I shared eco-friendly tips to reduce plastic waste everyday back in July.
Now, summer may have ended, but that doesn't mean our efforts to reduce plastic should too!
I will be sharing easy sustainable life hacks you can do at home on a daily-basis :)
Here are some tips to reduce plastic waste from your kitchen:
1. Old Towels / Rags Instead of Paper Towels
Most of the time, paper towels come in plastic wrappings.
By reusing unwanted fabrics as dishcloth, you can eliminate plastic waste, general waste, and save some money!
We cut up old bath towels, T-shirts, and even cotton pillow cases and reuse them to clean our kitchen.
They are washable & reusable, so we usually use them a couple of times to clean up a spill or wipe down the countertop.
I prefer using towels over paper, as towels can absorb more liquid and don't leave any residual.
Once it reaches the point where it's too dirty, we throw them away or use them one more time to clean the floor/bathroom before actually tossing them.
If you have old towels / shirts, save them to replace your paper towels!
2. Newspaper to Collect Food Waste
It might just be an Asian thing to have a trash can specifically for food scraps...
But my family has always had a mini trash bag for food waste, just so we can cut out bad odors from the main trash can.
Anyways, we relied heavily on plastic produce bags from supermarkets, but I stopped using them when shopping for vegetables, so we had to find an alternative solution.
Now, we found out that newspapers make great bags for food waste, as they are thicker than regular papers and can absorb water too.
Here are some follow-along videos I found on YouTube:
I know not many people read newspapers nowadays but if you do, give it a try!
If not, you can always reuse a paper bag to line the food waste bin.
3. Glass Jars instead of Plastic Containers
We do use plastic tupperware and containers, but we sometimes have to throw them away when they crack or get too smelly/oily :(
So we started to use glass containers more when storing leftover soups, jam, smoothie, dry goods, and pretty much everything😅
The only downside of glass containers/mason jars is that they take up more space in the shelf than plastic ones since you can't really stack them.
However, they are more visually pleasing (if you care about aesthetics) and last longer in my opinion.
We are reusing the honey jar we got from the farmers' market and bought some of them from a local craft store.
Department stores such as Macy's, Target, and Home Depot also sell glass containers with lids :)
4. Beeswax Wrap instead of Saran-Wrap
I got my first set of beeswax wraps as a gift, and we're so in love with them!
It's a little sticky just like plastic wraps, so it folds nicely to cover anything.
We use them for veggies, dishes, containers, sandwiches, and sometimes baked goods.
They are not heat-resistant, so make sure to wash them with cold water and store in a cool place.
If you are looking for a wrap to use in a microwave, use the silicon wrap (pictured on the left) instead :)
5. Reusable Muffin Cups for Baking
Here are some of our favorite silicon muffin cups from a local craft shop.
These cups are much more eco-friendly than disposable ones made from a foil.
There are paper muffin cups out there, but most of the times, those also come in a plastic container.
Silicon cups are reusable, so you don't have to keep buying new ones every time!
They are heat-resistant so are safe in the oven/toaster.
If you are not a fan of silicon, there are also steel/metal cups.
6. Ditch the Tea Bags and Opt-in for Loose Leaf Tea
I drink tea everyday, and I used to rely heavily on tea bags.
What I didn't realize is that some tea bags contain so-called microplastics, which are tiny particles of plastics that are smaller than 5mm long.
Since there are so small, it is possible that a high level of microplastics can be shed into water through tea bags.
While WHO states such particles do not pose a heath concern, I still would prefer not to drink pieces of plastic with tea😅
Buying loose leaf tea will eliminate the microplastics as well as any packaging that comes with the box of tea bags.
I honestly think loose leaf tea and un-processed leaves have more flavor and aroma compared to crushed leaves inside the tea bags.
It is less convenient, I gotta admit, since you have to steep, strain, and wash the pot/strainer, BUT making tea and sparing some time for yourself is so relaxing, it's worth the try :)
7. Make Your Own Plant-Based Milk
In Japan, we are able to recycle milk cartons so we always washed/dried the empty containers.
Living in the U.S., I've never heard of recycling cartons, so I felt guilty about throwing away the bulky milk cartons with plastic caps.
To combat that, we have been making our own plant milk whenever possible to seek a zero-waste lifestyle.
You can use nuts or oats of your choice and it's super easy!
My favorite is oat milk, as it has a rich creamy taste similar to cow milk.
・Rolled oatmeal: 1 part
・Water: 4 parts
・Salt: a pinch
1. Put all ingredients in a high-speed blender
2. Mix it for about 30 seconds (don't blend it too long!)
3. Strain the pulp using a nut milk bag or tea strainer (do it twice if you want it extra smooth)
4. Transfer it to a clean air-tight container and refrigerate it
If you don't have a nut milk bag, cheesecloth or thin tights would work too!
You can leave it in the fridge for up to 5 days - I do recommend making a small batch at first unless you are confident that you can use it up.
Quick oats might be too fine for this recipe.
Also, I can't emphasize this enough but don't blend it for too long, or else it might become slimy :(
8. Buy Coffee Beans in Glass Container
If you are coffee lover, I challenge you to find a coffee brand that sells beans in a glass container.
My family is huge on coffee, and we used to have bags of coffee beans in our cabinet (and trash can).
So I'm glad that we found this great local coffee company/distributor called "Grok Coffee"→
They supply the jars with an initial deposit of $10 / jar, and you can return the empty one to receive another full jar from the second time and on.
It comes in a air-tight jar, so I feel like the bean stay fresh longer than the store-bough beans in plastic bags.
9. Grow Your Own Herb
Herbs are great for cooking and have so many health benefits!
But usually they come in plastic containers when you get them from a supermarket.
I try to find them at a farmers' market, but they don't always have the ones depending on the season, availability, etc.
So I thought, "why don't we grow our own?"
I remembered my grandma used to grow mint in her backyard and complained how fast they grew and multiplied.
Quite frankly, I am not good at growing any types of plants, but considering herbs are easy to take care of, I decided to give it a chance.
We bought a pack of mint leaves with stem from Whole Foods and placed the stem in a cup of glass water.
It took them a few weeks, but they started to grow roots!
For mint, avoid direct heat/sunlight and change the water everyday.
Once the roots grow long enough, you can transfer them to a pot filled with soil.
The leaves will keep growing, so you can start using some of them from the bottom.
We did the same thing with rosemary, and it's been growing so fast!
Our apartment doesn't have a balcony so all of them are sitting indoors, but they are healthy and perfectly fine.
So, even if you don't have a backyard or outdoor space, I highly recommend starting your own indoor her garden :)
Thank you for reading, and feel free to leave me a comment!