An eco-friendly kitchen is something most of us would want. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that time is running out for our planet. What can we do in our kitchens to help? Is it possible to be eco-friendly in our kitchens on a budget? Read on for some tips on how to have an eco-friendly kitchen.
An Eco-Friendly Kitchen
Becoming eco-friendly is a journey, it is not something that can be achieved overnight. Over the years plastic has become part of our lives – plastic containers for our food; cleaning products in plastic containers fill our cupboards; we use plastic scourers to clean pans; plastic surrounds most of the food we buy; and even our tea bags are sealed with plastic (although this is now changing as many companies are looking to find a more eco-friendly alternative).
Plastic is not the only enemy of an eco-friendly kitchen. Many of our cleaning products are harmful to the environment and sometimes for us too! An article by Nature’s Nurture argues that the widespread use of anti-bacterial products has led to drug-resistant bacteria. Yet we’re continually bombarded by advertisements, praying on our fears, telling us that we need to use products that kill 99.9% of the bacteria in our homes.
In making my kitchen as eco-friendly as possible, I have found that I have so much to learn. To begin with, there’s the terminology – ‘eco-friendly’, ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’, ‘organic’, ‘zerowaste’, ‘vegan’ and ‘socially responsible’ – to name a few!
Then there are products that I originally thought were ‘natural’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ but have since discovered that they are not. I previously thought that cotton was eco-friendly and sustainable, when in fact it is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world!
Furthermore, growing cotton pollutes water and contributes to bee deaths. Also, if I wanted to replace my wooden spoons I gave no thought to where the wood came from. Now I am aware that I need to buy utensils made from sustainable wood if I don’t want to support illegal logging or encourage deforestation.
The kitchen is the heart of the home and is therefore the best place to start your eco-friendly journey.
There are eco-friendly activities that you probably already carry out. For example:
- Disposal of refuse. Our local authorities dictate how we dispose of our refuse and we have to sort it into the different receptacles they provide. Where I live we sort our waste into food waste, recyclables and rubbish for landfill. We can also opt in (for a charge) for a garden bin. They also take small electrical appliances and batteries on set days. I also put fruit and vegetable peelings on our compost.
- Try not to waste food.
- Wherever possible I purchase fruit and vegetables locally. This may be from a local farm shop (although this invariably costs more) or from a market stall.
- Taking your own bags when shopping. This will also save you money as the cost of a plastic bag from shops will shortly be increasing from 5 pence to 10 pence.
- Avoiding plastic packaging wherever possible.
I am not an expert and still have a lot to learn. I’m simply beginning the journey to make my kitchen eco-friendly, and then my home.
10+ Budget Friendly Tips To Make Your Kitchen Eco-Friendly
Please note: This blog post has affiliate links, whereby if you purchase an item using a link from this site, I earn a small percentage.
1. Store Food In Glass Jars
But don’t throw away the plastic containers you already have as that would be counter productive! It would also be expensive. Simply, when a plastic container needs renewing, replace it with a glass jar. Shop around for glass jars. I bought most of mine several years ago from Ikea, ASDA, and Robert Dyas. It also helps if you keep glass jars as some food items are bought in jars. Some jars can be quite attractive – especially those used for preserves.
2. Cling Film
Cling film is so easy to use – but there are alternatives. Beeswax wraps are a natural alternative to cling film. The wraps are made of of organic cotton, beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. They are odourless, sustainable and durable. They are also washable and re-usable.
Another eco-friendly alternative to cling film is silicone. Silicone is flexible, versatile and great for food storage.
To save money (and the environment) there is nothing wrong with using your existing plastic containers to store food. Previously people used to cover food with a plate and this is better than using cling film.
3. Fruit & Vegetables
Although it would be great to purchase all your fruit and vegetables from a local farm shop, it is too expensive for a lot of us. We all want to reduce the food miles but sometimes it is not economically feasible. Market stalls can be a cheaper alternative. The supermarkets are selling ‘wonky’ vegetables at cheaper prices (click here for details). When buying fruit and vegetables from the supermarket just try and avoid the plastic packaging and don’t place individual items in the plastic bags they provide. Try taking your own produce bags.
If you have a garden why not try growing your own fruit and vegetables? The internet has plenty of information on how to grow your own produce. It can certainly work out cheaper – and with no food miles! Some produce can even be grown on patios and window ledges. Fresh herbs are easy to grow indoors.
We British are renown for our tea drinking, but we also drink a lot of coffee. I must confess that the coffee ‘station’ in our kitchen is always busy! By making coffee at home you can be sure that the coffee you drink is sustainably sourced, and if you cut down on the number of coffees you have in a cafe you will lose the excess cost of buying organic, fair trade coffee. You can also drink from a eco-friendly cup!
