I’ve been thinking about this for a few years, and it started slowly. My ways of making my kitchen eco-friendly, as much as I can. And still, there’s a long, long way to go. I haven’t had the courage to take the important steps yet, but yes, the thought can be clearly seen. Here, I talk about a few things that a beginner can follow. So, if you haven’t given all this a thought, here’s where you can start to do to make your kitchen environment-friendly.
Throw away the plastic
I was reading something for a health article on how one can treat PCOD. And I read a point that said don’t eat and store food in plastic. This was not one of the main points, but as I research a lot for my articles, I happened to see this point and it really made me wonder. How can storing food or eating food in plastic hamper our health? Soon, I went a bit stubborn and swapped all the plastic with steel and glass. Removed all the plastic jars, Tupperware boxes, plastic water bottles, my plastic chopping board, etc. and brought in typical Yera glass jars (from the old side of the city), steel lunch boxes and storage boxes, steel wire-mesh and bamboo baskets for storing veggies, and glass water bottles and steel ones for gym/travel purposes. Threw away those plastic bowls that I used to store freshly-cut veggies while preparing the meals and brought in the steel ones. My office mates did ask me, “What if you have to move abroad? What about all the glass then?” But that hardly bothered me. The electronics are mostly made with plastic, and my garbage bin has a biodegradable, recycled plastic bag. Plus, the food stuff, like the lentils and flours come in plastic packaging. And of course, some glass jars do have plastic lids on them. But, I will try and remove those plastic garbage bags and the lids as soon as possible, and will try to shop in bulk in cotton bags in future.
Dump the aluminium foil
I got in butter paper and white mulmul cloth pieces to store rotis, bread, etc. We don’t care if the food is no more hot when we open the lunch box in the office, as this foil is not good for health.
I do have an oven to bake cakes and cookies, but no microwave to reheat food. I know there isn’t much reliable information on how a microwave can be bad for health, but I somehow never liked the idea of cooking or reheating stuff in the microwave. When friends come home to party, some ladies do point it out. But I don’t care. I can’t give a solid backup against microwaves here, but it just means that we have freshly cooked food in the kitchen, and I do think that food comes with an expiry date and can lose its nutrition when kept in the fridge or a packet for long. I always make sure that I cook food and have it in a few hours; of course, there are exceptions when a curry is too tasty, so I keep it in the fridge and reheat it in a pan the next day. But, you do get my point, right?
And no tissue-paper roll, please
This was pretty easy for me, and thank god I don’t live in the US as I have seen people returning from there who can’t do without tissue paper rolls (they can almost go paranoid about it). My mum uses clean cotton pieces (that may be made from a towel or bed sheet) in the kitchen and so do I. This also explains why I have to do so much of washing, as kitchen linen needs to be cleaned on a daily basis, but that can be sorted. Why do I do this? First, it saves paper, and second, it’s in your head that your tissue paper is bacteria-free. If you dry your squeaky clean kitchen linen in the sun, you might as well consider it safer to use. I do use paper towel when frying something to absorb the oil though.
Bring in the jute/cotton veggie bags
This one is simple. I buy my fruits, veggies and other grocery stuff in jute or cotton bags. Yes, there are times when I’m out and I need to buy something, but I can’t predict those shopping trips really. I do try to keep a spare bag in our car though. Secondly, I keep cotton drawstring bags in my shopper bags to keep the tiny veggies like peas and beans in it. Otherwise everything gets mixed up after the shopping trip. And finally, I don’t prefer to shop online when it comes to veggies. I always like to pick them up myself. This way, I also get to see other local/seasonal veggies around the veggie market. So, this also in a way doesn’t let those cardboard boxes or plastic wrappers in the kitchen. I haven’t tried frozen pre-cut veggies that are stored in plastic bags at the gourmet stores, so that’s another relief.
Use earthen, steel and cast-iron cookware
We all know this, but when we start cooking, we easily grab the non-stick/teflon pan, finish cooking, eat up the meal and then nod that one shouldn’t non-stick pans. Thanks to the beautiful exhibitions in Delhi NCR area, I was able to collect sturdy earthen skillets/pans for my Indian cooking. And I managed to get steel and cast-iron stuff during my travels to Rajasthan. These are healthier choices over aluminium/non-stick pans. And it can only happen if you are mindful in the kitchen. Knowing doesn’t help, practice does. Which is why, no fancy, colourful cookware in my kitchen. But I do sometimes dream of those Le Creuset cast iron skillets.
Limit your kitchen shopping needs
I remember when we bought our fridge as a newly married couple in Mumbai, I went berserk at the departmental store. I filled up my cart with all sorts of fancy sauce bottles, and whatnot. But now, it has come down vastly. What happens is, you spot beautiful bottles and packets at the gourmet/departmental store and keep buying stuff. Readymade food to god-knows-what. I get a weird feeling when I see both mothers and kids going crazy at the shopping alleys, filling up their carts with crazy food items. Try to limit this. First, always carry a list. Second, try to visit the food store when you need to, which can mean thrice a week. This will not allow extra stuff to come in, but only what you need. Because, really, you don’t need so much of stuff.
These are a few tips that I can give you as of now. Next, I want to work on my food waste management, as my kitchen bin is a mess. Want to start composting food that I can and recycle the waste as much as possible. Next, I want to start using natural cleaners. I did try that castile liquid soap, but for Indian cooking (oily steel vessels and plates), that soap really didn’t help me; need to explore. I still have a few plastic trays left in the kitchen that I use, but mostly, there are wooden trays that you can find. And, of course, I would love to make my own bread, jams, cookies, sauces, etc. which will in a way reduce my shopping list. Let me know if you can offer any more such tips. Because, if we don’t care for our future, who else will?