After spending more than a year indoors, it’s only natural that many of us would reassess our living situation. For some people that’s meant buying new digs altogether, while for others it’s been more about smaller, but no less significant, changes.
We’re of course referring to those switches we can all make to be more friendly to the environment. We’ve all witnessed our energy, electricity and heating bills go sky high as a result of being stuck inside. Now we want to know what we can do to minimise our carbon footprint.
While we’ve certainly been making some of the more common changes – using bags for life when we do our weekly shop, or washing our laundry on a lower temperature – lockdown revealed more things we could fix.
By this we mean eliminating single-use plastics and choosing greener alternatives that we could use time and again. And we have to say, it’s only improved our experience in the kitchen.
So, we’ve rounded up a handful of our favourite eco-friendly switches that we’ve made over the past year. Some are items you can use throughout every mealtime, while others are more tailored to just cooking or baking. We’ve even included a couple of options that enable you to be greener from shop to sink.
We tried to pick pieces that were going to have the greatest impact in terms of reducing waste, while still being easy on your budget. Do remember though, that what may seem a large price now, is likely to save you money later down the line.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Onya produce bags
We’re making a conscious effort to avoid buying plastic-wrapped food in our weekly shop. With some products that is easier said than done, but when it comes to fruit and veg there’s almost no excuse. That’s why we love this eight-pack of mesh bags from Onya.
Made from recycled plastic drinks bottles, they weigh just 10g each, yet they can handle up to 2kg in produce. We even find that using these bags lengthens the life of our food, keeping it fresher for longer. Each bag has a double seam at the bottom for strength, a black drawstring cord to keep your items secure, and a small pouch that all the bags will shrink down to fit into when not in use. If you have these with you there’s no reason you can’t choose products without packaging on your next shop.
Buy now £13.95, Onyalife.co.uk
Lakeland professional piping set
We won’t lie – we were one of the many that hopped on the banana bread bandwagon during lockdown. In fact, baking became our new favourite hobby. But while we love trying out different recipes and have been developing piping skills that even Paul and Prue would be proud of, we also want to ensure we are being as eco-friendly as possible. That’s why, instead of bulk buying single-use, disposable piping bags, we chose to invest in this reusable piping set.
Made from nylon instead of plastic, this bag can be used time and time again. It’s dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning up a breeze, and we found it was actually a lot easier to handle than a disposable bag. Plus it comes with seven nozzles as standard – you can pipe everything from meringue and mashed potato to bakery-worthy buttercream.
Buy now £14.99, Lakeland.co.uk
Colourworks silicone cupcake cases
While we’re talking about baking, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention cupcake cases. We were a bit sceptical of silicone cases at first, as we worried that they’d somehow give the cakes a rubbery flavour or affect the rise. If anything, though, they enhance our bakes.
Just like paper cases, they withstand extremely high heats and hold our mixture in place with ease. Plus, when it came to the really fun part (by that of course, we mean the eating), no wrappings were left stuck to our moist creations and we could tuck in a hell of a lot quicker. They’re also dishwasher-proof and stain-resistant, meaning the next time we used them there was no residual flavour from old batches. They come in a handy pack of 12 (a standard baking batch size) and the range of colours ensures that our bakes look as good as they taste. Peace of mind and a piece of cake, what’s not to love?
Buy now £5.09, Ocado.com
Lakeland silicone stretch lids, pack of 6
We always used to marvel as our mum somehow effortlessly covered up our leftovers with clingfilm. To this day we still don’t know how she managed to get it to be so airtight without crushing what was inside. But while that’s a skill we’ve never mastered, we’re also not sure we want to – single-use cling film can take several decades to break down, so we’ve been looking for a way to make a change without compromising on freshness.
Enter silicone stretch lids. They come in a range of sizes – from small jam jar to large dinner plate – and have become the answer to all our leftovers troubles. They keep food fresh by creating an airtight, leakproof seal, meaning you can store meals away in both fridges and cupboards without worry. They’re also freezer- and microwave-proof, so heating up leftovers is no trouble, and they can be washed either in your sink or the dishwasher. Without question, they’ve made batch-cooking easier than ever, and we know we’ll be using them for years to come.
Buy now £7.49, Lakeland.co.uk
Ikea uppslukad drinking straws, pack of 4
When the government revealed its plan to ban sales of single-use plastic straws back in April 2018, we were all for it. The UK used to throw away an eye-watering 8.5 billion every year. Even by October last year, that figure was still at around 4.7 billion for England alone. So, seeing pubs, nightclubs and restaurants alike do away with their bendy straws and switching to paper ones instead was a welcome change.
However, some of them couldn’t even be recycled – we’re looking at you, McDonald’s. And we can’t lie, paper straws had a tendency to leave a sour taste in our mouths too (sometimes literally). That’s why we’ve grown to love our ever-growing collection of stainless-steel straws. Unlike their paper counterparts, these can withstand a multitude of hot or cold beverages. They’re easy to clean, thanks to the inclusion of a brush, and come in a range of colours. Most importantly, they don’t distort the taste of any drink. We’re pleased to say many shops and supermarkets sell metal straws, so we’re spoiled for choice.
