The kitchen is where a lot of people end up starting to live a more sustainable life. Why? Because people start to cut the meat down in their diet, or out entirely, buy local and rid themselves of plastic wrap. The last one may have you tensing up already. What are you going to wrap things in if not for plastic wrap?! Don’t worry, there are so many choices out there. Go at it slowly, ticking one thing off your list (like shopping locally), adding more habits to your day-to-day life.
Living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle is a huge change, but it doesn’t have to shock your system and happen in one day. It’s nearly impossible to make all the changes in a day, or a week, or even a month, so don’t worry. Go at it at your own pace and start with just a section of your house. (It’s why I’ve labeled them as such in this series). Maybe you start with buying a plant. Then, you add composting. Then, you’re using bamboo toothbrushes and recycled toilet paper, and not using paper towels, and….you get the picture. But, let’s get at the kitchen swaps you can do, implementing one, two, or all of them!
Read the Label
Stop buying things with palm oil in it. Just stop. The palm oil industry is a horrific monstrosity and palm oil is in everything, including all your favourite foods and skincare products.
While I’m not for only eat organic produce and non-gmo (don’t get me started) foods, I read the label to make sure palm oil isn’t used. It’s an easy step to take in the grocery store and it helps cut out processed foods from your diet!
Forgot to read the label on your latest shop and ended up with a palm oil product? Relax. You’ll get it next time. There are so many things I simply didn’t think would have palm oil in it (list coming soon) that I had kept buying. Eventually, it turns into a habit and you learn what to ignore.
This is so important. Buy your produce locally. That doesn’t just mean going to the local grocer. Make sure they have all those fruits and veggies shipped from….down the street. Or, you know, as close to you as possible. Live in Canada, but you’re eating produce from Mexico? Glad you’re supporting the Mexican economy and that long-ago, now just a twinkle in the eye, NAFTA, but think about what it took to get the produce here.
Veggies come wrapped in plastic so they stay fresher longer. Why? Because they have to travel far to get to the grocery shelf. It also helps keep it hygienic in its travels. Those bagged salads? They have gases added to make them last longer.
The best part about tasty local produce? It lasts longer in your fridge. Why? Because it didn’t have to travel far, already taking away from its shelf life.
Do your best to buy local, and in season. It’s hard, and you’ll forget, but you’ll get there. Hell, I still buy some products that are flown in.
Garden your own Veggies
You know what’s more local than your local farmers’ market? Your garden! You don’t need to have a huge garden to have delicious and fresh veggies in your fridge or larder. Does anyone know what I mean when I say larder? Is this term too antiquated? The cellar? Cold storage? I mean your food storage hole.
Depending on your goals, you can buy a small plot of land, plant some fruit trees, berries, plant 50 hills of potatoes, all the veggies, maybe some cut flowers for cute vases, perhaps some more fruit trees, oh, and another 20 berry plants. Just me? Fine. Buy the land, don’t buy the land. But, plant your own veggies. And, herbs. And, berries.
Herbs can be done in your garden, seasonally, or can be grown in pots on a windowsill.
You can plant many-a-vegetable in a pot and make yourself a nice balcony garden.
You can start growing lemon trees INDOORS.
You can have a small garden and plant a handful of carrots and a tomato plant.
It doesn’t matter. Whatever space you have, you can make a garden. Even if it’s just a week’s worth of vegetables, or a meal’s worth of vegetables. That is some seriously locally grown food.
Vegetables that grow well in pots:
For gardening tips, big or small, click here.
Shop in Season
The biggest and hardest to overcome. Since easy distribution, we’ve become reliant on veggies that we normally wouldn’t get in the hardy winter months. But, stop it. There are tons of great veggies out there that grow in your season! Learn how to can, freeze, and preserve all kinds of goodies so that way, you’ll be able to enjoy them when the harsh reality of winter hits – without going to the grocery store and buying stuff from who-knows-where. This will be the hardest adjustment, especially for those who love their salads. But, try to mindfully shop. If you end up with some lettuce from the store, don’t freak out. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’re really jonesing, grab yourself a grow light, a heating mat and get at ‘er making a salad bar in your own home! It’s what I’ve done and I’ve happily not looked back. Fun for everyone: Socks loves to curl up under the grow lights.
Small-Scale Farmers are your Friend
Especially if you love delicious meat! We have been ordering our meat from local farms for a few years and it’s the best decision. Not only do you pay less by buying in bulk (we buy our meat one 1/4 cow or 1/4 pig at a time), you’re supporting local farmers, and learning how to make more things besides chicken breast.
This may come as a shock, but chickens aren’t just breasts. They come with all kinds of other body parts, too! I know, crazy to think about. And, a bit of a learning curve when you first buy whole chickens, but they’re so much better than buying bits and pieces here and there. You also don’t have to just roast a whole chicken every time. Roast that bad boy, then cut it up for easy meals during the week and for adding to salads and the like!
Cut it Down
I know, I know, I just talked about delicious meat only a few sentences ago and now I’m about to talk about cutting down eating those delightful yummies. There are those who will preach total veganism or full vegetarianism. I’m not one of those. Because, beef jerky.
But, I get it. I’m not into killing animals (but I’m very into the fact that we are animals ourselves and eating another animal is LITERALLY NATURE) or abusing animals or the greenhouse gases and environmental impacts that come from large-scale farming of animals needed for the over-population of this Earth. Cutting down on your meat consumption can change your carbon footprint greatly.
Plus, it’s way easier for everyone to cut down on their meat consumption than just for a few people to go vegan or vegetarian. What’s better? 5 vegans or 5,000 people eating less meat than before? Not everyone will make sacrifices (like, have you had bacon?) and that’s okay. Those who are preaching the whole veganism have to understand that it’s okay. Because you know what comes after not eating that much meat (for most people, at least)? Not eating meat at all. Baby steps, my friend.
