The Complete Guide to a Plastic-Free Kitchen

The Complete Guide to a Plastic-Free Kitchen

We're one week into Plastic Free July, whew! Last week we shared a better beginner's guide to going plastic-free, and laid out our commitment to helping you on your plastic-free journey. This week, we're zeroing in on plastics found in the most used, most loved and most communal room in your home, the kitchen.

We know that things are tricker this year, and want to remind you that Plastic Free July isn't about throwing out all of your plastics and buying new alternatives. It's about making small changes to your everyday habits that make a huge difference on the earth, plus you'll save yourself a small fortune in the long-run. You, combined with 250 million others? Now we're talking real change! Why does reducing your plastic use matter? Think about this:

Every minute, one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into our oceans Source: World Economic Forum

It can be easy to become overwhelmed, so let's start with the basics... Is there ONE item in your kitchen you can commit to changing up how you use it, or for an alternative? We want to make it as easy and accessible as possible to help you get started or continue on your plastic-free journey, so take a look at what's in our handy guide and comment to let us know if there's anything you'd suggest adding to our comprehensive guide.

Before we get started, save this nifty reminder of the 4 R's of when considering how to Marie Kondo, manage, and reduce your plastic consumption:

The 4 R's of Radically Reducing Plastic

Reduce - the amount of single-use plastics you consume.
Reuse - Anything you can! Glass food jars for food storage, regrow your food scraps, get creative.
Refuse - Purchasing new single-use plastic items like toothpaste tubes, plastic bags, utensils
Recycle - After refusing, reducing and reusing, make sure to check if your item is recyclable before putting it in the bin.

Plastic-Free Kitchen 101:

1. Dining

Image from Bakeys

Napkins and paper towels

Instead of single-use paper napkins and towels that come wrapped in plastic packaging, try cloth napkins and towels that can be washed, rinsed and used repeatedly. This is probably one of the easiest swaps if you're willing to get crafty and part with a few t-shirts or other scrap cloth lying around. It's also a great opportunity to try out a craft like shibori or tie-dye to help hide stains — which can look really radical and is an awesome activity to bring your friends together while you teach them about all of the cool new sustainable swaps and inspiration you found from this post. ;)

Support small business: The Wild Minimalist has awesome reusable cloths which can double as "unpaper" towels or napkins

● Source secondhand (reuse!)
● If you're a human, you probably have excess t-shirts, sheets or bath towels lying around that can be torn or cut up.
● Did you know you probably have food in your kitchen that you can tie-dye fabric with? Natural plants, foods, and more found in your grocery store create groovy stains like turmeric, purple cabbage, and beets of all colors.

The magic of Mason jars

Really, what aren't mason jars great for? In addition to making great storage for bulk items and an alternative to Tupperware, we love them as a go-to swap for single-use plastic cups.

DIY: Ok, we're not saying that you can make your own mason jars (...can you?). However, you can upcycle glass bottles into fun glassware. Hold onto your glasses: bottled drinks like Mountain Valley Spring Water, Topo Chico, kombucha, or cold brew are awesome to upcycle. Here are 3 ways to cut glass bottles.

Plastic dinnerware alternatives

Our first recommendation is never something disposable, but let's be real, life happens and sometimes you need some sort of dinnerware that's more friendly for outdoor use, a larger gathering, you name it. Our second recommendation is that if you purchase disposable dinnerware, opt for the most sustainable options, and reuse it as much as you can through its lifespan. If you must, here's what we recommend:

Reuse: Already have plastic cutlery around? No need to throw it out, just continue to hand wash, rinse, and repeat.

Support small business: 
● Bambu Eco-Friendly Dinnerware's is based in the Pacific Northwest, and their promise is to reduce our use and reliance on plastic by providing people with a beautiful, non-toxic product made from nature. 
● Eco Party Warehouse makes products from different materials like palm leaves, sugarcane, and bamboo using the traditional technique of collecting and manufacturing naturally fallen palm leaves.

Cool: In India, 120 billion pieces of plastic cutlery are disposed of annually. This led an Indian startup, Bakeys to come up with an edible alternative that comes in different flavors and will safely biodegrade in just 5 days.

