Do you ever think “I’d go green if it weren’t so expensive”?

If you are a home cook, you may even think the only way to be sustainable in the kitchen is through your food choices.

Think again, my friend!  The tools you choose to use in your kitchen can be a quick & easy way to transition to the green life.

Here are 10 simple & affordable Sustainable Kitchen Essentials to get you started.

1. Wood Cutting Board

What makes it sustainable?

It will last a very long time.  It’s made from wood so it’s recyclable.  Depending on the type of wood it’s made from, it can be extremely eco-friendly & renewable.

How much is it?

Depends on where you get it.  This one is $6 at IKEA.

I’ve seen them everywhere for as little as $10 and as much as $140.  I have to say that I don’t see a reason to ever spend $100 on a cutting board unless I decide to become a butcher.

Is it easy to take care of?

Yes.  Wash it with mild dish detergent & water.  Dry immediately.  NEVER let it sit in water.

If you cut meat on it, disinfect it after you wash it.  Use salt & lemon to clean it really well, then a mild bleach/water or peroxide solution to disinfect.  I play it safe & don’t cut meat on mine.

Every now & then you can re-oil it with a food grade oil to keep it from drying out.  Rub the oil into your clean, let it sit overnight, then wipe off the extra the next day.

2. Wood & Metal Cooking Utensils

What makes it sustainable?

(The right) metal will last a long time.  When it’s past its prime, it’s recyclable – you may not be able to put it in your curbside bin, but take it to a scrap yard.  You might even get paid for it.   Wood will too. Just like wood cutting boards, wood utensils are recyclable, eco-friendly & renewable.

Just like wood cutting boards, wood utensils are long lasting, recyclable, eco-friendly & renewable.

How much is it?

Again, it depends on where you shop.  For both wood & metal, you can buy individual items for as little as $1 (no not from the dollar store, but I’m sure they have them too) or as much as $10.  Or you can buy a set.

I personally have done both.  I have a set from IKEA which has lasted years; I also have several individual wood utensils that I’ve just picked up at random places like Home Goods & even the grocery store.

Is it easy to take care of?

Treat wood utensils with the same care as wood cutting boards.  Metal can go in the dishwasher or get had washed – your choice.  Make it easy.

3. Cast Iron

What makes it sustainable?

It’ll last forever when you take care of it correctly.  I’ve never heard of anyone needing to throw out a cast iron skillet.  If you somehow manage to break or otherwise destroy it, take it to a scrap yard along with any other metal you have & maybe get even more for it.

How much is it?

There’s a huge range of prices depending on where you get it, the brand, the size, & whether it’s pre-seasoned.  Small individual sized pans are as low as $5.  Mine was a gift from World Market for under $10 & seasoned it myself.

Full-sized skillets can be as low as $10, with high-end pre-seasoned enameled versions running $150-200.  I got mine at Target for under $20 & again I seasoned it myself.  A similar skillet (same brand, but slightly larger) will run you $75 at an unnamed high-end retailer.

Beautiful Le Creuset enameled pre-seasoned pans will easily run $100 (at discount online retailers) to $200 (at random higher-end retailers).

Is it easy to take care of?

When you know what NOT to do, yes it is.  Once seasoned, a standard cast iron skillet just needs to be “washed” with water and dried immediately. If there’s any stuck on food, “wash” it with salt as an abrasive.  Absolutely NO soap or detergent of any kind, including those SOS & Brillo pads.

The enameled pots & pans can take mild detergent, but no scrubbing or scouring.

Neither can go in the dishwasher EVER, under any circumstances.

4. Glass Storage

What makes it sustainable?

It’s reusable & if you break it, it’s recyclable.

How much is it?

For pantry storage, they are no more expensive than plastic unless you are going for a “designer” look.

For food storage, they are only slightly more expensive than plastic.  But they also last longer because they won’t melt in the microwave or super hot dishwashers, or get food “baked” or stained into the surface.  So it kind of evens out in the end.  You can get a set of glass storage containers for around $15 for a small set (usually around 6 pieces with tops) up to $50+ for larger sets.

You can get a set of glass storage containers for around $15 for a small set (usually around 6 pieces with tops) up to $50+ for larger sets.

You can also buy individual pieces.  Discount stores like TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Tuesday Morning are great for picking up storage containers on the cheap.

Is it easy to take care of?

