a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Consider The Green Kitchen Re-do

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Need a starter kit for going green at home? Take it one room at a time. Beginning with the most important and most-used space in the house – the kitchen. Here’s your list:

Cleaning supplies – Start with one good green soap and you’re set. Most specialty products aren’t necessary unless you believe the television commercials. Try an all-purpose cleaner like Dr. Bronner’s magic soap or Bio-Pac that is so safe that you can pour your used dishwater on outdoor plants.

If you need some scouring power, skip the chlorine and chemicals – Mrs. Meyers makes a surface scrub with natural silica, Oxygen Bleach and essential oils for extra cleaning action and scent. Bon Ami also makes a back-to-basics, unscented version at a lower price.

My favorite dish soap is made by Seventh Generation, maker of many high quality and natural cleaning and paper products. Did you know that most popular cleaners are made with petroleum (and tested on lab animals!)? Yuk! Green and clean alternatives use only naturally derived cleaning agents that are safe for our bodies and our environment. Save the automatic washer for party clean-ups and save water and energy. Hand washing is my favorite Zen activity, done with two large bowls, one for washing, one for rinsing (and the water off).

For bigger jobs like walls, refrigerators and floors, citrus-based concentrates like Citra-Solv are killer (as in grease, odor and germs). They can be used at different strengths for many jobs, even for window-washing or as a laundry booster.

Drain de-cloggers are pure evil on the environment – if you have a major clog, call a plumber BEFORE dumping a bottle of Draino down your pipes Can we disco that stuff yet??). Use Earth Enzymes by Earth Friendly Products to maintenance or to dissolve a clog in progress. It is non-caustic, non-acid, non-toxic, phosphate -free and biodegradable. Good ol’ enzymes and bacterias save the day in a natural way.

Most of us have a garbage disposals, but did you know that it is illegal to put food down any drain in some cities? Makes sense to me. Instead, scrape food scraps into your compost container before washing.

What’s that? You’re not composting yet? It’s easier (and less smelly) than you think. You don’t even have to purchase a special container – though you can. If you keep your scraps in the refrigerator in a bowl short-term or sealed container long-term, you’ll never know they’re there. Apartment dwellers can worm their way into composting – see how.

Break the paper towel habit – the sooner the better. Dishtowels are tried and true. If you gotta have a roll of tree pulp – I mean, paper – around for occasional emergencies, make sure to buy recycled and unbleached.

Natural cellulose sponges beat the heck out of those made with chemicals. Keep your sponge dry between uses to decrease bacteria build-up and increase their durability. I like to use old-fashioned cotton dishrags that I launder frequently.

I was thrilled when the first biodegradable and compostable trash bags appeared on the market and now they are widely available from several companies. I stocked up on these awhile ago, but when I discovered that these bags are mostly made from GMO (genetically modified) corn, I decided to switch. Seventh Generation makes bags out of 65% recycled plastic and puts it like this on their (very informative) web site:

If every household in the U.S. replaced just one package of 20 count drawstring tall kitchen bags made from virgin plastic with 65% recycled ones, we could save:

* 45,100 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 2,500 U.S. homes for a year
* 824,800 cubic feet of landfill space, equal to 1,200 full garbage trucks
* and avoid 16,800 tons of pollution!

Re-do and Re-live.

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10 Responses to “Consider The Green Kitchen Re-do”

  1. Terry Phillips Says:

    Hi, I just wanted to respond to you that all BioBags (biodegradable and compostable trash bags) are made from certified GMO free corn. In fact, we are beginning to use many different renewables in the creation of our bags and liners, including rapeseed and sunflowers.

    Thank you for what you do in educating the public on green options!

    Terry Phillips

  2. phyllis diehl Says:

    dear trace thanks for the education and informing me of these products, as a proud grandmother, i think the picture of shay is wonderful….thanks for the advice and thanks for showind me shay in a “pondering activity” thanks again

  3. Greg Says:

    Great article Tracey; however I do not see any reason why one has to buy paper towels ever again. You can but 40-50 dish rags and use them for spills or for napkins. You can also buy cotton napkins. The cost is very low. Keep a little bucket in the kitchen and place the dirty rags/napkins in there. No excuses!!! Even if you have kids.


  4. tao Says:

    You are absolutely right, Greg. I haven’t used paper towels in years, but tend to think I’m too much of the exception and want to give some room. You reminded me that there isn’t much “room” (or time) left for us to decrease our consumption and waste. Greg is right – paper towels are another convenience we don’t need. I like your bucket idea, too! Tao

  5. tao Says:

    I’m so glad you set me straight, Terry! I will head right over to your site! I am happy to hear we are starting to make our compostables out of NON-GMO corn. Watch for another post on this topic!

  6. Lisa Says:

    Really informative post! Going green in the kitchen is an easy first step. One product that you didn’t mention that I love is BabyGanics ( It is all natural and organic, but unlike other “green” cleaners it is safe to use on marble and granite countertops – leaves them clean, sparkling and streak free :) I too am guilty of using paper towels…but I’m going to try and cut them out now.


  7. tao Says:

    I’m glad to know about more helpful green products. I will check out BabyGanics – thank you, Lisa. And, even more thanks for losing the paper towels – from all of us and the planet.

  8. The Tao of Change » Blog Archive » Bathroom Greening 101 Says:

    […] the toilet and shower, I like the same natural products I use in the kitchen. Bon Ami for basic scouring or Mrs. Meyers for added cleaning power and scent from natural essential […]

  9. Chantal Says:

    Can someone please suggest a brand of dish cloths/towels that are ABSORBENT? I only ever seem to be able to find the usual ones that don’t really absorb anything. What is that? I have used Seventh Generation products for almost two years, and I love them. No idea if anything is really clean, since it doesn’t smell clean, which was my biggest thing at first, but I love buying them, guilt free shopping! Their company and blog are the best, and their CEO is my (though he doesn’t know it) green mentor. I’m starting a new business and his books and blog have been a great source of inspiration for me.

  10. tao Says:

    OLD cotton T-shirts make awesome, absorbent dishtowels – just cut them to desired size. If you want an actual “towel” the best “dishtowels” I’ve used are the small hand towels that are normally for the bathroom. They are thick and absorb well. Reinvent and Reuse!Tao

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