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Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

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By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.


It can seem like an impossible task at first, but once you set up a simple compost system and get serious about recycling everything you can, you'll cut your waste dramatically.

Once those systems are in place, you'll probably still have some trash to deal with. And remember, while recycling is better than sending something to a landfill, it's not perfect, and it's always better to refuse unnecessary items, packaging, etc in the first place.

Here are a few reusable replacements for some common kitchen items:

Reusable Straws

If you're someone who loves to sip sweet tea through a straw or slurp a breakfast smoothie during your commute, reusable straws are a great alternative for the disposal plastic variety that have been catching so much flack lately.

With more and more restaurants phasing out their plastic straws in response to customer backlash, having your own set to carry around is a good move if you don't want to give up that satisfying slurrrrp.

Reusable straws are becoming more and more mainstream and available in a variety of styles, colors, and materials. I love my stainless steel set, but there are also softer silicone versions for kids, glass straws that are like functional works of art in your cup, and even bamboo straws from bambu!

Most sets come with a cute little brush to make it easy to clean the inside thoroughly. For use on the go, a quick rinse in the bathroom sink usually works just fine.

Beeswax Wraps

Have you guys heard of these?

They're basically squares of cotton covered in a mixture of beeswax and resin. These simple ingredients combine to make a really awesome replacement for plastic wrap in your kitchen. You can use these wraps for covering bowls, wrapping up cheese, fruit, or that other half of your avocado. They can really do it all.

You can keep using and reusing them, rinsing with cool water in between uses. If they start to get a bit bare in places, you can even pop them in a low-temperature oven for a few minutes to redistribute the wax. Good as new!

They're way cuter than plastic wrap since they come in a variety of colors and prints. And once they come to the end of their useful life, they're fully biodegradable, and you can just pop them in your compost bin.

Earth Love has some cute ones to get you started!

Cloth Napkins

Put aside the paper napkins and paper towels. Cloth napkins are softer, prettier, and more eco-friendly than their paper counterparts. And they really require no more care than simply throwing them in with your next load of laundry.

Brands like Ten Thousand Villages, Mayamam Weavers, and Fair + Simple have tons of great options to choose from.

Buying a quality set of cloth napkins is an investment up front, but will save you money in the long run. Plus, you'll never have to scramble to make your table look presentable when you find out you'll be hosting some unexpected dinner guests!

Tea Strainers

Now, you may be thinking, "aren't tea bags biodegradable?" and for the most part, they are. However, some tea bags can have little pieces of plastic holding them together that are obviously not great additions to your compost pile.

Also, if you buy loose leaf tea in bulk, you can avoid a lot of the excess packaging that comes with tea bags. I've seen some before that were individually wrapped and sealed in a plastic bag that of course went inside a cardboard box that was itself wrapped in a thin layer of plastic. It's ridiculous.

Loose leaf tea typically comes in ONE bag, or even better, a reusable tin.

It really doesn't take any longer to brew, and once you get the hang of it, it can become quite a pleasant morning ritual.

You will need a little bit of equipment, though, and that's where the tea strainer comes in.

If you're making more than one cup, it usually makes sense to brew it in a teapot by putting the tea and the water right in together. To prevent leaves getting into your cup, just top your mug with a tea strainer before you pour the brewed tea. Mountain Mel's stocks a cute stainless steel strainer with a cutout moon and star pattern.

If you prefer to make it by the cup, the mug infuser from Mountain Mel's might be a better choice. Whichever method you choose, don't forget to compost your leftover leaves!

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