Tips to how to have a more sustainable kitchen with fewer chemicals, more natural materials, and locally sourced food.
1. Stop buying sponges and chemical cleaners
You will need two things to replace your sponges: soft dish cloths and then something scrubby for pots and pans. Keep spare dish cloths right by the sink so they are convenient and you actually use them. Don’t be afraid to switch them out frequently. I use about three a day because I like them for cleaning the kitchen too. This cuts down on paper towel usage as well.
I have used various things for my pot and pan scrubber but usually come back to a short, natural bristled brush. I try to use it only when really needed so that it lasts longer, and I only end up buying three or four a year.
Once you quit the sponge habit, you will never go back. I now find them to be a little gross when I see them at other people’s houses. The brushes and dish clothes are beautiful and seem much more sanitary, besides being plastic free and less expensive over time.
If you clean the kitchen frequently, you do not need dangerous and expensive chemicals. One all purpose spray cleaner and a slightly abrasive powder like Bon Ami or Bar Keeper’s Friend should be all you need. If you are in the habit of wiping down your appliances and sink every evening after dinner, the kitchen will always look presentable and you won’t need harsh cleaners. It takes truly less than 3 minutes.
2. Local food whenever possible
Everyone knows the benefits of farmers markets and gardening at home. But what about local sources for dairy, meats, and grains? This is not always practical or possible, but it’s worth checking. We can buy half of a steer, butchered and packaged very nicely, for less than $3 a pound, which is a huge savings and supports our local economy.
There is a local milk delivery service here that will drop off milk and cream from local dairy farms. It is way out our budget right now, but you may have more affordable choices in your area.
It’s worth doing a little investigating to see what you find locally beyond the farmer’s market. Try Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or asking around your farmer’s market for ideas.
3. Make more of your food
Learn to make your own bread, yogurt, cakes, snacks, and whatever else your family eats a lot of. So much of what you are paying for with these things is convenient packaging snd shipping costs, both of which are wasteful and unsustainable.
I understand that making everything is not realistic for most people, including myself. I try to at least buy things in bulk to minimize packaging and then reportion into small, reusable containers.
But when you focus on homemade food, you will naturally save money and create less trash without consciously trying to do so. It is very satisfying and adds purpose to your days.
You can start this today, for free. I used to be hung up on needing a cute compost bucket for my counter. Nope. Just find an old mixing bowl that you aren’t attached to, and line it with newspaper. Keep it under the sink and toss your eggshells, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and other kitchen waste right inside.
Once a day, dump it outside in a pile. You can make something inexpensive to hold it, or you can just pile it up. If you don’t like the pile idea, you can also directly put food scraps into the ground. They can go near ornamentals or in your vegetable garden. They will break down and feed the soil over time.
5. Less, Less, Less
If you find yourself throwing food away a lot, think about why? Are you making too much? Buying things no one eats? Going out to eat too often and then your groceries go bad? I’ve starting buying WAY less food and have noticed we are still eating just fine .
Ultimately being sustainable is not about buying different things. It’s about buying less. Kids don’t need a huge variety of snack food, homemade or otherwise. They can eat their meals and choose to have the one available snack, or not to have it. I don’t need to buy new decorative items for my kitchen, even if they are made of wood and look eco-friendly. There will be seasons where nothing is available locally and the only fresh fruit we have is apples. That’s okay. We should be grateful to have just those.
A sustainable kitchen is simple, but not easy
It is definitely more work to clean a little more frequently and make more things at home to avoid buying much of the environmentally damaging things found in many American kitchens. But these things all have the side benefit of making your kitchen a pretty, functional space.
Having a sustainable kitchen boils down to just a few things: buying fewer plastic or toxic products, buying fewer products that come from far away, and finally buying less overall. Focus on biodegradable, local, homemade, and going without.