One year ago, I posted this piece in honor of the 40th Annual Earth Day. Now Earth Day has become Earth Month, so it's the perfect time to revisit and update some ideas to make your pantry a green(er) pantry.
How green is your pantry?
I'd call my pantry greenish. Not perfect, but more environmentally aware than it used to be, and getting greener every year.
In celebration of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, which has now grown into Earth Month, here are ten ideas to make your pantry more environment-friendly:
- Keep your pantry well stocked, and shop for pantry ingredients efficiently. Plan meals around what you have on hand. Running to the store for one ingredient isn't efficient or ecological, especially if, like me, you live five miles from the nearest market.
- Shop with reusable bags. My local market gives me five cents back for each bag I bring into the store when I shop, and it sells reusable bags for less than a dollar. I like these Flip & Tumble bags or RuMe bags that fold up to fit in my purse or jacket pocket.
- Shop for pantry ingredients that come in the least amount of packaging, and in recyclable or compostable packaging. Buy spices in bulk; keep a small amount in the cooking area, and the rest in the freezer.
- Use recycled sterilized jars and plastic containers for long-term, bug-free storage. Recycle the containers your pantry items come in.
- Prevent spoilage and waste; it's the greenest thing you can do.
- Use clear glass jars for leftover pasta, grains, dry beans, flours, etc.. When you can see what you have, you're more likely to use it up, and the jars will prevent spoilage, which prevents waste.
- Date perishables like spices and frozen items. Use them before you lose them. Most spices will last for 12-18 months in your pantry, if properly stored.
- Compost your organic pantry items (onions, garlic, lemons), old flours and grains, stale spices and dried herbs, even if you don't have a garden. Urban dwellers can try worm composters, though they can give off a bit of an odor. Why not give your compost to a neighbor with a garden, or donate to a community garden? You'll surely be offered some produce in trade. If you trade compost for fresh herbs, dry those herbs for use during the winter.
- Make sure your refrigerator and freezer temperatures are set correctly, and clean the filter on the refrigerator to ensure energy-efficient operation.
- Buy pantry items that are locally produced, when you can. Many pantry staples, especially spices, come from other parts of the world, but try to purchase basics like onions, garlic, and herbs, grown in every climate zone, from local farms or farmers markets. When you buy close to home, your pantry's carbon footprint will be that much smaller. If you have a sunny windowsill, you can grow your own herbs -- and what's closer to home than that?
How are you greening your pantry?
What other actions should be on this list?
[Photos of my compost pile were inspired by a reader who suggested that after we close the door on Other People's Pantries, the next Saturday feature should be Other People's Compost Piles! I'm not sure any of us want to look at kitchen scraps every week, but in case I'm wrong about that, I took some photos of mine. My compost pile today includes an abundance of brown matter from our recent garden clean-up, but we'll give it a good turnover after we extricate the fully composted matter from the bottom of the heap to add to this year's garden.]
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