15 Best Swaps for a Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Kitchen

As a TV chef, cookbook author, recipe developer and of course an avid home cook of many years, I’ve gone through a lot of kitchen products. At some point, I started to wonder just how much of what I use feeds into the massive amount of America’s waste. The thought weighs heavy on my heart. If you share that same sentiment, then you too have probably found yourself staring at your kitchen and wondering how you can give it an eco-friendlier makeover without having to live off-grid.

Since we’re on this journey together, let’s talk about the easiest, most practical swaps each of us can make to ensure our kitchens are planet-friendly. It’s not as difficult as you might think!

Here are 15 of my favorite eco-friendly swaps for a more sustainable kitchen.

1. Swap Plastic Wrap with Bee’s Wrap

Plastic wrap seems to be a can’t-live-without kitchen staple, and it feels like it disappears faster than my interest in dieting during the holidays. What could be better than plastic wrap? Beeswax wrap! It’s a reusable, washable, and downright adorable answer to your plastic needs. AND it’s made from organic cotton infused with beeswax, tree resin, and essential oils, so it’s sustainable and cleanly absorbed back into the earth, which means it keeps your food fresh and your conscience clear.

2. Swap Paper Towels with Swedish Dishcloths

I get it. What’s more convenient than paper towels? Here’s an easy switch: Swedish dishcloths. Not only do these bad boys absorb spills WAY better than paper towels, but they’re also washable and reusable. And bonus: they come in designs so cute, you’ll have to stop yourself from framing them. Plus, they last a long time so you can save money AND feel a whole lot better about your carbon footprint.

3. Swap Plastic Containers with Glass Containers

Remember when plastic Tupperware was all the rage? Yeah, let’s leave that in the past with dial-up internet. Glass containers are the new way to go, and not only are they safer for storing your leftovers (farewell, harmful chemicals), but they’re super duper durable and reusable.  Also, they make your fridge and pantry look like they belong in a fancy catalog.

4. Swap Plastic Straws for a Reusable Straw Or Compostable Ones

Plastic straws might seem small, but did you know that they’re a HUGE problem for our oceans and marine life? And they’re not hard to replace AT ALL. In fact, you have 2 options: reusable straws and compostable straws. Reusable come in stainless steel, glass, or bamboo, and they’re easy to clean, carry, and use.

If you’re not ready for the commitment of cleaning and carrying your straw around, compostable straws are the way to go (though you won’t save as much money, and that’s something to think about!) They’re made from natural ingredients like cornstarch, which easily breaks down in your compost bin. Either way, these choices will contribute to your good karma, and who doesn’t love that?

5. Swap Grocery Bags with Reusable Totes

In an effort to be at least a little more environmentally conscious, do you hoard single-use plastic bags to reuse, but then realize that you are soon up to your neck with them? That was my issue for a LONG time. There has to be a better way, right?

Well, good news: there is. Reusable shopping bags are available in an array of materials from hemp to jute to cotton to recycled PET bags. And using them in place of regular plastic grocery bags is a great way to significantly lessen your plastic use. Plus, they stand up better and hold more, which will make your grocery store cashier happier. 

6. Swap Plastic Bottles with Reusable Water Bottles

Here’s an easy no-brainer: Stop using single-use plastic water bottles and get yourself a couple of reusable bottles. There’s a wide variety of different kinds available, from stainless steel to glass, and they keep your liquids cold (or hot) way better than plastic ever could.

It also doesn’t hurt that sustainable brands now offer options that come with filters, built-in infusers for your favorite fruit, and an assortment of design choices. At the end of the day, it’s not only the more environmentally friendly choice, but it’s the more appealing choice in general.

7. Swap Regular Sponges with Plant-Based Sponges

Did you know that regular dish sponges are often made from synthetic materials that are NOT kind to the environment, especially when you consider that they need frequent replacing. Screw that! Get yourself some plant-based sponges. They’re made from natural materials like cellulose, loofah, or coconut fibers, which are all biodegradable (or compostable if that’s your vibe). It’s a small change that can make a big difference!

8. OR, Swap Dish Sponges Altogether with Eco-Friendly Dish Brushes

If you want to move away from the sponge all together and get something that is less likely to harbor bacteria, eco-friendly dish brushes are everything you’re looking for. They’re made up of sustainable materials like bamboo handles and natural bristles, and are actually a whole lot more hygienic than sponges.

