Our earth has been on my heart for that last couple of years. I have taken it for granted for decades. Even so, it continues to give to me the nutrients I need, air to breathe, and so much beauty to enjoy.
I have heard some pretty alarming statistics about where our beautiful earth is headed. It can be scary, overwhelming, and frankly feel like a lost cause. With a government that is unwilling to recognize the dire straits we are in and large corporations that constantly pump carbon dioxide into our air, being a top contributor to global warming, my head starts to spin thinking about everything that needs to be done to help our earth. So overwhelming.
But then I think about all of the straws I have used over my 34 years of life, the un-recycled toilet paper rolls I have disposed of, and the food scraps I have thrown in the garbage instead of the compost, and I realize I can make a difference. It all adds up. I might have dropped the plastic ball for the first few decades of my life, but if I start now, I can rebalance the scales a little. And if I share what I am doing with even just one person (you!) and they (you) start doing it too, I'm doubling my positive environmental impact!
So here it is- 6 steps to take to a more environmentally friendly kitchen. These are all things you can start doing immediately, don't cost anything (or replace what you are currently spending your money on) and will add little to nothing to your daily load of things to do. Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.
Step 1. Buy in bulk
Those big bins of grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are not only better for you because they are whole foods, and cheaper because they don't have the packaging, but they are much better for the environment. You buy the amount you need, creating less unused food. You also aren't buying the packaging that is inevtiably tossed into the garbage. Instead, grab the plastic bag they have there and reuse it as many times as you can (just keep next to your reusable grocery bag pile).
Also, hit up local farms and stock up on produce during peak season, freezing what you don't immediately need. I love doing this with berries! I buy a ton during the summer, wash, and freeze in reusable containers. I can use them throughout the year for smoothies and berry crumbles. Bonus is they are picked and frozen at the peak of their ripeness so they are extra juicy and nutritious!
Step 2. Use less plastic
Plastic ends up in our oceans, killing our sea creatures. The production of it also contributes to global warming, and when thrown away instead of recycling, it can't decompose. The first ever made piece of plastic is still in existence. That means EVERY piece of plastic ever made is still in existence. Eek!
Forgoing plastic all together is a stretch but try to minimize it or reuse it. We really don't NEED a plastic bag at the grocery store for our avocados, do we?
Try skipping the little plastic bags for produce, your food will make it home in one piece. Reuse the plastic bags for the bulk items for as long as you can. And try to remember your reusable grocery bags. I put a pile of mine in our garage so I remember to grab them when I head to my car, and have another pile in my car. Make it a habit to grab some when going to the grocery store. Often people at the checkout will try to put a bag around the bottom of my flowers for me or put my cards in their own little bag, and I tell them "thanks, but no thanks".
Step 3. Reuse plastic bags
Sometimes I still run into occasions where I obtain a plastic bag (the occasional grocery store trip I forget my bags for, etc.) and I am sure to keep hold onto them. I can reuse them for holding my washed and wrapped greens in, dog poop bags, and as small garbage liners for my bathrooms. That means I'm not buying new poop bags, garbage liners, and ziplocks, saving me money and helping the earth.
Step 4. BYOC
Bring Your Own Cup. If you have a daily Starbucks habit or are going out for a milkshake with the family, bring your own cup (and reusable straw if needed). Cutting back on the plastic takeaway containers like coffee cups and straws can really add up, especially if it's a daily habit. The company Stojo even makes a collapsible silicon cup that is BPA free that you can bring anywhere because it can be smashed down to lid-sized. Additionally, remember a reusable water bottle when you head out. I keep one in my car so that I don't go thirsty when I'm out and about. SOOO much better than buying a plastic water bottle on the go, and cheaper!
If you do end up grabbing a latte in a plastic cup while you are out, forgo the lid, straw, plastic stopper, and sleeve. You don't need it and it will minimize your environmental footprint.
Step 5. Learn about what you can and can't recycle
A large amount of the energy spent recycling is actually used on separating unrecyclable materials from recyclable ones. And a huge majority of what we recycle is not actually recycled. It's important to know what you can and can't recycle. Head to your recycling company's site to learn more. Then be judicious about separating your recycle from the garbage by having two bins in your house that are convenient to access.
Step 6. Compost
Scary fact- It takes up to 25 years for a head of lettuce to decompose in a landfill. Enter sad emoji here.
Composting is one of the best ways to get rid of your food scraps. The material goes back into the earth to create soil and help new things grow. So cool! If your city has a composting service, head to their site to see what is compostable. Not only can you compost food scraps, you can usually compost soiled food containers like pizza boxes and paper towels.
If you don't have a composting service, consider composting in your own backyard. It can create rich soil for new plants and foods to grow. Here is a quick how-to compost: learn.eartheasy.com
Another favorite thing to do with food scraps is to make a veggie broth. Keep a bin in the freezer and toss any unused parts of alliums (onion butts, unused green onion pieces, etc.) and veggie pieces. This can be anything from the little green tops and bottoms of celery to any bruised parts of potatoes you cut off. Throw them all in a bin in the freezer. When it is full, heat a large pot over medium heat, add oil, minced garlic, and the allium pieces. Let is saute for a few minutes. Then add the rest of the veggie scraps and cover with water. Add salt, pepper, and any other spices you like. Crank the heat to high until it boils, then turn down to simmer for 30-60 minutes. Strain out the scraps and throw in the compost. Refrigerate the broth for up to a week or freeze.
A composting tip- Keep your food scraps for compost in a large bin in the freezer. This way you don't have to take it out as often because it doesn't go bad as fast and you won't attract bugs.
If you are interested in more tips on using less waste, checkout this Party in My Plants podcast episode with guest Max La Manna. It is definitely inspiring!
I hope you can take just one thing from this list and start implementing immediately. It all adds up so starting with a small habit can help.