Green Lifestyle

Published on August 22nd, 2019 | by Sarah Dephillips


Zero Waste Kitchen: 6 Single Use Items to Replace

In our zero waste series, we’ve been digging a little more into those famous “3 Rs” – or at least two of the three. That’s because reducing and reusing are great tools in the zero waste toolbox. Recycling as we know it is not as good an option. So we’re making our own version of the 3 Rs that goes more like this: Reduce, Reuse, Replace. What exactly do we mean by replace? We want to replace wasteful, single-use items with sustainable, reusable options! In this article we’re bringing you suggestions about what you can replace in your kitchen on your journey toward zero waste.

1. Paper Napkins

I found that replacing paper napkins with cloth ones was easier than I thought! The common objections I hear to cloth napkins are that people are more hesitant to actually use a nice cloth napkin, and that cloth can have higher environmental impacts than paper, anyway. My solution to both arguments? Check your local thrift store for a set of gently used cloth napkins! I found not one but FOUR sets of cloth napkins for a total of $2. No new cotton was grown to supply my napkins, and I have plenty to get dirty and wash and still have the napkin holder full all the time. If you’re crafty, you can repurpose all kinds of used textiles as napkins. 

2. Straws

Reusable straws are all the buzz now. Some people use straws most frequently when they’re out to eat or drink. But for my family, we use the most straws in our own kitchen for homemade smoothies. Now I not only keep one in my purse for on-the-go, but I keep several in my silverware drawer for home. 

3. Popsicles

Everybody loves a popsicle in the summertime. Most people know about the old style popsicle mold that you can pour your own juice, sugar drink, or fruit smoothie into and put the stick in the bottom. Those can be a mess once they start to melt and drip. Did you know you can also get silicone push-up popsicle molds? They’re the same as those colorful single-use plastic popsicles, without the single-use plastic! 

4. Tea Bags

Zero waste tea is the best kind of tea! Not only is it better for the planet, but it tastes better too! How? Switch to loose leaf tea and purchase in bulk. Often the tea in tea bags are wrapped in a paper or plastic tea bag with a string, tag, and staple, then wrapped in a paper or foil bag, then put in another plastic bag and finally a box, which is sometimes also wrapped in plastic. Nope! Loose leaf tea is just that – tea leaves without any extra wrappings. You can get reusable metal, silicone, or muslin infusers to make your delicious, flavorful tea over and over and over again. Then compost the leaves!

5. Paper Towels

Paper towels ARE pretty useful. But just like napkins, they’re not irreplaceable. Keep a dish rag on hand for small drips, spills, and crumbs. For deeper cleans or bigger spills, keep two bins or bags of rags handy – one for clean and one for dirty. Or use whatever system makes it easy for you.

6. Chemicals

This one often goes overlooked because we don’t throw chemicals in the trash. But the kitchen is one of the places we keep our toxic cleaners. Chemicals do end up in the air, water, and soil when we use them – if not in our bodies! Many are derived from petroleum and never really break down. That makes them a form of waste. Try to replace the harmful chemicals in your kitchen with non toxic alternatives.


These are some good places to start your zero waste kitchen, but by no means an exhaustive list! For example, see our articles on zero waste grocery shopping and 6 ways to reduce single use plastic in your grocery routine.


Attribution-free images courtesy of Pixabay.

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