A Beginner's Guide to Using Less Plastic in the Kitchen

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We're all trying to be more ethically and socially conscious in our day-to-days. But I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been as self-aware as I could be when it comes to how much plastic I use on a daily basis.

To put it into perspective, 91% of plastic waste isn’t recycled — so it usually ends up polluting our oceans and affecting wildlife. The damage has been happening for decades, but our planet just can’t continue to suffer like it is, which is why I vowed to keep my kitchen (and hence, my life) plastic-free for 7 whole days.

The task required a lot more thought and effort than I had anticipated. Every meal and move I made in the kitchen forced me to plan ahead of time and answer questions like: “What will I put that in?,” “How can I best store that?,” and “What’s an alternate I wouldn’t normally consider?”

Here’s how I did it at home: I started by “hiding” or throwing away any and all plastic containers that are normally my saving grace when it comes to preparing meals. This left a lot of room in my cabinets for better, sturdier glass containers. Next, I did away with all the plastic wrap I had on hand — this can’t be recycled, so it ends up in landfills. Finally, I made sure to have my reusable water bottles ready for transporting all drinks for the week.

My morning coffee also needed a reboot since I usually guzzle it through a plastic straw in a plastic cup. So I finally made use of the portable mugs I had lying around, and did away with the flimsy plastic stuff most coffee shops offer. This gave me fresh motivation to make my own coffee at home instead of constantly buying it out, which saved money too (double win!).

Going plastic-free was the most difficult when it came to cooking my own meals. I quickly realized how much I rely on plastic materials for storing leftovers.

My experiment forced me to think outside the (plastic) box and explore better solutions than plastic wrap and containers.

I used food huggers in place of takeout soup containers for storing leftover lemons, onions and other produce. And when I had a big bowl of guacamole or hummus to cover up, I turned to the reusable beeswax cover Abeego and CoverBlubber ’s versatile wraps. Sure, I had to tap into my wallet for a couple of these, but these are worthy investments in the grand scheme of things.

So that was my kitchen — but what about outside the kitchen? I also tried being plastic-free by nixing throw-away cups and to-go salad containers from my everyday life — and that meant coming up with a few alternative solutions.

When dining out (or ordering lunch at a fast-casual spot), I asked for real bowls instead of plastic containers. And if I was taking it to-go, I brought my own container and asked for food to be made in that. Most places were accommodating, but you may need to do a little research in your area to see who's game. A general rule of thumb: Chain spots often have to abide by strict rules, so local restaurants are more likely to cater to your individual needs.

In the end, I felt better and more health-conscious than ever before during my plastic-free week. I felt proud of my choice to eliminate plastic, especially since big-time companies like Starbucks are vowing to do away with plastic straws in stores by 2020. Plus, my food tasted better when eating out, and generally looked better (and lasted longer!) than when it was stored in flimsy plastic.

A major bonus? How attractive my refrigerator looked! The organized columns of neatly arranged glass containers and bowls with ethically-conscious wrapping made my heart sing. This was quite the switch from the sea of plastic containers and wraps that I usually house. Plus my plastic-free week reminded me something we all often forget: Even the smallest change can make the biggest impact.

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A Beginner's Guide to Using Less Plastic in the Kitchen