How I Keep A Green, Vegan Kitchen

Nov 30, 2011 | Sayward Rebhal

Glass Dharma straws via BonzaiAphrodite.com. Photo: Sayward RebhalDo you know which animal-derived, eco-unfriendly ingredients might be sneaking around in your kitchen cabinets? If the answer is “no,” don’t despair. You’re not alone! Most people are surprised to learn that there might be whey (that’s milk curd runoff) hiding in their paper towels, or tallow (rendered fat) skulking in their hand soap, or lanolin (sheep’s wax) lurking in their upholstery polish.

Animal by-products are a direct result of the factory farming machine, and that’s why ethical and environmentally-minded individuals, regardless of diet or lifestyle, are making the move towards natural, plant-based products.

In my own home, I keep an eco-friendly, cruelty-free kitchen. It took a bit of research and a bit of reconfiguring to get all set up, but now it’s just as easy as vegan pie. Quite a bit cheaper, too! Here’s how I do it:

Green, Vegan Cleaning Products

Things are pretty easy now that entire lines of cleaning products have gone green and vegan. Method comes to mind as the leader of the cruelty-free cleansers, but other popular brands, such as Seventh Generation, are almost entirely animal-free (Seventh Generation automatic dishwasher pacs may contain tallow). These are great options to pick up in a pinch. But the truth is, I prefer to make my own DIY cleansers using simple, natural ingredients. Baking soda, white vinegar, and castile soap can be combined in any number of ways to create some seriously fabulous DIY concoctions.

I use diluted Castile soap for handwashing dishes, and I make Natural Homemade Liquid Dishwasher Detergent, an easy homemade mixture for my dishwasher. I also use vinegar in my dishwasher rinse aid, to disinfect my countertops, and in my “hacked” Swiffer-style mop. For stains that require scouring, such as caked-on stovetop spills, I apply a layer of castile soap, followed by a sprinkling of baking soda, and finished with a spray of vinegar. This is an absolutely fantastic “soft scrub” formula, and it works on almost everything.

About that mop hack, I picked up one of the spray-and-wipe models a few years back. But instead of buying a new cleaner cartridge full of chemicals, I simply filled the old one up with white vinegar. And instead of buying (and wasting) the disposable pads, I just tore up an old bath towel and fastened it to the mop head instead. Repurposed, reusable, and just as effective!

Replacements for Kitchen Paper Products

Along the same lines, I’ve pretty much banished paper products from my kitchen. I use cloth napkins for mealtimes (much prettier, and a snap to sew – they make great gifts as well!) and have replaced paper towels with cotton rags. “Nasty rags,” made of old bath towels, are for floor spills, doggy accidents, and other dirty work. “Nice rags” are for kitchen counters, dining table cleanup, and other not-so-messy messes. These are store-bought cotton dish towels in fun colors and patterns. Factoring in the energy and water cost of washing cloth towels, they’re still the environmentally prudent choice by a significant margin. But if you’re not quite ready to let go of paper for good (or for your next party), Natural Value and Seventh Generation have you covered with Earth-friendly products.

In fact, Natural Value is a powerhouse in the eco-vegan kitchen. Besides their recycled paper goods, they make trash bags, lunch bags, waxed paper bags, dish sponges, plastic wrap, parchment paper, and freezer bags. All green, all ethical, all vegan.

Aside from Cleaning

Aside from cleaning, there are lots of teeny tiny ways to reduce waste and keep your kitchen cruelty-free. For example, choosing unbleached, recycled paper coffee filters is a great start. But buying a washable, reusable hemp coffee filter is even better! (I use one by Mr. Naturals.) For food prep, Earth Friendly Products makes a great “fruit and veggie wash.” And for meal times, I’ve replaced disposable plastic straws with the ever-so-elegant glass variety, by Glass Dharma. Don’t worry – they’re almost indestructible!

And finally, even though you’ll be saving resources left and right, you’ll still have to do something with that (greatly reduced) garbage. BioBags, Seventh Generation and Natural Value all make for great vegan, eco-friendly waste disposal systems. And hey - don’t forget to recycle!

Sayward Rebhal is a Networx writer. 

Updated April 5, 2018.

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