Here is my list of kitchen zero waste swaps!
Remember: Not everyone can do everything, but everyone can do something. Take it in baby steps, use what you have first, and know that these recommended alternatives are just tools for convenience- you don't NEED to purchase these item to be zero-waste.
If you feel so inclined to purchase any of the recommended items on this page, I do receive a small commission, this makes it so I am able to keep providing free content and education. Everything I recommend I have done extensive research, personally use, or have tried at one point.
Paper towels –> Reusable towels
Paper towels were the thing that I could never understand buying. To me they are one of those items that are a big money waster- something you are quite literally throwing away.
Here are a few different options, depending on your lifestyle:
1) Best thing is to simply cup up some old rags, flannel shirts, towels etc... sew the edges and be on your way, this is the free alternative and the 100% zero-waste "use what you have" method this is what I personally do.
2) Purchasing "unpaper towels" these are SO cool they are snap on and roll up as a conventional roll of towels, washable , and will last you a LONG time.
4) recycled paper towels, this is probably one of the least sustainable options because you ARE tossing them away after every use, HOWEVER, if you just aren't there yet with the reusable and you are looking for something single use... these are a BETTER option. These still come wrapped in plastic unfortunately
Baking paper –> Reusable baking mat
For all the bakers who are looking for an alternative to baking/ parchment paper I recommend these reusable baking mats. These are made of silicone (a non leaching plastic). What makes these a better alternative is the fact that you are able to wash and reuse them and they are non-stick
Disposable cupcake liners –> Reusable cupcake liners
Expanding on my points above, these reusable cupcake liners are a better choice then single use tin/ paper linners as gain, they are reusable. I will say that both of these silicone alternatives would be only truly sustanable if you are CONTINUALY making/ baking cupcakes and other treats, if this is something you so alot and is part of your lifestyle I could consider investing in alternatives like this (if you can get them used even better!)
Plastic K cups –> Reusable K cups / Fresh press /
I am definitely a coffee lover, and I know I'm not alone. Over 100 million cups of coffee are drank a day globally, and with the k -cup convenience craze creating an influx of non-recyclable single use waste into our landfills it might be time to rethink the way we make this popular drink.
Don't worry I'm not saying you have to give up your bean juice, however if you have access try buying sustainably harvested coffee in bulk. When it comes to brewing, my personal favorite is the fresh press. However if you are set on using the k-cups try a metal reusable one, additionally I recommend using these compostable liners because it makes it more convenient (clean up is quick and easy!)
src="https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0022/1908/1781/files/Capture_ac5d62e5-0242-4e38-b82b-b34b1b13cb3d.png?v=1595523667" alt="zero waste coffee" width="" height="" />
Paper Napkins –> Reusable napkins
Napkins are up there with the paper towels, they seem so unnecessary and a waste of money (even more so if you BUY paper towels). I personally made my own napkins out of scrap material and they continue to last me YEARS, if you are not crafty and don't want to make your own I would recommend thrifting them at your local thrift shop/ antique store. Lastly here are the brands I recommend if you wish to purchase them:
Already own a plastic dish drying rack? Keep it for as long as possible! I will always make the point to use what you have and when it breaks and only when it breaks consider these wood or metal rack alternatives.
Sponge for dishes –>Plastic-free sponge/brush
Sponges are made with polyurethane, a petroleum-based ingredient and contain dyes among other other synthetic disinfectants. I recommend this cloth reusable (machine washable) sponge because its a buy that will last a LONG time, its also manufactured in a carbon neutral facility. if you are looking for a throwaway alternative I recommend these sponges made from plant materials and are 100% compostable.
Linked above is a great natural dish brush kit
Dish Soap –> Dish soap in bulk / Bar soap
Dish soaps comes in plastic bottles, can contain many questionable ingredients, and can be difficult to recycle. If you have access to a bulk I recommend that as first choice- however if you don't have access to bulk dish soap I highly recommend just using good old fashioned castile soap (you can get these in a bar at any grocery store)
(for those who ask about the dish blocks... I do NOT recommend them you can check out my full review on dish blocks here)
Water filter –> Charcoal stick
This is going to greatly depend on location and preference but I am unlucky to have really hard desert water, which means I need a really good filter. I AM lucky to have a home with reverse osmosse and an additional filter that adds back in important minerals. On the go, I feel that charcoal filters are great for filtering water while traveling.
Charcoal absorbs impurities from water and air
takes 3-4 hours to filter
Can lasts 3 to 4 months
Are compostable afterwards
I would give it a try if you are looking for a simple zero-waste water filter this is definitely a more affordable option
If you are looking for an investment I would check out Berkey water filters
Plastic cutting board –> Bamboo cutting board
When your plastic cutting board is ready to retire consider one made from wood or bamboo. (benefits of Bamboo is that it is renewable and antimicrobial). I recommend first checking out your second hand shop or you can find one on Amazon
Plastic baggies –> Reusable silicone baggies
I personally don't use a ton of baggies because I use a lot of glass Tupperware and our Bees Wax Wraps... however they are nice to have and I do enjoy using them. If you have kids and have to pack lunches then this is going to be your best friend.
These bags are leak-proof, freezer safe, and can keep food fresher for longer.
Trash bag –> Compostable Trash Bags
You don't actually NEED a liner for your trash can. Because I compost food scraps I have no reason to use a liner ( you only really need it for that reason) I simply put all my solid garbage in there and them dump it every week into the bigger outside bin.
For those who WANT a liner i recommend this brand because they are Certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) , meaning they are 100% BACKYARD compostable. You want to really make sure you look for that certification because many "compostable bags" are bio-plastics that only break down in industrial composting facilities...well if they are going to the dump they are never going to break down. I HIGHLY recommend this brand.
Trash for food scraps–> Compost bin
Rather then dumping all your food scraps into the trash, try your hand at composting! Its SO easy to do and can be done in both small and large spaces. This compost bin bucket is used to collect scraps, when its full you take it out to your main composter
Grocery Plastic Produce / Paper bag –> Reusable bags
Rather then using plastic produce bags when shopping, try putting your produce loose in your cart OR invest in reusable produce bags. Additionally when shopping you can either make or purchase reusable bags as a substitute for plastic and paper bags. A lot of energy and other resources go to create plastic or paper. There is a debate on plastic or paper...but ultimately the best option is something that will be used time and time again as both plastic and paper require a lot of resources for a short time before they are disposed.