Cooking Up Sustainability
Here at Sustainably Motivated we’re all about giving you the tools to lead a more sustainable life. One place where we embrace life to the fullest is in the kitchen! No matter where you are in the world, or what income bracket you find yourself in, your kitchen is a symbol of hospitality and wellbeing.
Of course, anywhere with food is naturally a place we enjoy being. What’s beneath this though, is a room that offers us a place to create, bond, pass down traditions and if nothing else, give us routine.
Where It’s At
My kitchen, more often than not, is where my friends and I catch up over a cup of tea or a few glasses of wine. After maybe a few too many, we’ve even been known to use the kitchen as a stand-in dancefloor.💃
So, for a room that embodies so many aspects of your life, it has a lot of potential to become one that totally boasts sustainable living.
“But I don’t have the money to buy green!”
On the other hand, many of us struggle with the funds needed to purchase products and food that are marketed for a sustainable kitchen. I’m here to tell you, spending money is not a requirement.
In fact, buying a bunch of eco-friendly bags and straws and soda streams can feed into toxic consumerism and green washing. This pulls us further away from true sustainability goals.
I remind myself to really consider whether a new product is something I really need. While a cute $5 Swedish dishcloth or $25 set of beeswax wraps are amazing items, they don’t always fit in my budget.
Instead, I opt for sanitizing a few hand-me-down washcloths or picking up secondhand food containers. These might not be the most aesthetic options, but hey, reusing items is essential for embracing sustainable living.
So, if you’re like me and believe in the power of being frugal to reduce personal and planetary costs, consider my 6 tips on how to keep a sustainable kitchen!
1. Plan Out Your Meals
When it comes to preparing meals, take the time to plan a few days or weeks at a time. It’s the easiest way to use your money and food most efficiently, and sustainability is all about efficiency.
If you don’t know exactly what you need, you run the risk of bringing home more food than you can eat. This leads to food waste and higher grocery bills.
You also put yourself in a better position to make more conscious decisions (ecological, economic, & healthy). You can easily track your meat intake, find items on sale, and choose meals that use up left overs.
There are plenty of resources geared towards meal planning including free templates and sustainable-focused recipes. Apps like mealime, prepear, and praprika are amazing tools that let you search recipes, customize plans, and create grocery lists!
2. Buy Bulk
Make your local bulk food store your first stop when it’s time to stock your kitchen. Many let you bring your own containers to fill (thank you Bulk Barn!). This limits a massive amount of plastic waste from food packaging, while also helping you save.
Another benefit of bulk shopping is that it allows you to purchase the exact amount you need so you can avoid having left over ingredients you struggle to use up. Once you start to get acquainted with these stores, you realize how much they have to offer. I go there for local honey, different nut butters, and coconut oil, to name a few.
You can also buy in bulk. At your grocery store, opt for larger containers and avoid single serve items. Not only is it usually cheaper, it also produces less packaging waste to portion out meat, yogurt, or snacks into smaller reusable containers.
3. Be Kind To Your Fridge
So we covered how to stock your fridge, but what about the fridge itself? It might surprise you that managing refrigerants more sustainably is one of the highest ranked solutions for climate change.
Keeping your food cool is making the planet hot
Project Drawdown explains refrigerants like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) cause atmospheric warming 1000-9000x greater than CO2! When global leaders agreed to phase out these chemicals, we took a huge step forward in reducing future carbon emissions. But what about all the HFCs and older ozone-depleting refrigerants that are currently in refrigeration systems today?
Ensure proper disposal and check for leaks
When your fridge has gone kaput, it’s extremely important that you take the necessary steps to recycle it properly. Destroying refrigerants at the end of their life and regularly checking for leaks can save up to 57.8 gigatons of CO2.
Some municipal waste depots take fridges and freezers free of charge, while others charge a small fee. Look into the appliance manufacturer or retailer; many will even take back old products and pay for the shipping. There are also rebate programs where you can get money back for old or broken appliances!
Don’t overfill your fridge and keep it organized!
At the end of the day, we don’t need a huge fridge that is stuffed to the brim with food options. Overfilling your fridge makes it work harder which increases your electricity bill and can shorten its lifespan.
It has also been attributed to increasing household food waste both by improper cooling and not knowing what the heck is even in your fridge!
To avoid this problem, pick up fewer groceries more often and stick to your meal planning list! Become the most efficient shopper you can be – your wallet will thank you, and so will your fridge.
4. Opt For High Efficiency
If you are in the market, buy high efficiency appliances. This might seem like an obvious recommendation, but many overlook this HUGE opportunity to save on energy costs and reduce emissions.
Energy Star has become a well known certification label on appliances in North America. They claim to have saved Americans $35 billion from reduced energy costs in 2018 alone!
They also provide an assessment for the best of the best, and these are not expensive fridges. The majority of non-compact fridges on Energy Star’s Most Efficient 2021 list are between $500-749.
These fridges were typically smaller and were either a top or bottom freezer design. This just goes to show, the simpler and more economical options are often the best for the environment!
5. Ditch Single-use & Plastic Packaging
With the motivation to invent and consumer demand to buy green, it seems like I learn about a new zero waste product every few days! But like I mentioned before, we don’t necessarily need to buy something new to implement the same change.
Get ready to be creative, because this tip involves using alternatives that are in your home or come at a low cost. Here are few ideas to get the sustainability juices flowing:
- Keep an old storage bin or duffle bag in your car to carry groceries in. If you walk to the store like me, using your backpack is a must!
- Use food storage containers you already have or repurpose ones. I always save containers like mason jars from jams or pasta sauces.
- Take the time to grease and clean baking sheets rather than using aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Use a plate to cover food in the microwave.
- Ditch the cling wrap! It cannot be recycled, so use containers or jars to store food.
6. Put Your Waste In Its Place
This one’s pretty straightforward, but still people get confused with the best of intentions. Educate yourself on your region’s waste disposal processes, as they can vary.
Personally, I have to put all my thin plastic waste inside of a plastic bag. While my Mom, 20 km north of me, can’t recycle styrofoam or black plastic.
But for anyone anywhere, dirty “recyclables” are not recyclable. You need to make sure food residue is completely cleaned off before putting it in your blue bin. And greasy cardboard pizza boxes? Those go in the garbage, unfortunately.
With municipalities slow to adopt composting programs, why not start one in your own backyard?
Food scraps that end up packed in oxygen-depleted landfills emit methane and never break down. Methane can have 34x more warming potential than carbon dioxide. In composters, bacteria have better access to oxygen resulting in methane-free decomposition.
A Sustainable Kitchen is a Happy Kitchen
It feels good to implement sustainability where I can. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility as consumers and as home owners to consider the impact of our energy use and waste to the environment and to society.
But this shouldn’t mean feeling helpless because your finances are tight. Many of the best habits for reducing your impact don’t involve buying a single thing!
Remember, you don’t have to single-handedly save the world. There are millions of people out there just like you, doing their own part. The sustainability movement encourages us to feel positive and motivated through our shared progress. We can achieve so much together!🌎💪
Editing by Marc-Antoni Tarondo.