So this is the kitchen/cleaning edition of trying to be sustainable in the home, whether a homeowner or a renter like me.
A little research has taken me a long way in developing better habits when it comes to cutting back on my waste products in the kitchen. Yes, there is an initial pay-out of money up front that “looks” costlier, but when broken down, it ends up being money-saving in the long-term.
So, let’s get started with the cleaning side of things.
Most cleaners you but in the stores have a list of chemicals a mile long and unpronounceable. The ones that are “natural” can be quite pricey and still come in plastic, toss away bottles that most people don’t recycle. My goal was to get away from those things.
1. Standard all-purpose cleaner. We all want something that’s going to clean our stove, counter, spills in the fridge and on the floor and an all-in-one product is less costly and environmentally friendly. My go-to these days is semi-DIY with Dr. Bronners Hemp Baby Unscented 18-1 Soap.
This soap is super concentrated so a 32 oz. bottle will last a long time. Opting for unscented means you can add the essential oils you prefer for your specific purposes (more on the oils later in the post). Or for those sensitive to scents, you can use it as is. This stuff can be ridiculously gentle or remove the nastiest stove/oven build up you can throw at it, depending on your level of dilution.
I purchased a pack of glass spray bottles of various sizes to use for various needs. I found the 8 oz. bottle work best if you plan on using specific scents for specific cleaning purposes.
Dr. Bronners can also be used for dish soap, but I’ve found that it doesn’t rinse as thoroughly as some dish soaps, so this is one are where I don’t DIY. I do buy Method dish soap, as it seems to have the least amount of ingredients, and you can purchase refill bags that are 100% recyclable. I cook every day, at least 2 meals a day—and I’m not frugal with my use of pots, pans, bowls, or utensils and this pump and refill bag has lasted me since January (and no, I do not have a dishwasher).
Though it’s not “technically” kitchen, the washer and dryer are close enough. Laundry detergent is ridiculously laden with chemicals that are not only nasty for the water supply, but also tend to break down the fibers of your clothes quicker than should be happening (sometimes blaming the “quality of the clothes” is wrong, it’s really your detergent, amount of detergent, how often you wash, etc.–and Tide is one of the biggest corroders (is that a word?) on the market, FYI).
For some ‘recipes’ for clean cleaners, see this post from April.
I did some research and found these interesting little fellas….Soap Nuts. For a good rundown on what they are and how they work, Wellness Mama (one of my fave sites) gives you some info.
The only addition I would make to her instructions are that if you’re using them to wash with cold/cool water, first soak them for about 15 minutes in hot, filtered water–this releases the saponins from the nuts. I’ve found that I can use 5-7 nuts for about 4 standard loads of laundry. IF you have heavily soiled laundry, you can do one of two things for the stains—use the above mentioned castile soap spray to spot treat or buy the Soapnut X10 liquid, dilute it and utilize it as your stain treatment.
***I will be changing my brand of soap nuts, when mine run out, to Econutssoap.com. This company helps create additional jobs in areas where the soap nuts (berries) are harvested, thus giving them much-needed income***
This brings me to drying. Fabric softeners are also a massive chemical compound, typically with lots of silicone involved. And the thing about silicone? It stops moisture absorption (which is why you’ll find it in every anti-chafing product and make-up primer out there). So, if you use it with your towels, wash cloths, cloth diapers, cloth menstrual pads, etc. you’re losing out on their actual absorbancy–the thing you bought them for in the first place!
Instead of using liquids or sheets, I’ve moved on to dryer balls (there’s always the fun of saying “I gotta throw my balls in the dryer”). I purchased the Fluffies brand, based on my original research of their fair trade, organic, etc. balls.
I throw a couple (XL) balls in with a load of clothes and the clothes come out fluffed, wrinkle free, and they tend to dry faster because wool absorbs some of the moisture—so, energy-saving as well. And if you, like me, want your clothes to smell pretty, then all you need to do is spritz the balls with a diluted water/essential oil mixture (usually 10-15 drops of oil per 3 oz. spray bottle of water will work) until they’re damp all the way around, then toss them in the dryer.
Before we move on to the more kitchenly items, let’s chat about essential oils. Yeah, they’re all the rave these days, but really the hippies in the 60s had the drop on us with their patchouli oil (which I still love, so piss off-with love). But, as time and research and whatever have gone on, studies have shown that many oils have various properties that make them not just smell nice, but also serve a purpose: antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, brochiodiolators, anti-inflammatories, digestives, etc. And most of the time, that doesn’t matter because we just want things to smell nice!
