Sustainable Kitchen Swaps for Regular People

I may not be the most sustainable person in the world, but there are a few swaps that I make in the kitchen that I believe have a big impact toward having a sustainable home.

swap paper towels

These sustainable living tips are not earth-shattering. You might have even heard them all before, but are you doing them? I want to prove that regular people with families can make these changes without much hassle, drastically reducing their carbon footprint.

While large-scale changes like solar panels, using green building materials, creating a green roof, and geothermal heating are important, they are simply not attainable (or even desirable) for most people. If we each make little positive changes, we can help slow climate change and even save money on our energy bills in the long run.

Why make sustainable swaps?

If you are here, you probably already want to reduce your environmental impact in some way. Starting to make conscious decisions about items we use everyday can help launch us toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Most people use common household items in the kitchen every single day. Starting here is the best way to begin your journey to an eco-friendly home. If you have kids, talking about these swaps and engraining them with these habits now will have a compounding impact on future generations.

Beginning Your Sustainability Journey with Kitchen Swaps

We all have to start somewhere so I wanted to give you tips to start off your sustainability journey in the kitchen TODAY. I think that sustainability is at the core of homesteading (for me at least) and it is one of the main reasons why I want to live this homestead life. You are already starting an important step toward creating your own homestead. Click here for a step-by-step process on starting your own urban homestead.

I am mostly going to focus on products today. We could certainly talk about food waste and sourcing local food, but I those that merit separate posts.

Sustainable Kitchen Swaps

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1. Swap Paper Towels for Reusable Cloth

One of the first steps I made in the kitchen was reusable paper towels. We all KNOW this is a thing. But, many people just don’t do it. We use the kind that snap together and fir on your regular paper towel holder. I can no longer find the ones we have as they are several years old, but here is a link to some similar ones on Etsy!

reusable paper towel roll

I often hear the argument that you waste more water to wash rags than by using paper towels. It’s simply not true. The production of paper towels uses FAR more water and resources than your washing machine, not to mention the carbon emissions from transportation to your local store, and then to your home.

In addition to reusable paper towels, we use these cloths to wipe our toddler up after each meal. Yes, you even go paper-towel free with kids (gasp).

reusable toddler wipes

When buying new, we opt for natural materials like cotton instead of microfiber, as microfiber cloths leach microplastics into the water supply when you wash them in your washing machine.

If you do want to have a few paper towels on hand for dire situation, purchase them more responsibly. We have some hidden rolls of the Who Gives a Crap brand for the worst situations (read: baby poop and huge scary bugs).

Side note, I often hear the argument that you waste more water to wash rags than by using paper towels.  It’s simple not true.  The production of paper towels uses FAR more water and resources than your washing machine.

2. Ditch Slowly Replace the Plastic

Over the past several years, I have moved toward a plastic free kitchen. I don’t think that plastic is the devil, I simply just don’t like heating it up because that is when it is most likely to leach chemicals. I still have a few plastic cooking utensils, but will replace them when needed. I am, however, against single use plastics that go directly to landfill. Slowly making these swaps as your items need replaced is much more sustainable than sending what you have to landfill and buying all new.

Glass Food Storage

We love our glass food storage containers. They are even easier to clean. There are a million different brands, and if you are lucky enough, you can even find them at the thrift store. We just happened to receive a ton of the Pyrex ones off our wedding registry five years ago and they are still going strong.

Silicone Bags and Plastic Wrap Alternatives

Being plastic free, we obviously don’t use plastic bags (except for long term storage/more than one use things). We have several silicone Stasher bags that are really popular. At first, I did not use them all the time. I only thought of using them for snacks on the go, and I honestly don’t bring snacks with me a lot. Over the years, I learned more about freezing foods, and I use them every day for this purpose. But my favorite way to use them is to make popcorn! Use this code for 20% off your first order (and I will receive a small referral bonus in return!).

