Reduce 80% of kitchen plastic

Reduce 80% of kitchen plastic

My kitchen and bathroom were two primary sources of plastic. On any day, I could walk in and see plastics on every counter, cabinet, and shelf. Reusable and non-reusable plastic items were everywhere in my kitchen: storage containers, mixing bowls, strainer, cutting board, utensils, water bottles, sponge-holder, plastic wrap, grocery bags, and sandwich bags.

Living completely plastic-free wasn’t reasonable at this stage, because my smaller kitchen appliances like my blender and juicer have plastic components. However, I made it a goal to reduce at least 80% of the plastic in my kitchen. This wasn’t hard at all!

I noticed two main perks of transitioning to primarily glass. First, everything seemed cleaner. Have you ever put red sauce or spaghetti into a plastic container, only to have it stained and ruined forever? This doesn’t happen with glass. Everything that I have stored in glass containers has washed clean.

Second, glass is more versatile and has made my life more convenient and minimalist. Is it a large glass storage container or a glass mixing bowl with a lid? It’s both! Do I need to use a regular ceramic dinner bowl if I can just eat right out of a glass storage container?

The less dishes I use, the less there is to clean! Because I didn’t have a dishwasher, this was ample motivation for change.

stainless steel heart-shaped herb stripper

I started substituting products one by one. I perused stores and researched alternative options. It’s expensive to replace kitchenware, so I was careful to think through the use-cases and longevity of each product. After a year and a half, I accomplished my goal. Below are some areas on which I focused.

No plastic wrap

It’s so convenient. This was one of the last plastic items to go, because I couldn’t find the right replacement. I used about a roll of plastic wrap per year. It was another tube taking up space in my kitchen, and the single-use plastic broke my heart every time. The solution? Wax-covered cotton cloths. The heat from my hands gently warms the wax to mold the cloth and form a seal around the object. It rinses clean in plain water and little friction.

No plastic storage containers

These were the first to go, and I never looked back. I bought three glass containers about the size of a bowl. In fact, I often use them as bowls. This way, I leave any leftovers in the bowl and simply cover it with a lid. I also bought glass 3 containers with different compartments and built-in silverware for meal prep. These are much easier to keep track of than my old mini plastic containers that clattered around in my lunchbox.

No plastic strainer

I had a fun green strainer with large holes. I also had a smaller stainless steel one that could be held with one hand. I donated the green one because it was still in great shape. Sometimes, I miss my large strainer, but I like being able to hang the small stainless steel one on the wall. Why did I ever think I needed plastic?

No plastic cutting board

This was also bright green to match my plastic strainer. A friend accidentally set it on fire while cooking on my stove, and I smelled the burning plastic long before I saw the small flame. Definitely not an appetizing odor. I now have a beautiful board made from acacia wood, which can be easily left out on my counter as a display.

acacia wooden cutting board with knife

No plastic cooking utensils

Plastic ladles, spatulas, tongs, and an ice cream scoop are just a few of the things I parted with. I had been wanting to do this for a while, particularly because I noticed the edge of my plastic spatula wearing and peeling off over time. Where were these plastic bits going, I wondered? Probably into my food. Now, I use wooden and metal utensils. They’ve been surprisingly durable, even after years of use.

colorful wooden spoons

No suction-cup sponge holder

I went through several different sponge holders, and none of them lasted more than a couple years. The suction cups would lose their shape and stick, and then the holder would dangle from side. I now have an extendable stainless-steel rack that lays across the top of my sink (from Kohler). It also holds a rag and cleaning brushes.

No plastic mixing bowls

I had a nice set of three bowls. I liked them, but I also wondered about the scratches they developed after years of use. Again, where were these bits going? Into my food. My mom happened to give me a large glass bowl with a lid when she was downsizing her kitchen. I found myself reaching for it on many occasions, and now it serves as a mixing, storage, and salad bowl.

No plastic sandwich bags                                     

These were tricky to part with because I kept purchasing them in a pinch for travel-on liquids while flying. A little frustration led me to realize that even bags that are supposedly disposable can be rinsed out and reused. Why I hadn’t I thought of this before? Then, I finally remembered to purchase a clear reusable bag to keep on hand for last-minute packing.

Less plastic grocery bags

Did you know that most grocery bags aren’t recyclable? I didn’t. My cabinet under my sink was full of plastic grocery bags, all stuffed inside of each other. I reused them as trash bags in my bathroom, but not as fast as I was bringing them home.

I finally got my plastic bag population under control by purchasing two reusable polyester bags (from ChicoBag). While there are more natural fabrics such as cotton and hemp, I decided that I needed something extremely light and packable or else I wasn’t going to use them at all.

No single-use produce bags

This was the hardest change. Green produce bags are by every fruit, veggie, and bulk food imaginable. It was so convenient to tear them off in the product section and go on my way. I was taking home at least 5 new produce bags a week.

Early on, I thought about using reusable mesh bags instead, but produce doesn’t last as long while exposed to air. And that’s the genius of plastic bags—you can store produce in the same bag that you take it home. So, any natural solution was going to require a two-step process: one, getting the produce home, and two, storing it in my fridge so that it lasted longer than a day.

Step one: transporting produce home. I first considered extremely lightweight and strong polyester bags that wouldn’t require cashiers to enter a tare weight. Some mesh is even so fine that cashiers can scan the barcode right through it. While appealing, it seemed to replace one problem with another. Plastic is plastic, and I didn’t want to go just halfway with another non-biodegradable material. I decided on a variety of sized cotton bags with metal pull (from Colony Co.).

red apples in reusable cotton bag

Step two: storing produce in my fridge. The crisper drawers work decently well for some things, but not for saving herbs that I often bring home. I accidentally left fresh mint sitting exposed on the top shelf in my fridge, and when I frantically remembered it a day later, it was too late. I then considered dedicated herb containers, but those had too specific of a purpose and couldn’t be easily used for other foods.

Narrowly-served products and containers only result in the need for more products and containers. For this reason, I decided to go with general glass containers that can be stacked or used for baking. I chose glass over opaque materials, because I need to see what’s inside. If I can’t see the contents, I forget to eat it, even if the bag is right in front of me.

Less plastic bottles

I had smoothie containers, a tumbler, a bottle with a popup spout, an insulated bottle with a pullout spout, and a few more nameless ones that I must have received for free. I keep one plastic bottle with a trail cap for biking, but everything else is glass or stainless steel. I have a 22 oz glass bottle for general use, a ceramic-coated stainless steel liter for work, and two glass smoothie bottles (21 oz and 32 oz) with removable sleeves (from Kablo).