I’ve always been a plastic bag re-user, a choice founded in environmentalism as well as frugality. Reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic is a naturally easy mindset if you are economically concerned and interested in sustainable living. While making the most of the many plastic items that cross my doorstep is almost second nature by now, it was not until recently that I began my journey in earnest towards a plastic-free kitchen.
Like all good things, this journey to eliminate plastic in my kitchen began with getting curious. I wondered about all the little mystery plastics I encountered like milk jug tops or other tiny plastics that are too small or weird to recycle, but were ending up in my kitchen. I did research on the origins of such plastics, specifically synthetic polymers and polyester, and wanted to know more about when plastics came into common use in the household. I discovered that it was largely a Second World War era phenomena. I asked my mother, who was born in 1939, and her peers, if they remembered what they did for food storage when they were younger before plastic was so common. They had memories of eating fresh foods stored in glass in the fridge, storing unwashed eggs on the counter top for weeks on end (most eggs have a protective membrane that keeps them fresh), keeping freshly baked breads in wooden bread boxes, and wrapping fresh produce from their mothers’ kitchen gardens in damp cloth towels.
Armed with this knowledge, I set out to try to rid my kitchen of plastic. I didn’t rush to throw everything plastic away, but I started to make conscious decisions that would eliminate additional plastic items from accumulating in the kitchen. I didn't feel it was sustainable or cost-effective to just toss my non-recyclable but still usable kitchen objects in the garbage simply to achieve an instantaneous plastic-free aesthetic. Instead, I slowly began to establish steps for a plastic-free kitchen that worked for my lifestyle. First, I eliminated buying or acquiring single-use plastics such as produce bags and cling film. Then, I made decisions to recycle my existing multi-use plastics like resealable storage containers as they reached the end of their usefulness and to replace them with non-plastic alternatives like glass jars. Today, my kitchen is approximately 85% plastic-free. My journey, which started with questions and research, has continued steadily forward as I look for creative solutions to going completely plastic-free. Believe it or not, the process to ditch plastic can be a fun challenge! Here are ten changes I have made and that you can easily make, too.
1 - Store fresh produce in damp linen towels or bags. Did you know linen is naturally anti-microbial? When you replace your single-use plastic storage bags with linen you are not only reducing waste, you are also keeping your food fresher and cleaner!
2 - Use a ceramic plate as the lid for your bowl of leftovers. This is a simple and brilliant way to eliminate cling wrap.
3 - Store cheeses in beeswax wraps, butcher paper, or even glass jars. Store meats in waxed or butcher paper whenever possible.
4 - Bake your own bread in small batches and store it in a bread box or a linen bag. Try out a slow-rise, no-knead bread recipe because it takes so little hands-on time. Buy bread at the farmers market or bakery, ask for no plastic, and wrap bread in a linen storage bag or towel instead.
5 - Buy dry goods in bulk whenever possible. Bring your own containers for bulk goods to the store. Great solutions for containers are cotton or linen bags, re-useable glass containers, or paper bags.
6 - Shop for foods that aren't packaged in plastic. This is a tough one! Look for items that don't need packaging at all or things that are packaged in recyclable or re-useable materials like paper boxes, paper bags, cans, or glassware.
7- Use less plastic in your freezer. Invest in some re-useable glassware designed for cold storage. And did you know you can freeze leftovers in glass mason jars? Leave plenty of head room in the jar and refrigerate well before putting in the freezer. Warm up the glass slowly when you remove it to thaw so it doesn't crack.
8 - Look for stainless steel, ceramic, porcelain enamel, or cast iron pans that are more durable and not coated with plastic derivatives that make them non-stick. Choose wooden or metal utensils instead of plastic items for stirring your foods.
9 - Instead of disposable paper products or polyester fiber napkins, buy napkins that are 100% natural fiber like our linen and cotton napkins. Linen napkins dress up any table!
10 - Give up single-use plastic garbage bags. Yes, you heard me! It's easier to give up garbage bags if you use a smaller garbage bin, recycle as much as you can, buy items with less packaging waste, and find ways to compost produce waste. When you're going plastic-free, you'll already notice less packaging waste in your garbage stream and you will be making choices that decrease your waste volume, so why not use a smaller can? With smaller garbage bins, you can even re-use paper grocery bags instead of buying new plastic garbage bags. You can also choose to just set the whole garbage bin by the curb and rinse it out later instead of using a separate plastic liner! And, of course, finding a way to compost makes the garbage bag dilemma even easier because you will have less messy, wet food waste to deal with (and composting is a whole separate blog post!).
Enjoy the journey! Comment and let me know your favorite tips for going plastic-free!
I am more devoted to linen than most other fabrics. I fell in love with linen for its classic look and its refined feel as a material. And when I first discovered the connection between linen and regenerative agriculture, I thought my heart would burst! My love for linen has only deepened as I delve into its place in regenerative agriculture. In my products, I experiment with linen's antimicrobial qualities, test its durability, and unearth its amazing history. As I research growing flax for linen in my region at our small plot on Kneehigh Farm, I see how linen fits perfectly at the intersection of food and fabric.
