How to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle More Effectively in Your Kitchen
Here at Cooking Gift Set, we’re in the kitchen a lot, whether it’s for recipe-testing Turkey Xiao Long Bao or just making dinner for our families. So, it’s personally important to us to try to reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible.
Biodegradable vs. Compostable
Before we dive into some sustainable tips for your kitchen, we need to cover some industry lingo that can be misleading.
One term that gets a lot of attention is “biodegradable” — did you know it doesn’t necessarily mean “good for the earth”? The term isn’t regulated, which means companies can use it on any product that eventually breaks down, even if it takes ages and leaves toxins behind. Under these standards, even plastic — which is estimated to take around 450 years to break down — counts as biodegradable.
Composting, on the other hand, is a much faster and more beneficial process under the right conditions. Anything labeled as compostable returns nutrients to the earth once it’s completely broken down.
Most packaging will state if it’s biodegradable or compostable right on its label. All compostable items are biodegradable, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. Your best option is to select compostable materials whenever possible.
There are more than 322 million people living in the United States. Every day, we throw away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks, every single day. That’s a lot of garbage.
Landfills are full of items that can be recycled or composted instead. In fact, 30% of our trash could be composted or recycled. Compostable items in landfills don’t compost like they should.
For other items, plenty of reusable alternatives are available. To make reducing your trash output easier, start by switching out old products one at a time. Below is a list of great eco-friendly products we use in our kitchens that reduce waste:
Dropps Dishwasher Pods: These are free from artificial dyes, colors, and fragrances, with entirely compostable packaging. Buy in bulk to save some cash, or subscribe to save even more. Our dishes have always come out shiny with no residue.
Stasher Silicone Bags: Stasher bags are an easier-to-use (and easier-to-seal) alternative to single-use plastic ziplock bags. Pop them into your dishwasher to clean.
JOCO Reusable Straws: Look, we know it might seem annoying to carry around your own straw, but did you know that as many as 8.3 billion straws pollute beaches around the world? You can’t recycle them, either. These simple-to-clean JOCO reusable straws roll up for easy storage, making carrying your own straw much more convenient.
Glasslock Food Storage Containers: A great alternative to plastic storage containers, glass containers don’t absorb smells (so you don’t have to worry about infusing your cookies with onion). They’re also dishwasher-friendly. Better food storage always equals less food waste.
Silpat Baking Mats: Skip the one time use parchment and foil. We use the original Silpat for baking, and nothing ever sticks — not even the most buttery of cookies.
Kitsure Luffa Sponges: Luffas are gourds, not sea creatures, though that may come as a surprise. Use these versatile veggies to get those conventional microplastic sponges out of your kitchen. Bury it in your backyard or toss in your compost pile after use.
Hitch Water Bottle & Coffee Cup: Approximately 80% of water bottles end up in landfills — where, like other plastic, they take up to 450 years to decompose. This unique product combines your water bottle and coffee cup into one streamlined vessel, so you'll never forget one or the other.
No Tox Life Dish Block®: Many conventional soaps include harmful chemicals that wash down your drain, but there are zero-waste alternatives, such as the original No Tox Life dishwashing block. You can also use basic Castille soap, in both liquid and bar form.
Blueland Counter Cleaner: Just drop a tablet of this multi-purpose cleaner into a reusable bottle and add water. The tablets are free from harsh chemicals, and you don’t need to keep buying new bottles.
Who Gives a Crap Bamboo Paper Towels: Where trees take 30 or more years to grow, bamboo reaches its full height in just three to four months, making these paper towels a much more sustainable choice than the traditional stuff. Better yet, stock up on a few washable microfiber towels and save the paper towels for only super gross cleanup.
Goods & Provisions Burlap Market Tote: Already normalized in Europe, these help keep plastic bags out of landfills and oceans. If you're like us and want to cut down your back and forth trips from the car, we personally like these extra-large canvas bags.
"Eco-Friendly" Garbage Bags: While some are better than others, no garbage bag is 100% eco-friendly. Compostable options don’t have the necessary conditions in landfills to break down properly. You can certainly use them, but the most eco-friendly option is no garbage bag.
We could talk about how to reuse your soup cans by turning them into planters, but you’ve probably come across that tip before. These tips are a little more practical.
There’s no doubt about it: one of the best ways to “reuse” is to compost.
Hang on — before you get intimidated and skip this section altogether, hear us out. Did you know that 40% of food produced goes to waste? If your vegetable scraps or orange peels go to a landfill, their nutrients aren’t reused for anything.
Composting is much easier than you might think. If you live in an apartment or a house with little to no yard space, you can definitely compost. Check with your city to see if it offers compost pick-up. If not, look into private organizations that pick up compost.
If you do have a yard, you have a few composting options. Add your food waste to a bin or tumbler. Or, it can be as easy as tossing the waste into a pile in your backyard.
Cooking Root to Leaf
When you prepare fruits and vegetables, what do you throw out? Have you thought about whether you could use that “waste”? Instead of tossing the seeds from butternut squash, roast them and add them into a salad. Sautee the greens from a bunch of beets. Check out these other ideas for cooking root to tip.
Buying “Ugly” Produce
Did you know there are beauty standards for produce? If it doesn’t look “perfect,” it often gets thrown away. Approximately 20% of produce gets tossed for cosmetic reasons such as odd shapes or minor blemishes.
That’s why we like companies like Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market, which send subscribers regular boxes of “imperfect” but perfectly usable produce for affordable prices.
Recycling varies by state. We threw recycling in regular trash bags for a whole year… only to find out that doing so made the bag’s contents unrecyclable. If only we had known! Take a few minutes to read up on your state’s recycling terms. You’ll be surprised to find out what is and isn’t recyclable:
Even the Smallest Changes Matter
We get it. You might start to look around and realize there’s a lot of waste going into landfills that doesn’t need to be. We’ve been there, too. Fortunately, change doesn’t have to happen all at once. Changing one small habit at a time can have a big impact on our planet even in the next five to ten years, allowing Mother Earth to continue producing the food we love to prepare, cook, and eat.
Have you made some sustainable changes that you’re proud of, or that we haven’t mentioned? Feel free to share with the community. We’d love to hear from you!
I liked your suggestion to look for packaging that says compostable rather than biodegradable. We’ve been looking to have less of an impact on the earth, but didn’t know of this distinction between products. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for those things so that we can help to take care of the earth around us. https://wasteresources.com/gardena-residents/