“On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.”
A few months back, I attended a Greener Homes and Gardens show. As I walked past all the vendors pitching solar heating systems, hybrid vehicles, Energy Star appliances, I became discouraged. I can’t afford any of this stuff, I thought. How the hell am I supposed to go green on my budget?
Baby steps. I had to stop and remind myself. Baby steps. We do the things we can do, and work toward the day when we can do the things we can’t yet do. At this moment, for us frugality comes first. But that doesn’t mean we have to forgo being green. Not in the least. In fact, it’s amazing how often being frugal and being green go hand in hand.
Here, for Blog Action Day, are eight ways we go green in the kitchen and save a little money in the process.
1. Ignore the packaging and shop bulk
Buying in bulk is my favorite kitchen tip because it hits the trifecta of green, frugal, and healthy. You can’t get much better than that. Here are just a few of the items we get in bulk:
- Beans. Not only are they cheaper than canned, but home-cooked beans just taste better. Plus, if you cook a big enough batch you can do double-duty. Chopper did this the other night: used half the home-cooked black beans in a chili, then refried the other half for taco fixings.
- Granola. When the granola in the bulk section at New Seasons goes on sale, I’m all over it. (The blueberry and flax mix especially rocks my world.) Bonus health benefit: You’re not going to find high fructose corn syrup in bulk organic granola.
- Spices. If you can buy two ounces of bulk nutmeg for $3.69, why buy a jar of the same amount for $6.50? Bonus tip #1: Check thrift stores for old spice jars if you’re in need of more containers. The Goodwill near our house has them all the time, dirt cheap. Bonus tip #2: Last time I bought bulk spices, a fellow shopper was doing the same, only he’d brought a plastic bag from home, recycled from his previous trip. Now, why didn’t I think of that?
2. Seek out additional recycling options
Portland Metro’s recycling program is pretty good, but they’ve got a few gaps in their service. At curbside recycling, they only take plastic containers with necks, so yogurt containers, sour cream or tofu tubs, plastic take-out containers, trays from cookie packages – that all ends up in the trash. One solution is to eliminate as many non-recyclable packages from your shopping trip as you can, but if you’re still left with a few stragglers, then solution number two is to find a recycling depot that will take these items. Here in Portland, it’s Far West Fibers, a privately-owned recycling operation that takes everything from shrink wrap to scrap metal, CD cases, carpet pads, planting trays, and even old sneakers. In the plastic tub and tray department, if the recycle label is #1-7, they take it. I’m so relieved I don’t to invent craft projects for all those old tofu tubs!
3. Buy the whole bird
I’m a fan of Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” There’s no scolding. No telling people they’re evil if they eat meat or buy a banana trucked in from Belize. Just a simple reminder that we’d all be better off if we didn’t stuff our faces with burgers, tater-tots, and Twinkies quite so much. With that in mind, this one’s for us meat eaters: don’t buy chicken thighs on Styrofoam wrapped in plastic; buy the whole bird, and use the whole bird. Imagine the tasty goodness you can get out of a winter’s worth of home made chicken stock! (Mmm, Chopper’s got some on the stove right now…)
4. Make leftovers on purpose (and eat them!)
The title of this tip might also be “Plan ahead” but to be honest, we suck at planning ahead and I’d rather not preach something I don’t practice. What we are good at is making large batches of food that last several days. Chili works well, as do taco fixings, but Thai curry’s my favorite. I could eat it every day for a week. Now this might seem more of a frugal tip than a green tip, but here’s the thing: More leftovers = fewer food packages = less trash!
Not everyone’s got a yard, but if you do have the means to compost, then by all means, do it! I’ll admit, we’re not skilled in this department. Our “bin” is an old plastic garbage can with holes drilled in the sides and it’s nearly full. Building a new one – with worms this time! – is on our short list of yard projects. Bonus budget saver: No need to buy bags of fertilizer for spring planting!
6. Use cloth instead of paper
We haven’t bought paper napkins or even paper towels in months. Instead, we’ve got a stack of terry cloth towels, dish rags, and cloth napkins that, when used, just go into the regular laundry with our clothes. If they’re disgustingly dirty, they might need a pre-wash in the sink, but that’s rarely necessary. I haven’t added up the savings to our grocery bill yet, but the impact on our volume of kitchen trash is obvious.
7. Take a bag to the store
I don’t always remember, but I do my best to grab a cloth shopping bag before every trip to the market. On a good day, I might even make it home with a bag full of groceries and absolutely nothing inside that needs to head for the trash. Bonus budget saver: New Seasons knocks five cents off our bill when we bring our own bag. Hey, every little bit helps!
8. Conserve water
How much clean water goes down the drain while waiting for the tap to get hot? How about that extra water in the kettle after a cup of tea? No need to waste it when there’s a thirsty pooch nearby – just grab the Dog Water jug and fill ‘er up. Keeps the cats happy too. If you don’t have pets, water your plants!
So, how green is your kitchen?