In partnership withLifeStraw

4 Easy Habits to Make Your Kitchen a More Sustainable Space

published Jul 7, 2021
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Credit: Melanie Rieders

As creative director at Kitchn and Apartment Therapy, Melissa Polhamus has a knack for expressing her creativity in her kitchen. Beyond making the space beautiful, she’s discovered fun and fulfilling ways to align her home with her own eco-friendly and health-conscious values. In her case, a few everyday actions go a long way to reducing waste (just one small trash bag a week for her entire family!) and cutting out plastics.

She invited us over to share the habits that have made her kitchen a healthier, happier place. Any one of these is easy enough to start doing today!

Find a Water Filter You Love

Credit: Melanie Rieders

Trading bottled water for a filtration system is a no-brainer, but not all filter pitchers are up to par with Melissa’s standards. She uses a very sleek and very effective LifeStraw Home water filter pitcher because it can filter out over 30 icky contaminants, even tiny microplastics which, unfortunately, are pretty much everywhere. And besides being a carbon-neutral company, LifeStraw donates a year of safe drinking water to a child in need with every product purchased.

Unlike most other filter pitchers, LifeStraw’s is made from glass, not plastic. Also unlike most other filter pitchers, it’s pretty darn gorgeous. “Its sleek, modern design looks great on my counter for everyday drinking,” Melissa said, “and it’s perfect for filling up reusable water bottles when we’re on the go.” Using a filter pitcher that’s pretty enough to hang out on your countertop instead of hiding in the fridge may seem like a small bonus. But having your pitcher on display throughout the day is a simple habit you can adopt to gently remind yourself to stay hydrated, without introducing any more plastic into your life or the environment.

Swap Liquid Dish Soap for Bar Soap

Credit: Melanie Rieders

Even if you reuse plastic dispensers or decant dish soap into a glass container, you’ll likely go through a lot of single-use plastic over the years. Using solid soap that’s packaged in recyclable cardboard or paper is an excellent way to avoid that completely. “There are a ton of simple swaps that you can make in the home to reduce plastic waste,” Melissa said. “My favorite is using a bar dish soap instead of a liquid that comes in a single-use container.”

If you’ve used liquid dish soap your whole life, switching to bar soap might feel like too much of an adjustment, but it’s actually super easy. All you need is a big block of soap, a dish to rest it on, and a knobby scrub brush to create some suds and get to work. It somehow also makes washing the dishes seem a bit more fun, and even a little bit fancy in an old-fashioned way.

Celebrate Cloth Napkins!

Credit: Melanie Rieders

Like fine china or real silver, lots of us grew up with the idea that cloth napkins should only be used for big holiday meals or fancy dinners. Not so. Melissa started using cloth napkins every day and hasn’t looked back since the switch. The key is just having enough on hand. “We have enough to last us through the week and then throw everything in the wash over the weekend,” she said.

Affordable packs of cloth napkins are easy to find, or you can even use thin tea towels as extra-large napkins. Another bonus is that having a drawer full of clean napkins in your kitchen makes it easier to resist the urge to grab a paper towel for every tiny spill. And if you did grow up using cloth napkins only at Thanksgiving, switching to them full-time will make every meal feel a little more special.

Make Your Own Milk

Credit: Melanie Rieders

No, Melissa does not recommend adopting a dairy cow (unless that’s your thing and you happen to have a farm). “Making staples like broth, condiments, and nut milk at home is great for cutting down on extra packaging,” she said. “Nut milk in particular often comes in containers that are non-recyclable or not accepted in most curbside recycling bins.”

If you’ve never tried it, making nut milk at home is a super simple process, and you can customize your blend with your favorite spices, extracts, or sweeteners. “I buy almonds from the waste-free bulk bins at the grocery store, then soak them overnight, blend with water, strain out the pulp, and voila! You have almond milk!”