We’ve partnered with Lifestraw to share totally doable ways to make your home more sustainable. Here, Senior Editor Arati Menon highlights six simple ways she’s preventing waste in her new kitchen space.
Just like my family's kitchen in my childhood, my kitchen now is the beating heart of my home, fostering all the joy that comes from the eating and togetherness that occurs around food. As an adult, I've also become increasingly aware of the role of my kitchen in consuming material resources and producing waste. Between the shopping, meal prep, cooking, and cleaning, there’s a lot that’s either lost or wasted in there.
When my husband and I moved into a brand-new home two months ago, we saw it as an opportunity to make a few new resolutions. I realized that to make real changes at home, I’d have to begin with the kitchen, so I started to think about how I could make it as sustainable as possible. I had already eliminated plastic straws, set up a composting system, and carried reusable market totes—but what else could I do?
I began by identifying all the things that would allow me to avoid plastic, paper, and food waste, and started discovering that often, the small changes were just as impactful. Will our kitchen waste ever go away completely? Hopefully someday; but for now, here are six changes I’ve made that I believe will make a dent.
1. Check food waste at the door
Did you know that the average American adult will waste 6,180 pounds of food in their lifetime? Just saying that makes me feel guilty, so I’ve been making a genuine effort to limit my food waste. I plan my menus at the start of each week and shop accordingly. I organize my fridge better, storing foods that need to be finished on a shelf at eye-level so I know to get to them quickly, as well as labeling leftovers. I also try to stretch the life of fresh produce by using fruit and veggie bags, and storing herbs the right way (removing cilantro leaves from stems before storing them is a game changer).
2. Single out single-use plastic
I remember a time when plastic wrap was the workhorse of every kitchen. Not anymore. I’ve substituted mine with reusable beeswax food wrap, which works for covering bowls and wrapping sandwiches. My food-storage bags are made of organic cotton and can be washed and reused many times over. I also always carry a reusable shopping tote—mine fold into their matching pouches and are perfect for tucking away in my bag. Another tip: Instead of buying spices in single-use plastic jars, buy from the bulk aisle and have fun assembling your own collection of small glass jars.
3. Stay hydrated—sustainably
When I first met my husband, I cringed each time I opened his refrigerator and saw store-bought water bottles in there. (That situation changed pretty quickly!) We’ve since also traded most of our reusable plastic bottles—for some reason, we had six—for a single reusable water filter pitcher. My Lifestraw Home water pitcher is durable (even clumsy me hasn't broken it), produces crisp, clean-tasting water, and is so nice-looking it goes straight from kitchen to table. It’s a great reminder that sustainable products are often more durable, attractive, and nicer to use than their single-use counterparts. Another bonus? It has me reaching for a glass of water more than I ever have.
4. Swap out paper towels
One of the simplest ways to kickstart a sustainable kitchen makeover is by replacing single-use paper products with reusable cloths. I used to instinctively reach for paper towels to mop up spills and wipe counters, until I realized that an eco-friendly sponge cloth or simple, small towel will do the trick—as will rags made from your worn-out cotton sheets and old T-shirts. Just throw them in the wash when you’re done, and start again.
5. Examine your cleaning aides
Dishwasher pods, sponges, and dish detergent can all do a real number on the environment. As much as possible, I’ve been trying to avoid cleaning products that release chemicals in waterways, and synthetic materials that clog landfills (instead, I look out for recycled, compostable, and renewable materials instead). I’ve even been mixing up my own cleaning sprays, and decanting them into glass bottles that I can use over and over again.
6. Organize your trash units
I used to have assorted trash and recycling bins that were strewn all across my kitchen. I hated the way they looked, and found it annoying to have paper, plastic, and trash in different places. I now have a single trash can that consists of a composting bin, a trash compartment, and a recycling section all in one. It’s slim enough for apartment dwellers like us—or anyone who doesn’t want their refuse taking over their kitchen. Remember: The more accessible your recycling system, the more likely you will actually recycle.
Have great-tasting drinking water always at the ready (waste-free!) with help from our partner Lifestraw. The Lifestraw Home water pitcher filters out bacteria, microplastics, and more—and comes in a sleek and sustainable design that fits right in to any kitchen. Even better, for every product purchased, a school child receives safe drinking water for a year.