The kitchen. It’s where we knead and stir nourishment for ourselves and our families. It’s where we sneakily pick at the apple crumble topping, scribble notes on the calendar and mediate squabbles. Its where we gather to offload and reconnect; to make memories. And ultimately as the “heart of the home” a place that holds great power to infuse our day to day lives with our familial and environmental values. In the comings and goings of meal preparation, food storage and cleaning, the kitchen provides ample opportunity to flex our eco muscle often with the cost as little as a simple shift in mindset.
Here a some steps to a greener kitchen:
- Start getting creative with food waste. Rethink tonight’s leftover mashed potato into tomorrow morning’s hash brown with a fried egg. View soft and somewhat sad fruit and vegetables through a new lens and embrace stewing, freezing, shredding, making smoothies, “what’s in the crisper” soups and pies. A slightly lacklustre appearance is no cause for banishment to the bin. And embrace a new ritual of making a nourishing and frugal chicken stock from the week’s peelings and vegetable top and tails.
- Start composting kitchen scraps. Household food waste that hop, skips and jumps into the bin inevitably ends up in landfill where it will most likely decompose without oxygen, producing methane – a powerful greenhouse gas. A compost bin for outside (ours is secondhand) and a container with a lid for inside is all that you need to get started. The melodical prose of Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals is a wonderful introduction to the world of composting for adults and children alike.
- Invest in a small sink strainer. This tiny disk of metal with small holes catches all manner of food waste from cake crumbs to the offerings from the bottom of the porridge pan. Simply scoop up the contents and transfer to your handy compost container.
- Make second-hand your first choice for pots and pans, crockery, cutlery and glassware. Thrift stores, antique centres and garage sales are heaving with all manner of household items that you’re bound to find that perfect something to compliment your aesthetic without taking another giddy turn on the consumption roundabout. The same goes for kitchen utensils; a recycled plastic spatula is still a better option that a brand new wooden one.
- Use re-usable dishcloths, wooden scrubbing brushes, eco friendly dishwasher powder and a soap saver for washing up, just like our grandparents would have. The equation of frothy bubbles equals clean is an advertising gimmick that should quietly be laid to rest.
- Trawl your local op shops/thrift stores for fabric napkins. Often delicately embroidered they whisper of tea parties, madeira cake and slower times.
- Replace paper towel with reusable cloths such a face washers. A stack of cloths kept handy in a basket makes spill cleanups easy and a barely noticeable contribution to the washing pile. And for draining the oil off the occasional fry up dinner? We keep a small stash of recycled brown paper packaging stowed away for such festivities.
- If you’re cajoling your leftovers into new and exciting meals, composting and making stock from your scraps, you’ll find that a paper bin liner will march all over its inferior plastic colleagues. Most of the moisture (and smell) that comes from our bin is food waste and in its absence, a simply folded newspaper liner performs perfectly. It’s also a gentle origami task that children will love.
- Ditch plastic wrap once and for all in favour of greener alternatives such as beeswax wraps, linen bowl covers, glass jars for leftovers, wrapping greens in a clean tea towel or even the humble “upturned lemon on a plate” trick.
- Make do with what you have. Do you need that extra platter? Can your tupperware collection house leftovers just as well as that picture perfect set of glass storage containers? A greener kitchen does not need to be Pinterest worthy.
Take this list and jot down an idea or two that you might be able to work towards. And when you’ve mastered those perhaps explore another one. Each and every effort in the right direction is to be celebrated. Small changes, one day at a time.