Episode 10: Our Planet's Kitchen Nightmare

Welcome to 3 Changes a Week: your weekly update on how to save the planet.

Previously, I’ve talked about how you can cut down on plastic in the bathroom, and, just like in the bathroom, there are many ways you can cut down on waste and plastic in your kitchen.

Here, I’ll be focusing on swaps you can make for things that use in the kitchen, but it might interest you to check out my previous article on food and how you can reduce waste with what you actually eat.

Our kitchens are filled with plastic -disposable and multiple use - and this isn’t ideal. Plastics, especially if you get cheap tupperware, can release chemicals into your food. There’s been a recent push to stop using plastic tupperware and instead use glass or metal, which is naturally BPA-free. BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical often added to plastic (including, scarily, the plastic in feminine hygiene products), and can interact with hormone receptors, stopping them working properly or altering their function. This site notes that even if plastic is BPA-free, BPA may just have been replaced with the similar BPF or BPS, which could be just as harmful. Therefore, storing your food in any plastic isn’t ideal.

Then there are also the disposable products often used in the kitchen, such as clingfilm, baking paper, tinfoil and kitchen towels. Even if some of this can be recycled – which it often cannot be if dirty – it still takes a lot of energy to make, just to be used once. Below, I’ll list some alternatives that can be used again and again, and will save you some money in the long run.

 

1. AVOID PLASTIC UTENSILS AND STORAGE

Ease: *****

Cost: £10-20

As above, plastic can be harmful when it's used in cooking or storing food. What’s more, at the end of its life, it goes straight to landfill. If you’re buying utensils, opt for metal (which is unlikely to break and therefore has a longer lifetime) or wood (which will biodegrade, and is usually dirt cheap). Metal utensils will also be available in charity shops, and still be as usable as new.

Similarly, if you are looking for things to store food in, there are plenty of alternatives. Glass containers, like these cheap ones from IKEA which have a bamboo lid, are very pretty, as are these metal lunchboxes, which you just know will last forever. I’ve also seen these adorable coconut bowls advertised; they would make a great eco-conscious gift.

Just making a sandwich? If it doesn’t need a box, you could try washable, reusable silicone snack bags, that are safe and chemical free. The original American company is Stasher, but I've also found this cheaper version available on Amazon. Even better, simply wrap in reusable wax wrap – see more below.

2. STOP USING CLING FILM, BAKING PAPER AND TIN FOIL

Ease: ****

Cost: wax wrap is £10-15 for a set and silicone baking sheets are £10 for 3

Clingfilm is a very unnecessary single-use plastic. If you are wrapping food or covering a bowl, replace plastic clingfilm with a reusable wax wrap. These are usually made from beeswax, like these, but even better is this vegan alternative. If you're interested in making your own, have a look at this guide.

Similarly, baking paper is usually coated in wax or some kid of chemical and therefore not recyclable. Replace it with good, thorough greasing, or these reusable silicone baking sheets, which are especially great for whipping up some cookies.

Tin foil can often be recycled, but it is still single-use and wastes valuable energy to make only to be thrown away. You might be able to replace it with wax wrap, or, to keep things warm, wrap in clean kitchen cloths, or leave in a turned-off oven as it cools. If you use tin foil to prevent burning in the oven, invest in some covered bakeware and pots. I’ve spotted plenty in charity shops.

3. SWITCH TO REUSABLE KITCHEN TOWELS AND NAPKINS

Ease: *****

Cost: bamboo kitchen towels are around £10 for a roll and cloth napkins can be nabbed for next to nothing

Anything that is single-use is not ideal. Kitchen towels and napkins are also chemically treated and therefore no longer recyclable. Kitchen towels that are used to wipe up spills and messes can be replaced with cloths (simply use rags made of cut up old t-shirts, and throw them in the wash), or with reusable and biodegradable bamboo 'kitchen towels'. I use these ones, which are very absorbent and strong).

If you use paper napkins at meals, swap these out for cloth ones, which, again, can be found in charity shops. These are much nicer, for events especially. For day-to-day, simply nip to the sink and wash your hands!

Made these changes or already doing them? Tag your pictures to #3changesaweek and spread the word!