Regenerative farming is a system of diversified principles, where organic, no-till farming methods, cover-cropping, and rotational grazing produce nutritionally dense foods. Regenerative systems, like those at Kneehigh and other organic farms in the area, help rebuild valuable topsoil, increase biodiversity, and improve watersheds. All of these practices combine to improve crop yields, raise soil vitality, and mitigate climate change. Fiber flax, as a bast (or plant-stem) fiber plant fits nicely into crop rotation on a diversified farm. A fiber flax crop can be sown at different times for a variety of uses. Fiber flax’s high seeding rate suppresses weeds, and once pulled for harvest, leaves a clean field for the next crop without the use of any additional herbicides. A flax crop also needs very little water to grow, which means less irrigation and stress on water resources.
I stand at Kneehigh Farm these days and I keep watch over a small 1/8 acre of fiber flax we are growing. I watch it sprout, I weed a little, and urge it to get ready for harvest. There is magic in how this flax crop grows. I watch the beauty of the plants as they wave in the wind, and I think about how linen is made. I want my linen to be ethically grown right here in my backyard, and I want the objects I make to be part of the solution. I want to grow this flax as part of a regenerative agricultural system that mitigates climate change. I want my designs to reflect this regenerative process. I want the textiles I produce to be used and loved for a long time, and when they finally wear out, I want them to go back to that same farm as compost and begin again as a new flax crop. Most importantly, I want to show everyone how linen folds itself at the junction where food and fabric intermingle, just like the kitchen garden series.
And I want to fall in love with linen all over again
Warm weather months means bright, juicy berries, tasty summer squash, and all the leafy herbs and greens our arms can carry. We feel all that delicious farm fresh goodness deserves to be stored with care! The kitchen garden series delightful linen produce bags are here to keep your leafy greens from wilting, your berries tasting-fresh picked, and your summer squash crispy.
Linen is a special textile. Its unique properties help store produce for much longer in your fridge. No need to worry about your freshly picked greens going to waste and looking sad! Pull out a fresh linen produce bag, run it under the water, wring it out, and fill it with all those beautiful greens. The bag acts as a crisper and all your summer salads will be as bright and fresh as when the greens were harvested. You can even rescue wilting heirloom lettuce leaves by popping them into the damp produce bag overnight!
Summer is also the best season for blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. Where do we suggest storing them? You guessed it - a linen produce bag! Breathable linen bags will keep your abundance of freshly picked berries fresh until you have time to make a pie or mix them into your smoothie or cook them into tasty jams. They’ll keep like a dream in your fridge or on your counter while you plan all your berry recipes. And all the bright berry juices can give your white linen berry bag a special summer tie-dye look.
Our produce bags also work well as dry bags in your fridge. Unlike lettuce, you’ll want to keep vegetables like your summer squashes from getting wet or damp. Instead of running your produce bag under water, just use it as a dry bag for all of your back yard zucchinis, crook necks, and patty pans. The antimicrobial properties of linen will wick away any extra moisture that builds up on your squash and inhibit mildew or mold from forming on your vegetables.
Our linen produce bags are also great for drying herbs. Check out this blog post to learn about drying herbs in our linen produce bags in three easy steps!
When I was a kid, the neighborhood Moms would take us to the park and we would eat our lunches sitting on a giant dinosaur, our favorite playground fixture. Our mothers would supervise from afar and enjoy a more civilized meal together on a nearby picnic blanket. I forged lifelong friendships over those PB&J meals and so did our Moms. Those lunches taught me eye opening facts about the natural world, tidbits such as a dandelion’s down are the seeds of the plant or that pollywogs will grow into frogs, and helped me realize the joy of dining outdoors.
Entertaining in the fresh air still feels special to me and it can be so easy, even when we need to be socially distanced. Outdoor eating can be as basic as opening a window and leaning out so the cookie crumbs fall down for the birds on the fire escape. Or having lunch on the front stoop with the neighbors to share the latest news. Eating al fresco doesn't have to be complicated and keeping it simple also keeps it sustainable, especially when everyone brings their own napkins and cutlery. It can also be a great opportunity for everyone to put away their phones and devices and just talk to each other and enjoy their surroundings.
Here's my advice for joyful eating outdoors:
Choose a spot where you can see some greenery, or put a potted plant or cut flowers nearby.
Include local foods from a farmstand or your CSA box for the freshest flavors of the season.
Bring beverages in thermoses and use fancy cups.
Use some of your favorite vintage tableware and linens to create an elegant outdoor space and make your meal special.
Pack your food in jars or wrap it up in your favorite tea towel or napkin or pop your dry snacks in a bread bag.Put away your devices, listen to the birds and be curious about the world that surrounds you.
The kitchen garden series is here to tell you why shopping at your local farmers market is a healthy way to do your weekly grocery run. Here are a few of our favorite reasons to inspire you to shop local this market season, even though it might look a little different this year.
