Scientists are predicting that by the year 2050, the ocean may have more plastic than fish. While countries around the world are beginning to take a stand against single-use items and plastics in grocery stores, restaurants and retail chains, there are still measures that consumers can take within their very own households. 

The kitchen is one of the most notorious spots in the house for waste, whether it is food waste, excessive plastic usage or single-use materials. Swapping some of your everyday kitchen items with reusable or eco-friendly alternatives is a great way to get started on (or continue) your sustainable-living journey.

Related: Cut plastic from your home and inspire your family to live plastic-free

two rolls of paper towels on a wood surface

Ditch paper towels

One of the easiest eco-friendly kitchen swaps comes in the form of the humble paper towel roll. Usually stored right next to the sink or the stove, grabbing a sheet or two is almost second nature to those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Invest in a stack of high-quality, reusable microfiber cloths for cleaning instead of reaching for a paper towel every time, and switch out paper napkins or paper towels with reusable cloth napkins. Simply toss them in the laundry basket and reuse.

closeup of plastic wrap

Swap out plastic wrap

Plastic wrap has become essential in the kitchen for keeping food fresh and wrapping up leftovers (because no one wants to waste food). The handy alternative of reusable beeswax wrap is making huge waves in the sustainable-living community, and for good reason. You can wrap pretty much anything in beeswax wrap that you would normally use plastic wrap for, and the food will stay just as fresh. One of our favorite brands, Bee’s Wrap, is made with organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin. It is washable, reusable, compostable and comes in different sizes and specialty wraps for bread, sandwiches and more.

a potato with sour cream on aluminum foil

Replace parchment paper and aluminum foil

A reusable mat or roasting sheet is a great alternative to parchment paper or tin foil, especially for baking. Non-stick silicone mats can be reused thousands of times in lieu of oil, which is especially handy for those who are trying to stick to certain diets. Take proper care of it, and a good silicone mat can last for years!

reusable plastic bags filled with pink and brown circular foods

Nix plastic baggies

Plastic sandwich baggies come in handy for packing lunch and smaller food leftovers. With a little extra effort, a couple of re-sealable silicone bags can be just as convenient and rewarding. It is also a nice way of introducing sustainable living to your children by teaching them to bring the reusable bags back home instead of tossing disposable plastic ones in the trash like most of their friends.

a display of several glass food storage containers

Substitute plastic containers

Swap out your cheap plastic Tupperware for tempered glass containers. Tempered glass containers keep food fresh and are non-toxic, recyclable and food-safe (even in the freezer). Opt for a collection of compact, lightweight containers with easy-seal lids. Even better, since most types of tempered glass used for food storage containers have been treated to withstand heating, most are microwavable and dishwasher safe.

a pile of used coffee pods

Trade out plastic coffee pods

When these little pods first came into the market, it seemed too good to be true for busy consumers eager to skip a step or two in their morning coffee routine. However, most plastic single-use coffee pods such as K-Cups and Nespresso Pods end up in landfills or oceans rather than being recycled. This plastic pollution is small enough to quickly break down into microplastics that have the potential to harm wildlife. In contrast, refillable coffee pods can be cleaned and reused daily. For those who compost, several companies are also beginning to make biodegradable and compostable pods available.

two blue plastic ice packs

Upgrade from plastic ice packs

Swap out your plastic or disposable ice packs for stainless steel ones for use in lunch boxes or coolers. The stainless steel packs are filled with distilled water and freeze in just a few hours, so you can easily use them for your child’s lunches or keep one in the freezer for achy muscles. The material makes them 100% recyclable at the end of the product’s lifespan. 

three sponges in the colors orange, pink and yellow with a blue sponge leaning against the stack

Try out sustainable sponges

Most kitchen sponges are made of polyester or nylon, giving them a considerable environmental footprint, especially if used daily. There are several alternatives to sponges out there for those who want to make the switch to a more sustainable dish-washing option. Try out cloth or reusable sponges and silicone scrubbers instead, or use a natural or plant-based compostable sponge. There are also machine washable cotton sponges on the market as well as copper scours that can be recycled.

a plastic bag full of green apples, oranges and bananas

Forget the plastic grocery bags

Plenty of Americans have already made the switch to reusable shopping or grocery bags (some states are even making them mandatory). Smaller plastic bags used for bulk items and produce are still popular, however. A couple of reusable and washable produce bags like these will greatly decrease your plastic use, especially if you eat a lot of fruits and veggies. Make sure you purchase bags with the tare weight on the tag so your grocer can easily find it for weighted items.

a white bottle of soap next to a white sink

Lose the plastic soap bottles

Dishwashing soap blocks produce a lather that cuts grime and grease on dishes just as well as the liquid dish soap that comes in plastic containers. The popular No Tox Life vegan dish soap block is made of moisturizing coconut oil that won’t dry out your hands and also claims to take stains out of laundry and clean countertops. With alternatives like these, you can make a strong effort toward lowering your single-use plastic consumption.

Images via Pexels, Pixabay, Randy Read, and Kevin Casper