Usually dishwasher & microwave safe.  In my opinion, they are more carefree than plastic.  It’s not so great for small kids to take lunch in – that’s probably the biggest curve for us moving to glass storage containers.

5. Misto

Or any reusable spray bottle.  Use it to spray your own oils on anything.  I like Misto because it works just like PAM & other “non-stick” spray cans.  I just fill the canister halfway, pump, and spray.  I know EXACTLY what’s in it & it will last for as long as I take care of it.

What makes it sustainable?

The stainless steel design will last a lifetime if you take care of it.

How much is it?

Under $10

Is it easy to take care of?

Yep.  Just unscrew the cap after each use to release pressure.  To clean it, fill it with a drop of regular dish detergent & water then pump it through the sprayer.  Rinse the same way & let it dry in the dish rack.

6. Paper and/or Stainless Steel Straws

What makes it sustainable?

Paper straws can be recycled or composted.  Stainless steel straws are indestructible and will last forever.

How much is it?

Paper = cheap!  These were originally $5 a pack; I got them on clearance for $2.

Stainless steel straws are under $10 for a set with a cleaning brush.

Is it easy to take care of?

Stainless steel can go into the dishwasher; sets usually come with a cleaning brush to hand wash as well.

Paper straws are a no-brainer – toss it in the recycle bin or the compost bin.

** A word of caution:  I only let kids use the paper straws; the stainless straws are an accident waiting to happen if they hit their teeth on them, bite them (like they do with plastic), or stick them too far in their mouths.  As a matter of fact, the stainless steel straws won’t be too great for adults who’ve had 1 too many adult beverages, either!

7. Kitchen Compost Bin

What makes it sustainable?

Whether it’s metal or glass, the bin itself is recyclable.  The bigger point is that it makes it really easy to compost & there are some really cute kitchen compost bins out there!

How much is it?

I’ve seen them ranging in price from $15-$40+.  You could also DIY a kitchen compost bin but you’d have to make sure it has:

  • a tight-fitting lid
  • ventilation
  • a filter for odor control

I say why go through all that when you could get a really cute 1 for very little cost.  Mine was $16.99 at World Market.

Is it easy to take care of?

Just rinse it out after you dump kitchen scraps.  I sometimes wash mine by hand to get the coffee grounds out completely.  Other than that, it’s no maintenance.

8. Reusable K-Cup Coffee Filters

Speaking of coffee… I refuse to continue buying those single serve k-cups.  Yes, they are convenient, but they are also expensive.  And NOT biodegradable, and only recyclable if you break them down.  Too much trouble even for me.

Instead, I buy regular coffee in a can or canister (which IS recyclable) and use reusable k-cup filters.

What makes it sustainable?

Reusable & very long lasting.  The plastic & mesh ones are recyclable.  Of course, the stainless steel options are practically indestructible.

How much is it?

I’ve been on the same 2 sets of filters for at least 4-5 years.  You can get a set of 4 or more plastic & mesh filters starting under $10.  There are also stainless steel models that start around $15 for 1.

Is it easy to take care of?

Dishwasher safe so… yes.

9. These Dish Brushes From IKEA

What makes it sustainable?

According to IKEA, they may be recyclable.

How much is it?

Dirt cheap. 79¢ each!  I have 4 in rotation in the kitchen & 1 in each bathroom. They’re really great for cleaning tubs & toilets.

Is it easy to take care of?

Super easy!  I put my kitchen brushes in the dishwasher & they are like new, even after scrubbing caked on food off my cast iron skillets.

10. Dish Towels

Lots & lots of dish towels.

What makes it sustainable?

Washable, reusable, recyclable, compostable (if it’s a natural fiber like cotton).

How much is it?

Dishcloths can be as inexpensive as $1 each.  I personally have never seen a single dishcloth for more than $10, although I’m sure there are some out there.

Is it easy to take care of?

Even if you hate doing laundry, it’s as easy as doing laundry.

** As an alternative, use those paper towel like sheets that are washable & reusable.  If you’re crafty, you can even crochet your own dish towels.  When they’re past their prime, they can be recycled or even composted.

Speaking of being crafty, I’m off to crochet a dish towel or 2. These patterns I recently pinned are just too cute! Plus, crocheting can be an addictive stress reliever.

How many of these 10 kitchen essentials do you own & use regularly?  Do you have any favorites or basics to add?  Tell me in the comments.

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