2. Storage & Organization

Image source: Spell & the Gypsy, DIY: Plastic-Free Pantry

There's the saying, "every loaf of sliced bread comes with a free bag." If you can't avoid plastic packaging, this is a great example of creatively reusing packaging. The same applies to any other container that ends up in your kitchen from a food purchase. And again, mason jars are the gift that keeps giving, they make great food storage containers too.

Reusable Food Storage Bags

Reuse: Already have plastic bags? Reuse 'em! Check out this resource about how to properly take care of the bags you already have.
Support small business: Stasher bags are awesome, come in a variety of sizes and colors that make going plastic-free feel like a party. :)

Beeless Vegan Wax Wrap

Support small business: Package-Free Vegan Food WrapIvy & Green Wax Food WrapsKhala & Co. 100% Plant-based Vegan Wax Wraps
DIY: Make vegan reusable food wraps with soy wax and scrap fabric! View the tutorial here. For another DIY recipe, check out Mountain Rose Herbs.

Plates make great lids

This one just makes sense. If you have leftovers in a bowl, toss the container you used or served it in, and cover it with a plain old plate in the refrigerator. Plus, this is a better option for stacking than wax wrap for heavier items!

Jars, jars, jars!

Glass jars rule. Not only do they not contain harmful chemicals, there are tons of inexpensive options out there. A favorite? Fillmore container has awesome options. If you're a fan of Rainbow Grocery's beautiful aisles of bulk tea and spices in San Francisco, Fillmore is your place.

3. Food shopping

Image source: Spell & the Gypsy, DIY: Plastic-Free Pantry

Okay, we realize this is one of the most tricky challenges that we're facing today with COVID-19. That being said, there are some ways that you can workaround the fact that many grocery stores are not allowing reusable bags.

Avoid plastic bags

Don't bag your groceries in the store! Ask your grocery clerk if you can take your groceries to your car, bike, or simply outside where you can then put them in your own reusable bags or bins. Have to take a plastic bag home? Rinse the plastic bag and reuse them.

Cloth produce bags

If the option exists, put loose produce like vegetables and fruits in your shopping cart or basket, and when you get to your car, bike, or outside, most stores should let you put them in the reusables you brought!

4. Cleaning

Image source: No Tox Life Vegan Dishwashing Block

Regular cleaners contain harsh chemicals for you and the planet. Thankfully, cleaning supplies are probably one of the easiest to DIY for your home, and lots of companies have been popping up recently that offer plastic-free options with a subscription refill option too. Convenience and climate wins all around.

Slop rags

Keep a supply of t-shirts and old rags on hand as an alternative to paper towels or other disposable cleaning products that come in plastic packaging.

Dish & surface cleaning

There's been some really cool brands popping up with alternatives to blasting through plastic cleaning supplies. But also, this is where DIY really shines for surface cleaners! Check 'em out:

Support small business:

● Dish block by No Tox Life
● Supernatural offers a modest line of earth- and packaging-friendly cleaning essentials and subscription refills.
● Dropps dishwasher detergent pods

DIY: There are tons of recipes and solutions for DIY house cleaners. A few simple ones we recommend are:
● Sweet Simple Vegan's 3-Ingredient Cleaning Spray (Vegan & Non-Toxic)
● Wholefully's Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner
● Cleanmama's DIY Disinfecting Spray Cleaner

6. Inspiration

Image source: Spell & the Gypsy, DIY: Plastic-Free Pantry

Going zero waste doesn't mean your kitchen has to look like something out of a 1970s Better Homes and Gardens catalog (but it'd be kinda cool if it did...). Simple and sustainable is not the easy choice, but it's the needed choice for people and the planet and can be beautiful at the same time. Check out a few plastic-free kitchen setups that we love to inspire your plastic-free journey: 

Image from Nonagon Style

Image from Adventures In Cooking

Plastic Free July Kitchen Inspiration

Image from Nonagon Style

 Image from Simple Bites


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1 comment

  • Liz

    I’d love to also purchase kids toothbrushes that come in different colors for my three kids! I’m excited to try your tooth tabs and the adult toothbrush.

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