Holiday Season is upon us and that means most of us will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Even if you aren’t the one doing the cooking, you most certainly will be doing the eating and if you’re lucky enough, you may even get to take home some leftovers (Vegan Cheesecake – I’m looking at you!).
I’m a home baker, which around the holidays equates to me never leaving the kitchen. Ever. And if you’ve ever baked or cooked in volume, then you know how messy it can be and how important the proper supplies and storage are to your sanity.
Growing up, I lived in a typical household. Ziplock bags for storing, paper towels for messes, etc. We were most certainly a Ziplock family and to be honest, I don’t ever remember using a single reusable storage container for anything. But that could be because I also grew up in a food-obsessed household and leftovers were scarce. As an ever-hungry, never-sated teenager, my brother used to eat an entire extra-large loaf of fresh baked bread in one seating. Like, it was gone in under thirty minutes. But to be fair, I’m entirely sure I could manage the same thing these days.
My point is: that I grew up, like many others, with the ‘use it once and trash it’ mentality. The convenience of not having to clean something to reuse it, is one of the reasons our planet is in so much trouble today. And it’s because I spend so much time in the kitchen today that I have sought out alternatives to single-use plastics and paper products.
During the holiday season, between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the average household will throw away 25% more trash—about 25 million tons of extra garbage! Here is what you can replace in your kitchen over the holiday season (and always) to cut down on kitchen waste.
5 Smart Swaps to Eliminate Kitchen Waste
- UnPaper Towels > Paper Towels
These are my ABSOLUTE favorite. For years now I had used regular dish towels that I folded and stuffed in my kitchen drawers. But I still had that paper towel roll holder on my kitchen counter, lonely and seeking purpose. So I found these sheets of reusable “paper” towels that fit my holder. I love this company because their rolls have little snaps to keep them tight and organized and they are textured on one side for those heavy-duty messes. The same company makes reusable makeup wipes, and reusable dryer sheets (so cool!) and is completely vegan, using scrap off cuts of fabric that would otherwise go to waste.
- Silicone Baking Sheets > Parchment Paper
I would have never imagined traditional parchment paper was non-compostable. There are new brands like this one that are compostable but if you’d like to buy once and use forever, silicone baking sheets are the way to go. Silicone is non-toxic and safe for contact with food and drink. It does not contain BPA or produce hazardous fumes when heated. It can handle high heats and extreme colds. They’re really easy to clean too, so use them to cover your counter when decorating cookies this holiday!
- Jars & Reusable Storage Bags > Ziplock
Parting with Ziplock is such sweet sorrow. Mostly sweet though because jars are where its at! For my baking I use a ton of applesauce and thanks to Vermont Village—who use beautiful wide mouth jars for their product—I can reuse them for just about anything. For lunch boxes, pick up some reusable storage bags like these. Dishwasher-safe and super cute, one of these bags will replace 500 plastic bags in its lifetime.
- Cotton Food Wraps > Plastic Wraps
Aside from having the most difficult time unsticking plastic wrap from itself, leaving half of the roll to be balled up and discarded without ever being used, plastic wrap (despite a certain company stating it does not) does contain small amounts of BPA and phthalates. Vegan Food Wraps are biodegradable, being made from organic, sustainably sourced cotton and vegan wax. It’s easily cleaned using water and a bit of dish soap and once it’s worn out (after about a year), you can simply compost it.
- Reusable Coffee Pod > Plastic K-Cup Pod
Ok, coffee isn’t technically a tool in the kitchen… well, actually maybe it is. And this swap is something I feel extremely strong about because single use plastic coffee pods are so unnecessary. Especially when coffee grounds are great for compost and it takes literally two seconds to rinse out the reusable one. The guy who created plastic coffee pods even regrets his invention. Stock a few in your kitchen with one or two holiday coffees. Choose a coffee like Roasting House, who use recycled paper and (for ground coffee) home-compostable bio-plastic liner for their coffee.
It’s easy to get swept into the traditional holiday routine. Aunt Sue has 23 different types of K-Cups and the options are fantastic. Uncle Tom sends you home a piece of pie on a plastic plate with a giant Ziplock bag around it. We all want to go with the flow, but you can be prepared and make a change for yourself and maybe even spark a change within your family by introducing any of these 5 swaps into your holiday routine.
Also by Nea: Vegan Swedish Chocolate Cardamom Rolls
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Photo: Green Guac via Instagram; Lunchskins. Brandless via Unsplash; Vegan Food Wraps; Zera Li