Single-serve pod machines are certainly convenient, but the pods are not so easy to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way. You can get reusable pods that you fill with your own coffee grounds and this does prevent the pods ending up at a landfill site.
My favourite is the French Press. It’s simple to use; you can buy the coffee in larger amounts and thereby save on packaging; and you can dispose of the coffee grounds in your compost. It also makes delicious coffee! It’s not too expensive to switch from instant coffee to the French Press.
When you do go out for a coffee remember to take a reusable mug. Many cafes offer a discount if you take one. And for every cup of coffee you drink you are reducing the number of cups that go to a landfill site. A cup I particularly like is this one because it is made from silicone and collapses into a disc, which makes it easy to carry around with you.
The British drink in excess of 60 billion cups of tea a year. As I mentioned previously, a number of tea bags contain plastic sealant. In some cases up to 25% of the teabag is made of plastic. Although the supermarkets are currently looking at ways to get rid of the plastic and some sell teabags without polypropylene, to ensure you are buying plastic free tea it is safe to buy loose leaf tea. For those of use who remember the feeling of tea leaves hitting your lips, this can be quite disconcerting ! Alternatively, you can buy plastic free tea bags from Aldi cheaply.
In the UK we can proudly boast of having some of the safest drinking water in the world. So why do we buy bottled water? The environmental costs of bottled water are well known, but it is also so much cheaper to drink tap water. The most eco-friendly way to drink water is to keep a jug of tap water in your fridge. This way you have instant access to cold water to drink at home or to fill up a water bottle to take out.
It is worth noting that all licensed premises in England, Wales and Scotland have a legal duty to provide you with free tap water.
I would consider myself so virtuous if I had a regular milk delivery. As a child I clearly remember the milkman. And when my daughters were toddlers I used to order crates of milk to be delivered but now I buy milk from the supermarket. The only reason for this is cost – even though I know it would be eco-friendly to arrange a milk delivery! Perhaps this is something I need to work towards in my eco-friendly kitchen.
5. Reduce Meat In Diet
As a child ‘meat and two veg’ was what dinner was about. This has changed over the years, and the advent of junk food has not helped, but we have now reached a critical situation. There needs to be a huge reduction in meat-eating to avoid dangerous climate change and there needs to be drastic changes to farming. Failure to take action on these two fronts will mean that our planet will be unable to feed the 10 billion people expected to be on the planet in a few decades (nature.com).
Although I love eating meat (much to my wife’s dismay!), I only eat meat every other day now. It’s a simple dietary change to make and one that is healthier too. For ideas of what to eat on non-meat days, take a look here.
6. Reduce Food Waste
We waste approximately 33% of all food produced for human consumption (Friends of the Earth). Searching online there are numerous tips on how to reduce food waste, but here are a few ideas:
6.1 Food Shopping
When shopping for food don’t impulse buy. I find it helps to take a shopping list so I don’t forget anything and also so I don’t over buy. Also, have you tried Approved Food? They specialise in surplus and short-dated stock, food that is either near or just passed its ‘best before’ date – so their prices are cheaper and food is sold that would otherwise have been wasted.
6.2 Food Storage
Take care when storing your food to make sure that items are not pushed to the back and forgotten. Also, store food in the appropriate storage containers and places. For example, potatoes should not be stored in the fridge. Here is an attractive eco-friendly potato storage bag for your kitchen.
You don’t need to fork out for a sack (I just liked this one!). All you need is a cardboard box or a paper bag and store them in a dry location away from the sunlight. This way your potatoes should last 4-6 months.
If you have food left over from a meal then be creative and make it into another dish. A classic recipe idea for potato and vegetables left over from a Sunday Roast is, of course, ‘Bubble & Squeak’.
Another option is freezing. A number of dishes can be frozen and then brought out at a later date. I often freeze leftover lasagne dishes.
6.4 Portion Control
Take care not to over estimate portions and don’t over serve. It’s better for people to take second helpings rather than over eat or leave food on their plates. It’s also better to just cook what you need, unless you intend freezing what is not served.
6.5 Disposal of Waste Food
In an ideal world we would have zero food waste. In my kitchen this does not happen, although I agree it is something I should work towards. If you’re like me then the next best thing is to dispose of all food waste responsibly. Firstly, I compost waste fruit, vegetable peelings and coffee grinds and the remainder is placed in the food waste bin provided by the local council. Sometimes the dogs get a few scraps too!
7. Food Shopping
I’ve already mentioned the importance of shopping locally to save on food miles, and making a shopping list to stop impulse and over buying. I’ve also stressed the importance of reducing our meat intake.
