I am going systematically through my kitchen and apartment to make it more eco-friendly because I want to and well frankly I need to walk the talk. Belgian high school students have been protesting peacefully every Thursday to get the government to focus on climate issues and they have been catching a lot of attention. I admire the students standing up for their right to a cleaner future. So hypocritical-me needs to make more of an effort as well. One step at time, when something needs replacing I look for a sustainable alternative. I think sustainable gets a bad rep for being synonymous for expensive and I found that is not at all the case. So no more excuses!
Sharing a quick VOCAB tutorial as I had to look it up myself what all these words really mean:
SUSTAINABLE – also called GREEN LIVING. Products/goods are made with eco-friendly resources such as sustainable grown crops or recycled materials. They provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.
ECO-FRIENDLY – not harmful to the environment. Literally means earth-friendly, contribute to green living and practices that help conserve resources like water and energy. Prevents pollution to air, water and land. Also called low-impact living.
ZERO-WASTE – is a philosophy that encourages repurpose, reuse and recycle of used products and no trash is sent to landfills, incinerators nor the ocean.
BIODEGRADATION – able of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms and therefor avoiding pollution. It’s a natural chemical process. Goods are designed to break down in landfills.
COMPOSTABLE – is biodegradation but under certain induced conditions at the local recycling area. It requires processing to degrade or reuse.
How do I do it? I apply 3 BASIC EFFORTS to my daily life as best I can:
1.stop single use – it’s the biggest habit I changed with the largest impact. I used ziplock bags like my life depended on them, my plastic waste was extreme. Now I use re-usable containers and re-usable silicon bags and lids. I ditched the kitchen papertowels and wet wipes and happily use washable washcloths.
2.ditch the chemicals – You can of course replace with eco-friendly soaps, some are more expensive than others, but I wanted to try making my own. I started cleaning my kitchen counters with this homemade solution: 1 cup white vinegar, 2 cups of water and a few drops of essential oil or lemon juice in a glass spray bottle. It works brilliantly. Make sure you check the composition of your kitchen counter tops if it is safe to use vinegar. And don’t wipe your eyes when you use vinegar ( learned that the hard way).
3. just do it – start small, and keep going. The point is to get started, I started very simple by recycling plastic and was appalled to see how much plastic I trashed weekly. That inspired me to look for substitutes and alternatives. I am not at all yet where I want to be but I started.
So I did some research and found 15 easy and budget friendly alternatives to everyday kitchen habits that I changed without any effort and so can you.
1. Ditch the paper towels and wipes. I was using soooooo many wipes, it was disgraceful. I have switched to washable and reusable dishtowels.
2. Use durable utensils. I still ve a few plastic and silicon utensils but use mostly wood and stainless steel ones. Buying good quality is key to longevity.
3. Replace sponges. This is a major change I made when I read it takes 500 to 1000 years for a sponge to degrade. Look for sponges made from recycled plastic or that are 100% bio-degradable.
4. Use wooden cutting boards. I love beautiful wooden boards to serve tapas on but I switched years ago to Epicurean non-slip cutting boards (link HERE). They started out as a skate ramp building company and moved into using leftover wood composite for cutting boards. and I LOVE the silicon anti-slip corner.
5. Clean with natural cleaning products. I use a homemade recipe to clean my kitchen counter tops. Cause think about it, you clean with chemicals that yes kill bacteria but leave chemicals on the surface where you than place your food on. I mix 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts water, a splash of lemon juice and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. It works like a charm. There are plenty over the counter non-harmful products you can get if you don’t feel like making your own.
6. Use reusable straws. This is a no-brainer. You can buy reusable straws everywhere now.
7. Store food plastic free. Using and recycling jars is something I ve always done. Just because I like storing things in jars, I like the aesthetic. Full disclosure: I did 2 years ago updated my pantry cabinet and bought plastic containers ( oeps) as the glass containers would ve been too heavy for my small cabinet. I no longer use ziplock bags nor plastic wrap. I got some reusable silicon pouches and covers, they work great.
8. Replace parchment paper with baking mats. I have been doing that for years and I think it gives an more even bake to be honest. Us food bloggers love using white baking paper as prop in our photos, instead of throwing them away each time, I now reuse them.
9. Elevate your dinner table with cloth napkins, ditch the paper. I love silly, funny quote paper napkins to serve with cocktails to guests. However I daily use a cloth napkin . When setting a gorgeous table, cloth napkins are for sure the best choice, even ascetically.
10. Filter and drink tap water. I easily drank 1.5l to 2l bottled water a day, that’s was lot of plastic. I tried for 3 months last year to drink only filtered tap water. The result was I barely drank water anymore after a few weeks and that was not good either. I just don’t like the taste of my tap water in Brussels even after filtering ( a must for all tea lovers). I added fruit to flavour the water like lemon, lime, cucumber, red berries, peaches, watermelon, etc. But sometimes I just want a big glass of water. I have reduced my bottled water consumption by 3/4, so that’s a GREAT effort. I always have carafes of flavoured tap water in my fridge and I drink a lot of tea (warm and cold).
11. Use durable pots and pans . 15 years ago I switched to Le Creuset pots and pans. I think the key is to buy durable and that unfortunately does require a bit of an investment. However think of it this way: you will never have to buy a new pot or pan again.
12. Choose energy-efficient appliances – run dishwasher when full. I changed my washing machine last year, it had served me faithfully for 16 years. I choose a very energy-efficient machine with a larger capacity load and love it. I don’t have a dryer, I just hang clothes up to dry. I fill the dishwasher all week long and run it only when full just once a week.
13. Recycle. I used the excuse of having very small apartment and kitchen for a long time. I now recyclable plastic and cans ( the blue recycle bag). I am working on recycling paper and cardboard more efficiently as well. My empty bottles of bubbles and wine, I shamelessly threw away in the bin. I now separate them out and bring them to the glass containers at the end of the block.
12. Switch your light bulbs to LED’s. That was easy as I don’t think we ve anymore other type of light bulbs in the stores in Belgium. They last forever, I think some I have not changed in 10 years.
13. Grown your own herbs. I grown indoor in winter and outdoor in summer. Check out my tips for indoor herb garden HERE. I also grown a few of my own veg like radishes and green beans every year. So satisfying to eat what you grown.
Written and photographed by Sandra Slawinski without commercial deals. I used items from Färm, Dille en Kamille and Le Creuset.