Cooking is a hobby ripe with memories; I was flipping pancakes on the griddle at four years old. My parents made grocery shopping a highlight of the week by giving me free rein over ingredients and recipes. Today, I’ll set hours aside to meal prep—I find excuses to return to the kitchen, open the fridge, and admire the stock-piled lunches.
All this to say that I’ve spent just as much time cooking in that space as I do maintaining it. Now, it’s becoming more important than ever to find new ways to not only nurture ourselves in the kitchen, but Mother Earth as well.
1. Rich with rags
Created in 1907 and popularized in the early 1930s, paper towels are a staple in most kitchens–recent survey suggests 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the U.S. alone. Knowing the average American also throws away roughly 81 pounds of clothing per year, I’ve committed to cutting down waste in both categories and bidding paper towels a permanent adieu with this hack.
If you’ve got a few shirts that are unworthy of the donation bin, grab a pair of scissors and cut them into similar-sized squares or rectangles. Just five shirts left me with enough rags for a two-week span.
To elevate this zero-waste hack, I thrifted a tall plastic bin and folded my new shirt rags in a clean stack. I store a tote bag under my sink and toss the dirty rags in once they’ve had time to dry. Since cutting paper towels out of the picture, I wash down my countertops much more frequently knowing there’s no waste involved.
2. My go-to solution
Of course, you’ll need some trusty cleaning spray if you’re washing down your countertops with those fresh shirt rags at the drop of a hat.
My family’s used Mrs. Meyer’s for as long as I can recall, so when I transitioned into adulthood I naturally gravitated toward those lavender and basil scents that reminded me of home. Oh, and their line of holiday products make me want to curl up on the couch and watch Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey on repeat (would recommend).
But if it’s possible to cut down on plastic and stick to a couple refillable vessels, why not? That’s why I stopped buying Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Cleaner and will continue to repurchase their Multi-Surface Concentrate.
I can’t believe it’s lasted me so long, the price is right, it’s powerful yet biodegradable, and it comes in all the scents I’ve grown to love. Just dilute ¼ cup concentrate with one gallon of warm water as needed.
3. Mop up
I have to thank my mom for transforming mopping into a dance party. She’d turn up the stereo, and we’d spend the afternoon washing down the kitchen’s terracotta tile with a mop and soap bucket—relics of the past replaced by Swiffer, yet another one-use product that contributes to the larger problem of waste.
Once I started searching for a greener way, it wasn’t long before I came across a Microfiber Spray Mop.
With its sleek design and liquid spray system, there’s no compromise for time when switching over to this waste-free product. Bonus: It works well with Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Concentrate. I throw the Microfiber Spray Mop Pads in the wash with my rags and dishcloths every week. It’s so simple, I wish I’d switched over sooner.
4. As the candle wanes, save that wax
Finally, it’s time to freshen up the kitchen. I get the air circulating with a fan, open a window, and light a scented candle (preferably soy based).
As soon as a few of my candles burn out, I pop them in the freezer to harden up. In a day or so, I take a dull knife and break apart the candle’s wax.
Once I’ve de-waxed several old candles, I add the wax to a saucepan over low heat until the mixture combines. Placing a new wick in the center of an old candle container, I pour the heated wax back in, careful to leave some space at the top to prevent any overflowage.
In a couple of hours, the recycled candle will harden over. Good as new!
I came across each of these ideas over the last few years—it’s been a process rethinking how one may better maintain their home without the help (or intrusion) of one-use products. In the end, these hacks only take an added moment of thoughtfulness, but their impact may be exponentially positive.
Have you tried greening your kitchen?
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Photo: Mrs. Meyers, Target, Unsplash