Big meat eater? Take it out of one meal a day. Then, add in a full day with NO meat. I know, it’s the worst – at first. But, there are so many yummy vegetables and starches (seriously. The carbs. yes.) that can make really good meals. Just make sure you’re getting those protein veggies in (beans, spinach, asparagus, broccoli)!
Right now, my meals are about 85% meat. The worst for someone who has an eco-friendly blog series, but pretty normal for a lot of people. My goal is to bring that down to 50%. At the start of the year, it was at 95%. That may mean I only eat meat for supper or that I turn to different recipes for most days. Find the easiest route to start and go from there. Building a better and greener life is just that – building. Small steps equal medium steps equal HUGE steps.
And this. And this and this and this. Re-use old containers. Store leftovers in them. Take them to the bulk store. Use them as planters. Just re-use them all!
Make your Own
My recipe section on this blog is pretty weak right now, but I’ll be adding more, I promise! Home-made goods taste better, you know what’s in it, you can cut the sugar down (if you’re one of those people) and you reduce your waste.
My favourite everyday things to make:
Vanilla (for real!)
Bulk stores can be cheap. They can also be expensive. My bulk is usually between bulk stores and Costco. Yeah, I know, Costco isn’t the most sustainable. EXCEPT….if you really and truly need an item in bulk (like vinegar), it’s awesome. But, that’s the key: the really and truly needing it part. Because buying a big ol’ box of apples isn’t doing anyone any favours if you don’t eat the damn apples. Also, it comes in plastic. Costco needs go chill out with the plastic. But, back to those apples. Maybe you’re trying to eat more apples. Cool. Maybe start with just buying extra apples at the market instead of 50 from Costco. You probably won’t eat all of them and adding more waste to this world is not the way to buy groceries.
ANYWAYS. Things like pasta, vinegar, coffee, sauces and condiments I don’t make myself come from Costco. Baking soda, spices, certain baking supplies, soap berries/nuts (you haven’t heard of these yet?! Oh, they are a game changer, people. I’ll be going into detail about these bad boys in TWO separate posts in the coming weeks)? All of that (my goal, at least) comes from a bulk store. Make sure that store isn’t just dumping small bags into a big bin and that you purchasing from there is actually doing good. Because if a 5lb bag of coffee beans is just being dumped into the bucket, why not buy that 5lb bag yourself?
You know what’s better than keeping your foods in a plastic re-useable container? Keeping it in a re-useable glass container. That’s it. Just use them.
Beeswax it up
And by that I mean, replace the plastic wrap with beeswax wraps! Again. Baby steps, people. Don’t go crazy and throw out the plastic wrap (don’t throw out anything until you’ve used it all – even if it’s not a sustainable product).
Know yourself. I know myself and myself was telling…myself…that my dependance on plastic wrap wasn’t going to go away overnight. No. I had to get into the habit of putting things into containers instead of just quickly wrapping them up (the hardest was lunches, but I got over that hurdle and now it’s all I use …98% of the time!). I still use plastic wrap for things when I didn’t have a container ready and laziness takes over (seriously, just wash your dishes).
Which is fine. You still have that plastic wrap hanging around. Use. It. Up. Introduce beeswax wrappers into your life, but keep some of that plastic wrap on hand.
Why would I keep plastic wrap on hand if I’m not supposed to be using plastic wrap?
GREAT QUESTION! Partly it’s because you’ll need it for things like keeping paint brushes from drying out, wrapping meat (for those who are eating meat) and a variety of hygienic things that will have you throwing it out right after.
Mostly, it’s because we’re all habitual assholes. Something is going to annoy us with the beeswax wraps (like washing them), or we didn’t buy enough, and we’re going to get pissed and buy a Costco sized box of plastic wrap because we had already thrown out the damn plastic wrap because we were ready to live our very best sustainable eco-warrior lifestyle, but we really weren’t ready and now we have too much plastic wrap to get rid of.
Yeah. That’ll happen. Remember how I said it takes time to get used to new things? Just like your friend’s new boyfriend? Or kid?
Introduce things slowly and don’t get down on yourself if you mess up. Depending on your age, you’ve literally been using plastic for your entire life. Change doesn’t happen in 2 minutes.
Learn how to store your own food.
Canning is one of my favourite ways of storing food and I’ve jars and jars of delicious sauces and pickles and fruits and juices and syrups just waiting for me to enjoy.
Here’s a little secret about canning that took me a while to get: you don’t have to can everything all at once.
As in, you don’t need to try to make 50 lbs of pickles in one night, or 5 batches of salsa, sweating crying and yelling at your husband while you dunk in your jars for their preservative bath.
If you have the time, go for it. If not, make smaller batches so you don’t go insane and you don’t end up hating canning. Because it’s kinda fun!
Bake it Right
Do you really need a little holder for your cupcake or muffin? No. You don’t. And, if you’re still stuck on them, buy some delightful silicone muffin holders that will dress up any tiny baked good!
Make Better Coffee
Oh, buddy. Let me tell you that a simple french press changed my coffee loving life. I’ve gone from only buying Starbucks to using an old drip coffee pot to Keurig pods to reusable pods and now I’ve landed on a french press. Your coffee tastes better, there is no waste and you can get some pretty cute designs!
Get rid of the Keurig, or at least use reusable pods.
Try a slow drip coffee pot (you know, the regular kind) and use bamboo filters, composting after each use.
Try a pour over coffee maker, using those bamboo filters and composting.
There are even fancy reusable coffee filters similar to pour over systems!
My favourite is the French press, but with so many options, why are you still buying coffee pods?
That’s all my kitchen tips for living a greener lifestyle. Have any I forgot? Comment below!