If you’re anything like me, you’re Monica Geller levels of clean, especially when it comes to the kitchen. When I’m not scrubbing, I’m polishing. When I’m not polishing, I’m mopping. When I’m not mopping, I’m wiping counters and cabinets. And when I’m not doing all of the above, I’m probably thinking about it. You get the picture. This results in a spotless and shiny cooking space that even the Pine-Sol Lady would approve of.
Unfortunately, this obsession with cleaning has led to some less than environmentally friendly habits, like a stockpile of paper towels and a love affair with Windex. In an effort to curb my impact and reduce my carbon footprint, I’ve found five new cleaning methods to integrate into my day-to-day routine.
These are only a handful of steps you can take to make significant changes that help combat our ongoing climate crisis, but the benefits will impact you almost immediately.
This may be a no-brainer, but (shocker!) paper towels aren’t the most environmentally friendly product. Aside from killing trees, the manufacturing process contributes to global warming in a big way with the release of carbon from deforestation and the pollution emitted from production factories.
A quick alternative is to just use an old rag that can be tossed in with the rest of your laundry. But my personal favorite alternative is these bamboo paper towels that are both washable and reusable. When I don’t make a gigantic mess, I simply rinse them, ring them out, and hang them to dry for repeated use.
Popular cleaning products are chock-full of harsh chemicals that may actually contribute to future health issues after prolonged exposure. There are plenty of natural substitutes you probably already have in your pantry.
Here are a handful of my favorites, along with their uses:
- White vinegar: disinfects and cuts through dirt (but don’t use it on marble, stone, granite, or hardwood floors, as it can damage the finishes)
- Lemon juice: disinfects and cuts through grease
- Baking soda: can be a great scrubbing solution for stains and grime when combined with white vinegar or lemon juice (or both!)
- Olive oil: picks up dirt and can polish wooden cabinets; can also polish stainless steel when mixed with an equal amount of white vinegar
There are also many commercial green cleaning products that stand by their commitment to help the environment. Method and Mrs. Meyer’s are my favorites. Method has a rosemary-scented dish soap that’s a countertop staple in my tiny NYC studio.
Interested in making your own DIY cleaners? Gotcha covered there too.
As you’re throwing away packaging, keep in mind that you can often reuse things like trays, jars, and bottles for other purposes.
Plastic containers are great not only for leftover food storage but also for seed starters for herbs and smaller plants. Egg cartons are fantastic for drawer organization, and you can use paper bags as a blank canvas to wrap and decorate birthday gifts.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box (literally) when it comes to your trash.
Don’t toss that banana peel! Our landfills and waterways are brimming with all types of waste, and food waste may actually be beneficial to enrich soil nutrients for gardening. If you’re lucky enough not to live in a studio apartment, you can take those rotten apple cores and moldy carrots and repurpose them to create a dirt that’s simply begging to grow herbs, vegetables, and whatever else your green thumb desires.
Check out Greatist’s complete guide to composting, which offers a comprehensive breakdown of how and what to compost, including advice for those who don’t have the luxury of doing this outdoors.
Rather than finishing your cleaning job with an aromatic spritz from an aerosol air freshener, consider buying more plants as all-natural air purifiers. I’ve actually found that cooking and trash smells don’t linger as long now that I have some green friends scattered throughout my kitchen.
Some of the best oxygen-producing plants are chrysanthemums, spider plants, and aloe vera, but there are dozens of others to fit your space and aesthetic.