Go Green: 5 Tips to Cut Down on Trash in the Kitchen

Domestic CEO has 5 ways to save the planet – and your hard-earned money – by making some easy changes in your kitchen.

Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #63

Go Green: 5 Tips to Cut Down on Trash in the Kitchen

Everyone is looking for ways to go green. It’s a buzz term used by the media, celebrities, and environmental groups. Everyone is encouraged to go green for the sake of the planet. But what does going green look like on a day-to-day basis? What can you do in your home to make a real change? Today I’m going to focus on tips to go green, specifically on ways you can cut down on trash in the kitchen. Chances are this is where you create 75% or more of the trash in your house, so while there are many other ways to conserve, just a few small changes in your kitchen can make a big impact on the amount of trash your household produces.

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I have to let you know that there is an added bonus to using these tips to go green: Not only will they help you go green by cutting down on trash, but they also have the potential to save you significant amounts of money. A few small tweaks in the way you shop and live, and you can be filling your pockets with cash instead of filling the landfills with trash.

Tip #1: Eat Your Leftovers

Did you know that food is the largest contributor to waste in municipal landfills? According to the EPA, 33 million tons of food waste goes into American landfills each year, which is 21% of all solid waste we create. I won’t even go into the ethical, “There are children starving in Asia” elements of this, but I will say that if you want to go green, vow to reduce the amount of food you put into the trash.

One major way you can do this is through meal planning. That way you have a plan for all your food so it doesn’t go bad before you can use it. Another way is to always keep, and more importantly eat, your leftovers. When you go out to eat, be aware of what you are ordering so you can clean your plate. If you aren’t able to finish everything you ordered, don’t be ashamed of asking your favorite restaurant to box up your leftovers. Then, eat them for lunch the next day. Not only will this save you money on going out to lunch, but it can have a big impact on food going into our landfills.

Tip #2: Ditch the Disposables

As you probably know by now, I’m frugal. I absolutely hate to spend money when I don’t need to, almost to the point of obsession. One thing that I used to hate spending money on was disposable kitchen stuff: Paper towels, napkins, plastic cups and silverware, and paper plates. Every time someone in our house used these items, I felt a pang of sadness as I pictured money, not the item itself, being thrown in the trash. Admittedly, my initial motivation to switch to permanent alternatives was financial, but I quickly realized that getting rid of paper and plastic products in my kitchen was one of the biggest green moves I could have made.

This move does require you to retrain yourself, your family, and quite possibly everyone who visits your home to adjust their habits. When throwing parties, your guests won’t be able to pick up a new paper plate because the last had a layer of spinach dip on it. They won’t be able to grab another red plastic cup because they can’t remember where they set the last one down. And they won’t be able to grab a square foot of paper towel to wipe up a drip of cheese dip from the counter. You will confuse yourself and your house guests, but I assure you, everyone will adjust. Although the Domestic CEO household still sometimes gets guests who are afraid to touch the cloth napkins because they don’t want to get them dirty, but when the only alternative is to wipe their hands on their pants, they adjust.  

I’ve also had guests tell me that using a cloth towel isn’t as sanitary as using a paper towel because that’s what the commercials on TV say. If that’s your excuse for not using cloth products, please keep in mind that the commercials claim that because the paper towel companies are trying to get you to buy more paper towels. As long as you toss your cloth towel into the laundry after a day or two of light use or after wiping up anything gross like chicken juice, they are a perfectly sanitary, and a way greener alternative.

Tip #3: Wash, Don’t Trash

Growing up, I watched my grandma wash and reuse plastic baggies, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap at least 10 times before it went into the trash. She grew up in a generation of people that didn’t have a lot of money, so they had to get the most out of every item they used. When I decided to move away from disposable products in the kitchen, I also started washing and reusing items that I normally wouldn’t have in the past. Now, most of my plastic baggies get washed, dried, and reused at least a couple of times. The ones that I use to freeze meat still go into the trash after the first use, but other than that, almost every other baggie gets another chance (especially ones from fresh vegetables). I may not to go the extreme that my grandma did and reuse the baggies until they are falling apart, but if I use each one just one extra time, that means I’m cutting my trash in half! Any reuses beyond that are exponentially better for the environment.

The same can be said for aluminum foil. As long as there aren’t crusty baked-on food pieces, you can probably give it a quick wipe, fold it up, and reuse it again. Or, if you are looking for an even better option, purchase reusable items to use for covering food in the fridge or oven, or to hold your food together on the grill. One of my new favorites is called the Lily Pad Silicone Suction Lid. It’s a great replacement for plastic wrap and can be used over and over again.

Tip #4: Cut Down on Packaging

Another way to go green and save money at the same time is to purchase food with less packaging. Every time you make a food purchase, you’re not only purchasing the food, but the packaging the food comes in as well. If you don’t have a sentimental attachment to the pretty box or bags, try and find a way to purchase the items you need without the packaging. This could mean that instead of buying individual bags of chips, you use reusable containers with pre-portioned servings of chips. Or, instead of purchasing seven 3-pound boxes of rice, you purchase one 20-pound bag of rice from a bulk food store.

Or, my favorite, is to find a store that has a bulk food section where you can fill plastic bags with bulk dry items like rice, beans, flours, nuts, dried fruit, and even candies and then pay based on the weight of each item. Then, if you want to go really green, save the plastic bags and reuse them each time you go to the store. You will be amazed with the amount of money you save shopping this way, as well as how little trash you create with each trip to the grocery store.

See also: How to Save Money on Groceries

Tip #5: Recycle What You Can

Finally, commit to recycling what you can. Every city and town has different rules and regulations for recycling. Some cities make it super easy for all their residents to recycle, others make it a huge chore. Log on to your city’s official website to find out what items they will recycle and how the items can be picked up. Your little container of recycling each week may not seem like a big deal, but when you multiply it by the millions of households there are in America, you can start to see the impact of keeping items out of the landfills.

I hope these tips inspire you to make a change in your home. If you have more tips for going green, I would love to hear about them! Post them on my Facebook wall, or tweet me @thedomesticceo.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Leftovers, Red Cup and Recycle images from Shutterstock