We love this particular offering from Ikea, as the brush is longer than others we’ve come across. Plus, the straws are four different colours, which makes keeping track of which drink is yours that little bit easier. We’d love to see bars using these too.
Buy now £2.75, Ikea.com
Russbe reusable sandwich bags, pack of 8
As you might have gathered from our review of Lakeland’s silicone stretch lids (£7.49, Lakeland.co.uk) we’re a fan of batch cooking and saving as much leftover food as we can. So, sandwich bags are a staple in our kitchen. Usually though, despite our best efforts to wash and reuse, they can’t always be salvaged. But since we’ve been using Russbe’s offering, we’ve had no such trouble.
Free from BPA, PVC, latex and phthalates, these are a great single-use-plastic-free option for storing food. Each bag has a grip-and-pull tab which makes it easy to open and a locking press-seal to keep food fresh. We also loved the gusseted base which not only meant we could fit plenty of food inside, but also made filling it super easy. There’s even a space to write the date and contents on, which, when you’re rummaging in a full freezer, keeps you from getting frostbite. They can be washed in your dishwasher or just with soapy water, and we refill them time and again. Plus, should your bag rip or break, they can be recycled, but we’ve found them to be so strong that we doubt this will happen for years, if ever.
Buy now £9.99, Lakeland.co.uk
Symple Stuff bamboo kitchen utensil set
Whatever dishes you like to whip up in your kitchen, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll be needing some sort of utensil to stir, sauté and serve with. So, why not invest in a set that is not only going to do a good job, but is good for the planet too? This three-piece pack, comprising a spoon, turner and a slotted spoon, is ideal for handling all your basic kitchen needs. Each boasts a natural golden colour, slightly textured surface and a subtle grain – all of which reminds you that this is made from 100 per cent natural bamboo. They work just as well as any other utensil you might already own, but we think they boast something special. The long, flat handles made them comfortable to use, and we love the splash of colour they bring to our kitchen.
Buy now £12.13, Wayfair.co.uk
Ecoegg re-usable bamboo towels
To paraphrase an infamous British advert, one sheet of these kitchen towels does plenty. This kitchen roll alternative says sheets are good for 80 uses and washes. And although putting kitchen roll in the washing machine feels very wrong, the product really lives up to its claims.
It looks just like regular kitchen roll, but is actually made from 90 per cent bamboo fibres. We found it mopped away everything from spilled drinks and sauces to general dust and debris with ease. Our surfaces were left sparkling – no flyaway pieces or little bits of lint were left behind. And while we expected the quality to wane the more we used them, if anything the towels only got better and softer. We love knowing they are saving us money, plus, when buying from Amazon you can subscribe to ensure you never run out – although we reckon you might end up with enough kitchen roll to last you a lifetime.
Buy now £9.51, Amazon.co.uk
Prestige eco stirfry wok
For a company to claim its product is “the world’s friendliest plant-based non-stick pan” is quite a tall order. And we’ll admit when we first started testing it out, we were dubious. Could a pan made from recycled aluminum, that’s also plant-based and palm-oil free, really do as good a job as our Tefal products? The answer is yes.
Not only is it supremely easy to use – its soft, stay-cool handle gives a comfortable and confident grip – but its steel induction base ensures heat is distributed evenly, making light work of cooking. It is also easy to clean and notably scratchproof – a bonus if you’re always whipping up delicacies. We also love that the brand is partnered with Treeaid, so, every time a pan is purchased, it plants a tree. Not only is this pan going to be good for your home, but you’re also ensuring the future of the planet.
Buy now £29.99, Argos.co.uk
EcoVibe compostable sponges
Making sustainable switches shouldn’t stop once the cooking’s done. In fact, when it comes to washing up, we could all afford to be a bit greener. These compostable sponges are definitely a good first step. EcoVibe is a Leeds-based online store providing sustainable everyday essentials and, like us, it believes that sometimes even the smallest switches can make a big difference.
The brand’s sponges are 100 per cent plant-based – made from cellulose, which is a natural wood fibre – yet are still just as durable and absorbent as any traditional sponge. They resist bacteria much better than your average plastic version too, as they contain enzymes that prevent bacterial growth. And while we wouldn’t advise scrubbing away at burnt bits on pans, these were amazing at wiping away almost all stains. We can’t see any reason not to invest.
Buy now £7.50, Ecovibe.co.uk
The verdict: Sustainable kitchen products
The produce bags from Onya are our best buy. Not only do they make switching to plastic-free foods in the shops much easier, when we got them home they made cooking and prep a breeze. They keep food fresher for longer and, as it’s a pack of eight, we always have spares ready to go. There’s simply nothing to fault.
Personally, we also loved the Lakeland piping kit, as we’ve still not been able to shake the baking bug and it has stood up to every single cake we’ve made. If you’re looking to make a small switch and work your way up though, you can’t go wrong with something simple like a pack of Ikea’s metal straws.
Do you make a bit of a mess in the kitchen? Time to invest in some of these refillable household products