Written by: Sarah Haley
The kitchen is where the magic happens (if the magic is food). It’s where meals are prepared, made, and often eaten.
Unfortunately, the kitchen is also a place of excess plastic.
It is where plastic sandwich bags, grocery bags, containers, straws, and plastic wrap are all located. Kitchens are a primary source of single-use plastic waste ending up in landfills.
Data estimates that 400 million tons of plastic are produced each year globally. Included in that are the 5 trillion plastic bags the planet consumes. Shockingly, only 9% of the plastic produced globally ends up becoming recycled. The reality is, 12% gets incinerated, and the remaining 79% ends up in dumps, landfills, or the environment.1
It takes time to transition to a sustainable zero-waste lifestyle. Researching alternatives and brands that care about the environment can be a tedious process. There are countless sustainable swaps out there, but it can be hard to know which ones are good.
Here are seven sustainable kitchen swaps that make living zero-waste easier than ever.
1. Reusable Tea Bag
Drinking tea has many health benefits and is a long-lived tradition for many people. The problem isn’t with drinking tea… It's with tea bags. Turns out those little tea bags that help you brew the perfect cup can contain up to 25% plastic.2
Swap out those pesky single-use disposable tea bags for a reusable tea bag. Your Green Kitchen makes reusable 100% organic fabric tea bags that are made in Canada. You can purchase those tea bags as well as other sustainable goods through the Canadian retail store Pōedik.
Pōedik is your one-stop shop for everything eco-friendly, ethical, and sustainable. They offer a wide range of lifestyle, kitchen, wellness, and apothecary products.
Plus, everything on the site is carefully tested and selected by Pōedik's founder Stacey to make your switch to a zero-waste lifestyle even easier.
All you have to do is fill up your fabric tea bag with your favourite loose leaf tea, let it brew in hot water, and enjoy!
2. Reusable Coffee Cup
Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed drinks globally. Statistics show that in 2020, approximately 166 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee were consumed worldwide.3 With an industry that big, it is no surprise the City of Toronto estimates that over a million paper coffee cups end up in their landfill every day.4
Swap out those disposable coffee cups for a reusable one. Eight Ounce Coffee has a vast selection of reusable coffee mugs. They have a variety of sizes, styles, and colours so that you can find a coffee mug that suits your lifestyle and coffee habits.
3. Beeswax wraps
The plastic wrap might appear helpful, but it is actually harmful. Not only does plastic wrap contribute to the already massive plastic pollution problem, but it also contains a number of chemicals. Research suggests that these chemicals can transfer and potentially contaminate the food that's wrapped.5
Nature Bee cares about the planet just as much as they do about their customers. They aspire to make sustainability more affordable and attainable for everyone by creating single-use plastic alternatives. Their beeswax wraps come in multiple designs, are reusable, and have excellent reviews.
4. Refillable Dispenser
Dish soap, dishwasher detergent, and hand soap are just some of the many products found in kitchens. Finding an eco-friendly brand is only one of the struggles. On top of it being eco-friendly, you also want it to have sustainable packaging. The problem is most kitchen products come in plastic bottles. These plastic bottles are littering our oceans and our ecosystems. Data suggests that a third of the plastic debris littering our oceans is plastic bottles.6
Swap out the bottles of soap and detergent for a sustainable refill bulk alternative. You can purchase a refillable dispenser to keep by your sink for liquid soaps. The Triden dispensers are an attractive, ecological alternative to plastic bottles. They even have five settings so you can choose the volume dispense level that works for you. Now you won’t have to worry about excess soap going everywhere!
When you run out of product, head to your local refill shop. There is one in every city. If you're located in Victoria BC, check out The Soap Exchange for green, Canadian-made, biodegradable products.
5. Reusable Coffee Filters
Single-use coffee pods might make a great cup of coffee, but it comes at a cost. Pod-based machines influence people to consume copious amounts of single-use disposable pods. In 2014 alone, enough coffee pods were consumed to circulate the plant 11 times.7 That's a whole lot of pods.
Swap out the single-use coffee pods for some reusable coffee filters and a Chemex. Sparkplug coffee produces 100% cotton filters that are made in Toronto. They offer a range of sizes and types, so you can find the one that matches your coffee technique. If you’re interested in a metal, reusable filter, check out Eight Ounce Coffee’s Able Kone Filter. It is durable and easy to clean and use.
6. Compostable Cutlery
Birthday parties, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Thanksgiving are just a few of the many celebrations that occur during the year. During these celebrations family and loved ones meet up, catch up on life, and eat food together. When hosting a large group, it makes your life a lot easier if you use disposable cutlery. The problem with plastic disposable cutlery is how it ends up in landfills after being used once.
Swap out the disposable plastic cutlery for wooden cutlery. Because they’re made of wood, they are 100% biodegradable and compostable. Eco-packaging sells wooden cutlery that’s compost friendly. So, the next time you’re celebrating, try passing out wooden forks with the cake. Then when you’re done, you can just toss them in the backyard compost, and they’ll be gone in a few weeks.
7. Reusable Tea Towel
Have you ever spilled something on the counter? If the answer is yes, did you use paper towel to clean it up? In the US alone, more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year.8 Paper towel may be one of the easiest and fastest ways to wipe something up, but it’s also super wasteful.
Swap out the paper towel for a reusable tea towel. Keeping a reusable towel in the kitchen will help eliminate excess waste from spills and messes. HAVYN makes tea towels from certified organic Indian cotton. Their tea towels are eco-friendly and come in a variety of hand-printed designs.
Living a sustainable lifestyle takes time to get used to. It's a journey that doesn't happen overnight.
Stacey Headon, founder and CEO of the online sustainable lifestyle store, Pōedik, said her biggest challenge when transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle was "how overwhelming everything is." She recommends to "start small" and pick one area of your life to start making sustainable changes.
Try incorporating some of these zero-waste, natural, sustainable alternatives into your kitchen to get started.