It’s that time of the year; spring cleaning is in the air! Time to change out sweaters and heavy jackets for something a little lighter. Time to open the windows and let a little fresh air in. Time to change eating habits from heavy winter foods to lighter fare. And a great time to spring clean the kitchen to prepare for the abundant feast that is surely on its way.
What is a sustainable spring cleaning? It is a way to keep your kitchen and diet healthy and non-toxic respecting the environment in the process. It can be quick – tackle a different spot each day, or once a week for the next few weeks…and soon you will be done! (If you want a thorough overhaul, check out this blog post, a guide to a sustainable kitchen makeover.)
Clean out –
Check for old food stuffed in the back of your fridge or in a dark cupboard corner. Do you have condiments that are 5 years old? Maybe it’s time to get rid of them. (Aren’t sure how long to hold onto them? Check out these tips.) Compost, recycle and then make a list of what you need to replace.
When replacing your condiments or other prepared/processed foods, head to the local health food store, coop or grocery store and be sure to read the labels. Look for NON-GMO verified or organic products with the fewest ingredients. Stay away from additives, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other ingredients that you just can’t pronounce. Maybe your favorite farmer sells pickles at the farmers’ market? I bet they don’t have Splenda or food dye in them!
Buy in bulk, but only what you need. This will help you to avoid food waste and too much packaging.
Buy local and in season from your local farmers’ market (find one close to you on Eat Well Guide). Of course you know there is produce at the market, but did you know that you can often find humanely-raised meat, without antibiotics or hormones, dairy and cheese from a local farm, fish from local waters, bread from local wheat, honey from the rooftops, pies from a local bakery, flowers with no pesticides, and a place to compost your leftovers? See what they have to offer – if you go back often, soon they will have a lot more to offer!
Manage food waste –
It is a fact that old condiments eventually need to be replaced and occasionally food items spoil. But do your best to keep food waste to a minimum. During your spring clean take inventory of what you have on hand and post it somewhere in the kitchen so that you use what you have before you buy more (there are also apps to help with this). If you know that you aren’t going to use all the bread before it goes bad, put it in the freezer while it’s still good. You can also freeze extra tomato sauce, leftover soup and many other things. Keep food waste to a minimum by keeping it top of mind.
Of course, during this process, you need to wipe down the refrigerator and cupboards, clean the floor and stove – but you want to stay away from toxic household cleaning products. They are bad for your family (and furry family too)! They often contribute to indoor air pollution, are harmful if swallowed and can even be damaging if they are inhaled or make contact with your skin. Once you have rinsed them down the drain, they end up creating additional environmental pollution. Avoid these potential harmful effects by looking for more ecofriendly supplies.
Buy them –
Check out Environmental Working Group’s guide to healthy cleaning to find the best products to help you with your spring clean.
Make them –
Feeling adventurous? Make your own cleaning products with supplies that you probably already have at home – water, vinegar, baking soda. Want more interesting recipes and ideas? Check out DIY kitchen cleaners on Pinterest. We found a great tip to make vinegar smell better - soak the vinegar with orange peels (they can go in compost after)!
Now that you’ve got your spring cleaning under control…get into the kitchen and do some cooking! One of the easiest ways to have a sustainable diet is to do your own cooking – buy local and seasonal, cook healthy, eat delicious and make sure to eat up or give away leftovers – then, if necessary, compost.