A few years ago, my friend gave me the oddest gift. As she handed it to me, she sheepishly said, “I’m not sure how you will like this, but I use them at my house, and I hope you’ll have a use for them too!” Inside the neatly wrapped brown paper package was a roll of cloth squares. I admitted that I was confused by the gift and jokingly asked if it was toilet paper. Turns out I wasn’t too far off – it was a roll of Unpaper® Towels! It turned out her “odd” gift inspired me and seeded my passion to look at my home in a new way, to ask myself, “How sustainable are my household habits?”
I looked around my home with that question in mind and noticed that my house could indeed use a sustainable makeover. Single use plastic bottles, jars and containers, paper towels, and plastic bags filled my garbage cans, and my food waste generally went down the disposal. But I thought, I am just an individual; aren’t the waste stream issues more to do with corporations and manufacturers?
What I learned was that while individuals' waste streams are not nearly at the same proportion as manufacturers, individual waste continues to push our landfills to capacity and pollutes our landscapes, waterways, and fragile ecosystems.
Once I chose to make more sustainable choices in my home, I immediately got overwhelmed. I didn’t even know where to begin! After completing that initial sweep of my house, I decided to break things down into smaller actionable chunks to make the transition more digestible. The first stop? My kitchen! It was here that I saw how glaringly unsustainable my everyday kitchen habits were and it became clear that containers, bottles, and food storage containers were the bulk of my single use waste habits.
Here are the 5 DIY “kitchen swaps” that launched me on the path toward a more sustainable home! I hope you find them useful, too.
1. Swap single-use food wraps for homemade beeswax wraps
Mitigating my use of plastic bags and plastic wrap was a head scratcher until I learned about this crafty way of preserving and storing food. While it is fun to make these, I know many people don’t have the time or ability to make beeswax wraps from scratch. Support your local natural food stores if you are unable to make them for yourself!
2. Swap chemical-laden kitchen spray for this easy DIY cleaning spray
I love finding simple and cost-effective ways to clean my home. Making my own supplies cuts back on all that excessive packaging waste and gives me a sense of control over the substances being used around my home.
DIY Kitchen Spray Recipe
Makes 16 oz.
• 8 oz. distilled white vinegar
• 6 oz. distilled water
• 2 oz. vodka or rubbing alcohol
• 10 drops organic lavender essential oil
• 5 drops organic rosemary essential oil
• 5 drops organic lemon essential oil
1. Combine all ingredients in an upcycled, cleaned 16 oz. spray bottle and shake well before each use.
2. Use this aromatic solution for kitchen counters, cabinets, refrigerator shelves, glass, tile, and sinks.
3. Swap store-bought degreaser for this natural degreaser recipe
Kitchen grease messes can be frustrating to clean and I generally dislike using conventional degreasers, which is why I am especially excited about this recipe. This is also a great recipe to use in upcycled spray bottles!
Lemon Spray for Grease Recipe
Makes 3 oz.
- 36 drops organic lemon essential oil
- 1 tsp. Castille soap (optional)
- 3 oz. organic lemon thyme hydrosol
1. Add lemon essential oil and Castille soap to a 3 oz. bottle of lemon thyme hydrosol with a mister.
2. Shake well and use as needed.
4. Use upcycled containers and bottles
Packaging is a continual problem for everyone and since our plastic recycling challenges have increased over the past couple of years, it is even more imperative to find innovative and sustainable solutions. Now more than ever we need to keep excess waste out of landfills and incinerators. Learn some creative ways to clean and upcycle bottles, jars, and other containers!
5. Reuse plastic bags that do wind up in your home
I cannot claim that plastic bags never make their way into my home. They are everywhere in our society! So, when I do end up with them, I like to reuse them as much as possible. Investing in or building a wooden bag dryer is a great way to fully dry bags so that they are sanitary for additional uses. Even if you use other types of eco-friendly bags, this style of drying rack helps ensure they are fully dry and ready for their next purpose.
- Save water from cooking pasta, potatoes, etc. and use to water plants.
- Compost your food, then add to your garden in the Spring!
- Save unused veggie parts (i.e. onion/garlic peels, carrot tops) in the freezer, then use to make homemade soup stock.
- Choose stores that offer deposits for returning reusable bottles such as milk bottles.
- Use upcycled wash clothes or wool sweaters instead of sponges for dish washing.
- Don’t forget to take small steps. Make slow changes over time so you can effectively incorporate your new and sustainable habits.
Want More Green Living Ideas?
You may also be interested in:
- How to Clean with Lemon Essential Oil
- 8 Natural Cleaning Product Recipes for Your Home
- How to Make Homemade Potpourri + Winter Blend Recipe