However, one significant way to make your kitchen eco-friendly is to eat and prepare sustainable food. Going vegan is obviously an excellent way to reduce animal suffering and help the environment, but not everyone is prepared to do this. Currently one third of the world’s cereal crop goes to feed the 70 billion farm animals reared every year to produce meat, eggs and dairy products – the majority of them on factory farms (Compassion in World Farming). Unfortunately buying high welfare and organic food is more expensive and impossible for many people.
8. Pots & Pans
When you need to replace a saucepan , think ‘eco-friendly’ and purchase one that will last you a long time. Teflon pans are quite fragile and damage easily and they can pose a risk to your health, so they are not eco-friendly.
The better option is to buy one made from stainless steel or cast iron. These often have a guarantee lasting many years, sometimes even lifetime guarantees. The initial outlay is larger but you save money in the long run. I have stainless steel saucepans I bought from Prestige over 25 years ago and they are still as good as new. Below is a set of saucepans that are on sale at the moment and carry a one year guarantee that is increased to ten years upon registration of the product.
Having eco-friendly pots and pans in your kitchen does not have to be expensive – think of buying second hand ones! They can easily be cleaned. Try local charity shops or your local classified ads – it’s amazing what you can find. I’ve just looked at Preloved and found a large number of used stainless steel saucepans for sale.
There’s a variety of eco-friendly baking tins and dishes available, such as glass, metal, silicon or even ceramic. Pyrex has been around for years and is brilliant for cooking and storing – and it lasts a very long time.
9. Cooking Utensils
Buy sustainable utensils when you need to replace your existing ones. These can be made from stainless steel, wood (sustainable!) or bamboo.
The type of chopping board to use, whether wooden or plastic, is a contentious issue. Plastic chopping boards are obviously not eco-friendly, and they need to be replaced regularly. Heavy wooden chopping boards (if made from a sustainable wood) are great from the eco-friendly perspective, however they are frowned upon by environmental health inspectors. For the home kitchen it is simply a matter of choice – plastic boards that need replacing regularly or wooden boards that need to be maintained properly.
10. Cleaning the Eco-Friendly Kitchen
10.1 Stop Using Kitchen Roll
According to research, most homes in the UK use kitchen roll, and in excess of 6.5 million tonnes is used worldwide every year. The majority of this ends up in landfill sites. Apart from the waste, the manufacture of kitchen roll is environmentally damaging. In fact, the production of one tonne of kitchen paper uses 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water.)
But what do you replace kitchen roll with?
Admittedly, kitchen roll is very useful. It’s convenient and ideal to mop up spills instantly. However, there are alternatives. An interesting blog by Moral Fibres advocates making your own cloths (a cheap alternative!) and keeping them handy in a kitchen drawer or basket.
If this does not appeal to you – and it does involve extra laundry – then you can buy eco-friendly alternatives.
The cheapest option is obviously to make your own cloths. Why not recycle old towels for this purpose?
10.2 Cloths & Scourers
Although most kitchen sponges are made of cellulose, which is a natural fibre, the part that you scrub with is normally made of polyester or nylon. As a result, these sponges are not biodegradable and cannot be recycled. The plastic scourers that are available very cheaply and recommended for non stick pans are also not appropriate for an eco-friendly kitchen.
The good news is that these scourers can easily be replaced with eco-friendly alternatives. For example,
10.3 Cleaning Materials
How many kitchens have a cupboard packed with plastic bottles containing cleaning solutions? There are eco-friendly alternatives and they are also cheaper than the ones currently sitting in our kitchen cupboards. The kitchen can easily be cleaned using natural, toxic-free alternatives such as white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. This is a vast topic to cover but if you search online you will find a wealth of information on the eco-friendly alternatives to cleaning chemicals.
Alternatively you can buy eco-friendly cleaning products. This tends to be a more expensive option but means that you can still have a green kitchen. Ecoleaf is an ethical superstore that offers a range of environmentally friendly cleaning products that are non-toxic and safe to use in the kitchen. Their products can be purchased from a variety of stores.
Why am I trying to make my kitchen eco-friendly now?
I can no longer ignore the harm we are all causing to our planet. There are things that I can do to make a difference and if I can encourage others to do the same I have achieved something worthwhile. I realise that my impact on the environment is minimal, to say the least, but if everyone thought that and did nothing we would continue on our collision path to destroying our planet.
My daughters (who are students) have also increased my awareness of companies that are socially responsible and how they, as individuals, support them. They will save money by buying second hand clothes and then use their savings to purchase an item from an ethical company – such as OutsideIn (the ‘Wear One, Share One’ company, meaning every purchase comes with a free product to give to someone without a home) or Big Wild Thought (who donate 10% of every sale to wildlife charities).
As the kitchen is the hub of our home I decided that this was the best place to start my eco-friendly journey. Please share and help me spread the word on how you can make your kitchen eco-friendly on a budget.