And I’m admittedly kind of serious about my essential oils…evidenced by:
This container holds 70 oils and I have at least another 10-15 bottles that are too big to fit in it!
If you choose to use essential oils for your DIY products, there are a few tips and tricks that are good to know:
Look for oils that say 100% pure-grade essential oil and/or the only listed product is the oil producing product. Sometimes oils will be placed in a “carrier” oil which dilutes the efficacy and potency of the essential oil.
Oils should be in dark colored, glass bottles. This stops the light from getting through and tainting the raw oil.
With the exception of a few oils (citrus being a main one), oils should be clear in color, unless they are blended and then you may get color because citrus is usually added to most blends.
Price isn’t always a guarantee of quality. There are a lot of “pyramid” type sales for essential oils these days and they cost a pretty penny but aren’t of the best quality. Your best bet is to do some research on multiple online sites reviewing oils to determine the best ones.
Ok….now we’re on to the kitchen gadgetry that is eco-friendly.
My first one is the easiest thing possible: A reusable coffee filter. Coffee drinkers are probably going to use anywhere from 250-365 coffee filters per year. That’s a LOT of waste hitting the landfill. Wet filters will decompose quicker, but once they dry out, they take just as much time as any other paper. Plus there’s the fact that if they’re white filters, they’re made with bleached paper–is there a guarantee that’s not leaching into my god knows how many cups of coffee per day? And all you really need to do is give the reusables a good rinse and then was once a week to get the oily residue off (which is natural in coffee beans).
Now on to my new favorite kitchen toy…The FOSA Turtle. (No I did not buy it just for the name!)
This is a vacuum sealing product that uses containers instead of the disposable plastic bags that most sealers use. The containers aren’t glass, unfortunately, but they are BPA free hard plastic that can take a flying leap out of your hands onto the floor without breaking (impromptu testing on my part).
This isn’t an inexpensive bit of gadgetry, but it won’t break the bank either. For $60 you get the vacuum and 3 containers. And there are additional containers you can buy in various sizes depending on your needs.
I did a little test on this while I still had my 30-day Amazon window of return. I put some grapes in the FOSA container and vacuumed the air out. I put an equal amount of grapes in a rubbermaid container, set them side-by-side in the fridge and went on a long weekend to Michigan.
I didn’t keep the results of the rubbermaid because it was pretty gross and I ate the evidence of the FOSA. So, needless to say, the FOSA grapes were not a slimy sludge in the container like the other one. And at this time, I still have cheese in one of the containers that I also sealed up before that vacation and it is still fresh and tasty.
As a single person, I was seeing a lot of fresh produce waste that I wasn’t happy about. This seems to be one of the better ways of saving that food for a much longer period of time….which brings me to the next food storage item that I love.
The reusable, silicone “ziploc” bags. Again, not the least expensive thing on the market at $35 for 6 bags, but the payoff for me is that I’m not tossing bags that take 200+ years (according to the EPA) to decompose completely, not to mention leaching chemicals into the soil and ground waters.
And if you use them for storing things in the fridge, as I did—well, again there’s the longevity of life of that food. Less air gets through, so food stays fresh longer. I managed to keep mushrooms fresh for 2 weeks in one of these bags and we know how quickly those suckers slime up in a bag or plastic container–EWWW! They’re also FOOD-GRADE TOXIN-FREE SAFETY… FDA certified silicone without BPA, BPF, PVC, BPS & latex free and dishwasher safe, making the clean-up that much easier.
And my last one, which is probably not as convenient for families as it is for one person and it seems a little weird, but hey, would you expect anything less from me?
It’s reusable food wrap (to replace foil, plastic wrap*, and my former fave, press & seal.
Again, not a “cheap” product at $42.00 for 7 various sized wraps, but does anyone really have 7 things saran wrapped in their fridge?
It takes some getting used to, but being able to just wash it and dry it, then use it again is such a great way to cut down on the waste that comes from the other disposable wraps.
*Disclaimer: I still use plastic wrap when I make big batches of freezer burritos/breakfast burritos, which is because I really can’t afford to buy anywhere from 40-60 pieces of this wrap and because I can’t microwave these either (I know, I SHOULD NOT microwave the plastic wrap–I will find a way around it one of these days).
So that’s it for the BSmeter round-up of eco-friendly products for your kitchen (and laundry).
And though my carbon footprint isn’t as small as I’d like it to be, and never will be if I continue being a carnivore–which I will because BACON! STEAK!, it’s much smaller now that I’ve implemented these measures (along with composting, more robust recycling, refurbishing and upcycling items, etc.).