I’m Kay from Paws and Pines and, in collaboration with the Zero Waste Bloggers Network, I’m showing you some simple ways to swap to a more zero waste kitchen. Today, we focus on the everyday items in your kitchen cleaning routine that can be upgraded to promote a zero-waste, natural, and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
1. The silicone sponge
For those who wash dishes by hand, you may be used to the synthetic sponge replaced every month. These are a breeding ground for bacteria and studies show that even with regular disinfecting (i.e. microwave), it is still bacteria-ridden. Post “disinfecting”, the limited surviving bacteria rapidly recolonize to render your cleaning attempt futile.
Instead of purchasing a new synthetic sponge every few weeks, a silicone sponge is a good alternative. On my site, you’ll find me singing the praises of silicone because of its odor and stain-resistant nature, its ability to be safely boiled for disinfecting, and its smooth, non-porous surface allowing for easy day-to-day cleaning. The silicone sponge inhibits bacteria growth and because of the non-stick material, you won’t find random pieces of food stuck in any nooks stuck from your previous wash – bleh!
2. Replace your paper towel roll with cute “unpaper towels”. Pair with a pile of huck towels
To reduce the use of paper towels, you can invest in some cute “unpaper towels“. They may seem a bit pricey in the beginning, but it’s good for both the environment and your budget long-term compared to constantly buying single-use paper towels. For me, the problem with cute unpaper towels is that I never want to clean anything too messy with them out of fear of staining or ruining them. This obviously poses a problem (… first world problems, I know).
For these dirtier messes, I’d recommend getting a pile of huck towels. Huck towels are 100% cotton towels that are generally intended for use in cleaning surgical equipment because of their low-lint nature. They’re your no-nonsense, get the job done, kind of towel. They are not the prettiest, but they are effective! You can hide these under the sink for when you need them. A must have for any zero waste kitchen, in my opinion.
FYI don’t get micro-fiber towels – they seem great because they are highly absorbent and inexpensive, but they have a hidden secret! They are actually a byproduct of the petroleum process and made of plastic (i.e. similar to polyester or nylon)! This means that during a normal wash cycle, they will release micro-plastics into our waterstream and that’s never good.
3. Invest in two trash cans: one large and one small
Going completely zero-waste is probably going to be a slow (but hopefully steady) journey for all but the most dedicated. Despite your solid efforts, you’ll probably still be making some trash. But, instead of working through 3 bags of trash per week, you might be going down to 1 per week. Then 1 every month. Then half a mason jar in a year? Maybe!
During this transition process, you’ll be tempted to take out your trash every few days, even if the bag in not full, if you haven’t started composting. The reality is: if you’re adding banana peels, food scraps, and other smelly stuff into the bin, you’ll need to prevent your house from smelling up. If this is your scenario, consider adding a small (1-2 gallon) trash can for all your smelly stuff. This way, all the dry trash (i.e. packaging, empty snack bags, tissues, and other non-recyclables) can accumulate for as long as it takes to fill a bag fully and all the wet, smelly trash is taken out on a regular basis.
4. Replace a plastic dish brush with a wooden / steel one with replaceable heads
If you commonly use a plastic dish brush to scrub your pots and pans, you’ll know that the plastic bristles lose their structural integrity over time and have to be replaced. It is quite wasteful to dispose the entire brush when only the bristles need replacing. Your options include a silicone sponge (double-duty!), a silicone brush, a plastic dish brush but with a replaceable head, getting a plastic brush with a replaceable head (so at least you’re disposing of less plastic), or the best a wooden dish brush.
5. For general messes, use a homemade cleaning solution
For a general cleaning solution, consider making your own all-natural cleaner as part of your transition to a zero waste kitchen. Once you’ve used up your current store-bought all-purpose cleaner, save the spray bottle to refill with your homemade solution. If you don’t have this, you can easily find some glass spray bottles in stores or online.
To make a simple all-natural cleaning solution, just mix white vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio. Optionally, you can add 10-20 drops of any essential oil to a full bottle of solution. This will further mask the smell of vinegar, though the 1:1 ratio already dilutes the vinegar by 50% so is not too strong.
Please note that vinegar will kill some bacteria like S. aureus and E. coli but is not as effective as commercial disinfectants for getting rid of all bacteria like… poliovirus. I’d personally use this homemade disinfectant for general cleaning, but if someone’s walking around with polio in your house, it’s probably wise to get some Clorox!
These are all quick changes you can swap in your cleaning routine to have a more zero waste kitchen. All of them should run you under $30 (most expensive being un-paper towels because of the effort by local entrepreneurs in making these beautiful products). Most under $10 so they also won’t break your budget.
Have you already tried some of these swaps? How has it worked for you?
If you haven’t make these swaps yet, what are you most interested in trying?
Let me know in the comments below, or join me at www.pawsandpines.com. Happy cleaning!
** Disclosure: the above may contain affiliate links **
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