Fresh air is good for the soul. While strolling along through a farmers market to collect your food for the week you can enjoy the weather, breathe in the fresh air, and relish a nice moment in the sun while you shop for all your kitchen necessities. Does it get much better than outdoor market shopping? Stop and smell the flowers!
Farmers markets aren’t just about fruits and vegetables. Many markets take the time to curate booths from local artists and small batch makers. You could discover your new favorite relish, or products to help you on your low-waste journey (ahem, like the kitchen garden series) or refill your glass bottle of kombucha from a local kombucha brewer. Doing some window shopping in an open air market might lead you to your next favorite artisanal coffee or home brew.
Nothing beats the human connections you can make while shopping at a locally vended market. You can talk to the farmers and learn their story or hear more about the business that makes your new favorite napkins. You can learn a little history about your city. You can pet the friendly animals that people bring along. When you regularly support your local market, you can learn the faces and names of the vendors and they’ll remember you, which makes shopping a little more personal and special.
Supporting your local food chain helps decrease your environmental impact. Shopping at a farmers market for produce that’s in season and buying things locally directly sustains your local food chain! Did you know that the smaller the distance traveled between you and your food, the better? Less travel helps cut carbon emissions, and we love that! We also think it’s easier to shop plastic free at the farmers market and our products will help you on your market trips. Plus, the produce and goods you find at farmers markets is grown by people invested in the community. When you support your local food system by supporting farmers markets, you are strengthening your local economy and contributing to the health of the community. Shopping at farmers markets is more important now than ever to support your local food system even if it might be a little less relaxed this summer.
If supporting a local, and sustainable system of community is your cup of tea, find your nearest farmers market. It can become part of your weekly shopping ritual. Things look a little different this year, your local market could be doing point-to-shop or contact free pickup or other innovative ways of ordering. But you can still shop in the fresh air, support your favorite makers, and find something unexpected.
As environmentalists we must be aware of how environmental issues affect people across the world and across social identity spectrums if we want long lasting, solid change.
Like the natural world, any human society is both a single ecosystem and a part of the larger ecosystem that is our planet. Ecological balance leads to a thriving system that supports us and ensures that no particular member is exploited or overused or driven to non-existence. Sustainability is achieved when there is balance in all the ecosystems making up the environment.
Inequities in power destroy the balance of a system. Balance cannot be achieved through exploitation, colonialism, and white supremacy. Poverty, racism and social injustice are intertwined with environmental degradation, climate change, and planetary destruction. Egregious environmental crises often go unremedied because they occur in impoverished communities. We can take action by recognizing that climate justice and social justice are inextricable.
At KGS, I’m committed to building a business culture of interdependence and support. I build business to business relationships with a diverse group of business owners. I maintain direct relationships with my producers and I continue to pledge 10% of my profit donations as unrestricted funds to diverse and inclusive groups. I also reinvest profit in my geographical area by shopping at conscientious markets and retail shops and ensure that my manufacturing process adheres to fair labor practices. I feel that it is our responsibility in society to care for one another in this way so that we can collectively care for our planet and I support others doing the same. As I say on my website, the latin origins of the word collaborate mean "to labor together" and through collaboration we deepen our impact and lighten our burdens. My hope is that the kitchen garden series can be a collaborative business space working towards a more equal, peaceful, and green Philadelphia.
The kitchen garden series is one of many small businesses and market organizers including virtual, livestreamed markets as a way to offer goods for sale during the pandemic. Virtual markets help us to stay connected to all of you, our lovely customers, while keeping our communities safe and healthy. Love them or hate them, there are lots of good reasons to shop at virtual markets.
First of all, shopping virtually supports your favorite shops!
The loss of live events during the pandemic has threatened our financial survival. Virtual markets offer another way for you to support the small businesses that you care about. Shopping with us virtually helps strengthen local supply chains and keeps our communities resilient. Whether you purchase or simply browse, virtual markets are an opportunity to see what new items and ideas your favorite small business owners are working on these days.
Scoring one of a kind finds and new products
Lots of creative shops, including my own, are finding virtual markets a fun way to showcase one of kind items not offered regularly. It is similar to how shop owners sometimes have limited edition finds at live events. In my business, I have been using virtual markets to roll out new products for the first time and taking the time to learn from customer feedback about what works and what doesn't.
Customer feedback and interaction
Without the social connection of brick and mortar retail gatherings, we need to find other ways to interact with our customers and clients. Because it's sometimes difficult to engage socially with our customers right now, we are finding ways to use virtual markets to get socially active. During virtual market times, we have our full attention focused on our messages and chats because we want to interact with you! So, please share your thoughts, feedback and ideas. This helps us grow as creative businesses.
Retail stores, booth markets and pop-ups are normally important gathering places that foster social connections, so you can help when you shop our virtual markets instead, send us chat messages, let us know what you think via email, or simply say hello online. For a business such as mine that offers a mission of sustainability alongside fine and elegant goods for your home, I want to know how you are doing right now and how I can help make your world a bit brighter. Next time you see a virtual market, stop by!