The kitchen for most families is the hub of activity, the place where families and friends are brought together to enjoy good food and wine. It’s where refrigerators and pantries store raw ingredients and staples, where fresh coffee is brewed, and on a less cheery note, it’s where the majority of cleaning takes place!
Have you ever considered how some kitchen activities (food sourcing, storing, prep, cleaning routines) negatively impact the environment? Well, I have some good news for you. There are many easy, inexpensive ways you can make greener lifestyle choices in the kitchen, and Portland has incredible resources. This zero waste sustainable kitchen guide features a city map of each neighborhood’s businesses, organizations, markets, and recycling facilities.
12 Ways to Create a Sustainable Kitchen
1. Buy products with less packaging
Try taking cloth produce bags/glass jars and storage containers with you to the supermarket. Portland has a wealth of places where food items from maple syrup to tofu can be purchased all without the packaging. A real money-saver for us is buying staple items in 25 lbs sacks (think garbanzo beans, flour, and rice) also reducing our carbon emissions with fewer visits to the grocery store.
2. Have fewer dishes in circulation
One bowl and dish per person works in our family’s sustainable kitchen and stops that massive accumulation in the sink at the end of the day. Why not just give a quick swill and reuse mugs and bowls during the day? If you do use a dishwasher, use the economy cycle and ensure you only run it when it’s full. When washing by hand, choose natural sponges or brushes over plastic ones.
3. Pack a lunch, water bottle, or thermos with you wherever you go
This sustainable kitchen tip will save you money, ensure you eat healthier and reduce your need to buy packaged food impulsively when hunger hits on the run.
4. Food storage
Store your fridge food carefully to ensure everything stays fresh, thereby avoiding food waste. A staggering 40% of food in the USA goes uneaten. Use glass jars to store leftovers, so they can be easily seen, taken for lunches, or turned in to a new creation. Buy only the quantity you need. Use beeswax wraps to protect/store smaller items.
Maximize the usage of your recycling facilities in your sustainable kitchen. Educate yourself on what can be recycled in your area and how to correctly use the the bins provided. In order to recycle in an effective way you need a system at home to ensure materials are separated correctly. Not sure about plastic packaging or where you can take that broken lamp? Give Metro recycling information hotline a call at 503-234-3000.
6. Kids cups
Small mugs or stainless steel cups can be found very cheaply at thrift stores, avoiding the need to purchase plastic, cups, bowls, straws, and utensils. Try making them accessible so kids can help themselves (which fosters independence…and what parent doesn’t love that idea?)
7. Conserve water
While waiting for your sustainable kitchen tap to run hot, place a bowl/jar under it to capture water to use later for plants or cooking.
8. Eat a more plant-based diet
Whether its embracing Meatless Mondays or for a more serious lifestyle change, consider the many advantages of a vegetarian/vegan diet, not only for your health but also for the environment. If you like to eat out there so many great vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Portland. You can also easily grow herbs on windowsills or in window boxes. Why not try growing your own? Who can resist fresh basil leaves on your pizza?
What do you with all your food scraps? Do you have space for a compost bin, or a little worm farm, or do you have a friend or neighbor with one? Can you access one provided by the city? Don’t send those sustainable kitchen scraps to landfill when they can be returned to the soil! In the USA 20% of what goes into landfills is food. Every year, each American throws out about 1200 pounds of organic garbage that could be composted.
10. DIY all-natural cleaning products
Making your own cleaners and dishwasher detergent not only saves a lot of money, but also ensures the ingredients are natural and biodegradable. With basics like washing soda, baking soda, citric acid, vinegar, and even a lemon peel soaked in vinegar, your sustainable kitchen and home will be sparking clean!
11. Cook smarter
Cook in large batches to freeze or take in lunches. I love love my instant pot for whipping up a big batch of beans or lentil soup in a hurry. Try making your own bread, yogurt, granola, non dairy milk, and even humus from simple package-free ingredients. If and when your kitchenware needs to be replaced, choose cast iron or stainless steel to avoid the fumes and chemicals released from nonstick cookware like Teflon.
12. Avoid paper products
You sustainable kitchen should use reusable alternatives like flannel and washcloths for sticky kiddy fingers or for wiping down surfaces instead of paper towels or alcohol wipes.