since there have been multiple bouts of paper towel shortages. I’ve been able to go a while without needing to buy paper towels, saving money and the environment! I have a bag hanging in my laundry room that I throw reusable items into and when it’s fairly full, I’ll do a load to wash them.
I’m only one person, but I believe strongly that if we all make small changes in our behavior it will make a difference. I hope these posts were helpful and provided you with some ideas to invest in plastic and waste-free options for your own home! I have some other products I’d like to try – like eco-friendly hair ties and the Stasher bags. It’s just a matter of making the investment and also depleting my current stock of what I have on hand before buying the new, eco-friendly version! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!