It also helps that they’re more convenient, as many come with replaceable heads, so you don’t have to throw away the entire brush each time. Plus, they look way classier sitting next to your sink than a sad, worn out sponge ever could.

9. Swap Baggies with Reusable Silicone Bags

Take a moment and reflect… how many single-use sandwich bags or freezer bags are you throwing away each month? We all know they aren’t cheap these days, and that means you’re throwing out your hard-earned money with each one.

Opt for something far superior: reusable silicone bags. Need to marinate meat? Break out your silicone bags. Need to secure your favorite snacks for lunch or a road trip? Again, silicone bags! Anything Ziploc bags can do, these can do better. They’re freezer safe, microwave safe, and dishwasher safe AND they come in a variety of sizes (and colors!). They’ll make you wonder why you ever bothered with the disposable kind.

10. Swap Toxic Cookware with Cast Iron Cookware

In an effort to get away from toxic teflon, you opted for a non-toxic option like ceramic, and then realized… they don’t last that long. In 1 to 2 years, you’re looking at yet another pan that is no longer non-stick and you have to chuck it. Your next pan should be your final pan. Check out cast iron cookware, the MVP of eco-friendly kitchens and one of the most sustainable products you can add to your kitchen.

Cast iron cookware is so durable, it’s known to last for decades (generations, even!!) which means a lot less waste for our landfills. Plus, it doesn’t contain any of those toxic chemicals that make non-stick pans non-stick.

Oh, you thought I was done with listing the perks? Nope! Cooking with cast iron also infuses your food with a little extra iron (great for your health!) AND requires less oil, so you’ll have savings comin’ out the wazoo! Honestly, what are you even waiting for?

11. Swap Paper Coffee Cups with Reusable Coffee Cups

Lots of people (read: me) can’t start the day until that first sip of coffee. If that’s you too, then a reusable coffee cup is a must-have. As a coffee drinker, it’s such a simple but profound change. AND, it allows you to rep your own personal style, rather than some random coffee company’s, with an assortment of aesthetic and functional designs.

Also, many coffee shops offer discounts to customers who bring their own cup. Need another reason? Reusable coffee cups are made from sustainable materials like stainless steel, glass, and bamboo, so you can enjoy your morning java guilt-free!

12. Swap Harsh Chemicals with Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

It’s an easy decision. You’re tired of toxic chemicals taking years off your life. The planet is tired of toxic chemicals taking years off its life. Why not work together and switch to eco-friendly cleaning products? Not only are they made from natural ingredients that won’t harm you or your loved ones, but many come in reusable and recyclable containers.

Wanna save some dough as well? Many brands offer concentrated solutions that you can dilute at home, so you can use less and waste less. And obviously, it doesn’t hurt that the essential oils in these products result in a kitchen that smells amazing.

13. Swap Plastic Kitchen Utensils with Bamboo Utensils

While nylon and silicone utensils have their perks, bamboo utensils are the way to go. Not only is bamboo a highly renewable resource cuz it grows like weeds, but did you know that it also boasts natural antibacterial properties? Even better, bamboo utensils won’t scratch your pots and pans and they’re naturally biodegradable! 

14. Swap Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil with Silicone Baking Mats

If you’re a baking enthusiast looking to reduce waste (and costs!), silicone baking mats are your new best friend. Goodbye single-use baking paper and aluminum foil! And they aren’t just limited to baking. Use them for roasting veggies or even meats! They’re oven-safe, easy to clean, and designed to fit standard baking sheets. Less waste. Less wasted money. It’s a no-brainer.

15. Swap Normal Coffee Filters with Reusable Coffee Filters

When you’re a daily coffee drinker, it can sometimes hurt to think about just how much waste you go through each day in order to achieve that pick-me-up. But did you know that reusable coffee filters exist? In fact, CoffeeSock makes an amazing reusable coffee filter that’s made from easy-to-wash organic cotton fabric. And they last for at least a year. (Imagine only buying coffee filters once a year, and contributing to SIGNIFICANTLY less waste.) Talk about an easy and environmentally-savvy switch!

​Are You Ready To Save The Planet?

Considering just how many single-use items come in and out of our kitchens, using these planet-friendly alternatives can be a great starting place in our journey toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Eco-friendly kitchen products are one of the best ways to make a difference for the planet and your wallet! 

​Have you already made the switch? Got any good recommendations? We’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below. 

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