We use our beeswax wrap to cover things in place of plastic bags and plastic wrap. You can even make your own beeswax wraps, or rejuvenate yours if they start to lose their stick. Using recycled fabric or other sustainable materials that can be reused over and over just makes sense instead of buying items that you know will go directly in the trash.

using beeswax wrap

Along with ridding the kitchen of single use items, we use silicone baking mats and baking cups instead of aluminum foil.  It’s really not that hard to clean since I usually wash the pan anyways.

It’s 2023. Don’t Use Plastic Water Bottles.

Of course, we don’t use disposable plastic bottles. It’s 2023. We have all seen the sad videos of the plastic wastelands in the ocean. There’s no excuse. Get yourself a cute water bottle and refill it. We use our AlexaPure water filter and our own water bottles.

For non-potable uses such as watering houseplants or your kitchen garden, consider a rain barrel or other rain water collection system right outside your door for easy access.

water bottle sustainable swap alexapure

3. Go Toxic-Free

Most of us know by now that conventional household cleaners are bad for us, but we choose to use them anyways. At the very least, I urge you to purchase your cleaning products from more sustainable brands. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sustainable Cleaning here to choose the very best option for each item you wish to replace.

Since I do have a concern about toxic chemicals in my home, I started making my own cleaning products. I don’t make all of them, but I do make my counter spray, and it is super easy.

I have recipes to three homemade cleaning products in another post if you would like to see how I make them. Not only do they rid your kitchen of chemicals, you can use the spray bottles over and over for less plastic waste.

diy counter spray

4. Buy in Bulk

For areas that I don’t DIY yet like hand and dish soap and laundry detergent, I buy in bulk and pour into my own containers. Dropps is my favorite brand of laundry and dish detergent pods. Use this code for 30% off your first order (and I will receive a small referral bonus in return).

This also looks nicer on your counter, so it’s a win-win. As mentioned before, this article is not about food, but buying food in bulk should be mentioned as it is a wonderful way to save on packaging and transportation emissions.

Two Sustainable Tips You Might Not Have Heard

1) Using the dishwasher can actually use less water than hand washing! According to the National Resources Defense Council, “You use up to 27 gallons of water per load by hand versus as little as 3 gallons with an ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher.”

2) For cooking with gas stoves, make sure the flame isn’t bigger than the pot. This not only wastes energy, it’s actually not great for cooking either.

Don’t Buy Products Just to Be Sustainable

Here’s the thing. These sustainable swaps are fun to make. I once fell into the trap of buying more things just be be more sustainable. It’s counterintuitive. I am a recovering hyper consumer and have taken small steps to make purchases more mindfully and sustainably.

Don’t just go buy these things I am talking about here. First, use up what you have, then when it needs replaced, replace it with a more sustainable option. First reduce, then Reuse, THEN recycle. Also, you should always think about replacing with second-hand items before buying new when you can. I recently found myself needing new measuring cups, and I scored a beautiful stainless steel set from my local thrift store for $3.

While it is not technically a “swap,” reducing energy consumption in the kitchen can lead to major energy savings.

Simple Ways to Reduce Energy Use in the Kitchen

  1. Unplug small appliances when not in use
  2. Make sure the dishwasher is full before running to reduce water use
  3. Use the correct size pots and pans for the amount of food you plan to cook
sustainable kitchen swaps

Make At Least One of These Sustainable Kitchen Swaps Today

These are a few simple small changes you can make right now to start this journey. I challenge you to make at least one of these changes that you haven’t already THIS WEEK.

I obviously still have a long way to go, but that is why I want us to do this thing together. Let me know in the comments what you plan to change this week in your kitchen.

Pin It For Later!

sustainable kitchen swap paper towels

About the Author:

I’m Brittany, totally modern and mainstream turned crunchy mama!

Read more here about how I went from a totally incompetent cook and hyper-consumer to striving to live a more meaningful life from scratch.

I can’t wait to share my modern homesteading journey with you and I hope I inspire you to join along!

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  1. Love this article and video! We have been using the washcloths for so many things and have saved a ton of paper towels—use them til they fall apart is our motto! Thanks for sharing!

  2. These are all great tips! I didn’t know about the dishwasher and water consumption piece. Thank you for sharing.

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