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This is the first post in my Green Home Makeover series! Throughout the next few weeks I will be going through each room of the house to recommend non-toxic and eco-friendly products that can take the place of chemical-filled conventional versions. The kitchen is a great place to start making smarter and healthier choices for your family!
I prepare meals all the time at home for my family, so I am constantly using various pots, pans, and bakeware. As I became more aware of my family’s exposure to different toxins, one of the first things I did was swap out our cookware for cast-iron. Many of the non-stick cookware options on the market are coated with the chemical polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. In addition to the chemical PTFE, when this cookware becomes hot it can release and off-gas perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Some potential effects of PFOA are liver inflammation, weakened immune defense, abnormal thyroid levels, and Polymer Fume Fever. While Dupont insists this non-stick additive is safe under normal use, they also have stated they will begin a phase out of PFOA by 2015 to reduce environmental emissions. One of my favorite alternative types of non-toxic cookware is cast-iron. Cast-iron is likely the most eco-friendly cookware option available as it is durable (even indestructible) and can last hundreds of years if seasoned properly. The only thing that cast-iron may emit is a small amount of iron into food which can actually be beneficial to your diet. It also heats evenly, can withstand high temperatures, retains heat well, and is affordable. To keep cast iron in good condition, it is only necessary to wash gently with soap and water and then rub with about 1 tbsp of oil on surface. One of my favorite retailers of cast iron is Lodge Cast Iron Cookware. This company is over a century old and offers a variety of pre-seasoned skillets, pots, pans, and bakeware all with lifetime warranties. The Lodge Logic Combo Cooker (retails around $30) is a great starter piece as it contains a 3 quart deep skillet / dutch oven base and 10.25 inch shallow skillet / griddle / lid. This set is incredibly versatile and can be used as skillet, a fryer, or Dutch oven, all while the lid converts to a shallow skillet.
Bamboo cooking utensils are an excellent sustainable alternative to other common utensil options. They are easy to clean, lightweight, and do not scratch cooking surfaces. Just be sure to choose utensils created with organic bamboo as well as checking that they are free of formaldehyde-based adhesives. Bambu’s Kitchen Utensil Set fits all of the above standards and is perfect for any kitchen with it’s beautiful design. Bambu also makes a cutting board found here.
Another aspect to think about when starting a green kitchen makeover is what you are storing food in. Toxic chemicals like BPA, PVC, or phthalates in plastic containers can migrate into your food, especially when heated. Plastic is also difficult to clean as it is porous making a breeding ground for germs and creating stains from different foods. A better option is glass storage. Glass is one of the purest ways to store food while also being quite durable. Another benefit of glass is that it is easily cleaned and most varieties can withstand high oven and low freezer temperatures. Anchor Hocking has a beautiful set of glass storage containers which are completely constructed of glass (including lid!).
Dish Soap and Dishwasher Pods
Dish soaps are yet another culprit for chemicals with Triclosan being the most recent chemical making headlines. Triclosan is a chemical with antibacterial properties which according to EWG, can cause liver and inhalation toxicity as well as disrupt thyroid function. Because my family does not have a dishwasher it is important to me to have an effective soap that cuts grease and cleans my dishes well while also being as natural. I love The Honest Company’s Dish Soap– it cleans just as good as major conventional brands and is about the same cost. It also is plant-based and Triclosan free! The Honest Company also offers plant-based, biodegradable dishwasher pods.
Scrubber sponges are often overlooked in the kitchen but because you likely go through them frequently it is important to purchase sustainably. While many other sponges are made with petroleum foam, The Honest Comapny creates their Scrubber Sponge with cellulose derived from renewable wood pulp. Additionally, the fibers are made with walnut shells and recycled plastic.
Messes in the kitchen are inevitable so choose a cleaner that won’t spray and release toxins into your home’s air with every cleanup. Earth Friendly Products makes an awesome plant-based spray that not only cleans up messes effectively but also freshens the air with a natural scent. Parsley Plus All-Surface Cleaner is a biodegradable cleaner formulated with renewable, plant-based ingredients. It can be used on a variety of non-porous surfaces including sealed stone, hardwood floors, painted surfaces, linoleum, vinyl, porcelain, chrome, stainless steel.
Paper towels are one of those things that you can go through a roll a day when you have kids. I love that there are now options available that dramatically decrease the environmental impact of paper towel usage. Bambooee makes reusable bamboo towels which come on a roll with 20 sheets as standard paper towels. They are machine washable and can be washed up to 100 times. This is also a great way to save a little extra money on shopping trips!
Creating a compost is an excellent way to make use of a variety of things that would otherwise end up in the garbage. Coffee grounds, fruit/vegetable scraps, eggshells, leaves, and grass clippings are just a few of the things that can create a good compost. All you need is a compost bin to store this matter in and you will soon have a natural fertilizer for your plants or garden! Recycling is so important and can sometimes be forgotten. My family keeps a small box next to our trashcan for all of our recyclables so we remember each time.