How to Avoid Plastic in the Kitchen

Making it Easy to Use Less Plastic in the Kitchen

I met Friday Apaliski, a sustainability consultant, at a Mastermind Group and she blew my mind. I feel like I’m not unlike many of you – I want to do the right thing for the environment but it’s hard to keep it all straight. I can recycle and do some basic things but it feels overwhelming to make lasting changes to my everyday life. Friday will come into your home and give you some tips (without judgement!!) on what you can do better. I think this is amazing. So I asked her to come and chat with us today. We chose the topic about how to reduce the use of plastic in the kitchen because it feels so ubiquitous there. We include links to her recommendations below.

 

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Friday Apaliski runs Sustainability Concierge where she helps her clients find ways to make their homes greener. She’ll come into your home and give you some tips on what you can do better. She’ll even look at your makeup! Then she gives you recommendations for what you can change and helps you pick (without judgment!) what to change. I just thought that was amazing. So I asked her to come and chat with us today. And we picked the topic about plastic in the kitchen. Friday, can you tell me why that’s a subject that’s near and dear to your heart?

 

Friday Apaliski:

I mean, plastic is just a really problematic product. And it feels ubiquitous in the kitchen. And it’s one of the things that clients say to me all the time. They’ll come to me and say, I just feel so guilty about all this plastic. I feel so bad about all this plastic, or plastic around my food, or I don’t know how to avoid it. And so part of the reason I suggested we talk about it today is because I just know that it’s something that’s on so many people’s minds.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Well, dumb it down for those of us who are not as smart as all of your friends. Why is plastic so bad?

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yeah, it’s a great question. And plastic is everywhere. So first thing I should say is, there are some very good uses of plastic. Plastic is not an evil product, generally speaking. But it is a product that is designed to basically never, ever break down. The earth can never digest plastic.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

But we can just recycle it, right?

 

Friday Apaliski:

Well, kind of. The plastics industry would really like you to believe that you can just recycle plastic. But the truth is, plastic recycling is very difficult and very expensive. So in truth, if you are a producer of a product, buying virgin plastic is cheaper than buying recycled plastic. So there’s not really an incentive to use recycled plastic, which means there’s not really an incentive to sell recycled plastic. And there’s a zillion different types of plastic. And so, when you put it all in your bin, somebody or some very fancy machine has to sort through all of that. That’s a long and laborious process as well. Ultimately, plastic is not a fully recyclable material. It is a downcyclable material.

 

Friday Apaliski:

So, the carton of whatever, let’s say, cottage cheese. You have a carton of cottage cheese which comes in a plastic container. When you put it in the recycle bin that might become plastic wrap. And you put that in the soft plastic recycling, and that’s going to become a park bench. And that’s the end. That’s the end of it. After that, it goes to the landfill. Unfortunately, what really happens to plastic is it breaks up into teeny tiny little pieces, and it gets into the waterways. It gets into the ocean, fish eat it. Then you eat the fish. It’s just not good. There’s a whole other toxic element to it.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Most people don’t know this. Plastic is made from oil. It’s literally made out of dinosaur bones. It’s not a renewable product. It’s not a very recyclable product. And it has a bunch of chemicals in it that we don’t want touching our food.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

And is it true that not all the plastic in our recycling bin is actually being recycled because there’s not actually a demand for it?

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yeah, that is true. I would say here where I live, in San Francisco, they do a very good job. And they have been working to have very clean streams and very extensive networks for resell. But not every place is like that. In 2018 China decided that they weren’t going to take our dirty garbage anymore. They only wanted our very clean recyclables so many waste haulers just said, we’re not doing plastic, which is going to the landfill.

 

And worse than that, some of them will take it and send it to far off countries like Thailand. Faraway places. And then they just burn it there, which really has a terrible impact on those communities. Or they’ll just dump it in the ocean. It’s really problematic. Plastic is problematic. And ultimately it comes back to this idea that the earth can’t digest it. If you put a cardboard box outside and it blows away in the wind and ends up in the ocean it’s not ideal. But it’s not going to hurt anybody. And glass becomes sand and rocks. And aluminum, it’s an ore from the earth. Plastic is just not that.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

All right. So how do we get it out of our kitchens?

 

Friday Apaliski:

So how do we get it out of our kitchens? The first place that I want you to think about getting rid of plastic is in disposable plastic. This short term use of plastic. Because like I said, it’s designed to last forever. Most people are very good at bringing their own bags to the grocery store. I know that COVID knocked us off our feet on that for a little while, but we’re back. We’re back. We all know that COVID is not spreading by touching bags or touching anything really. So keep your mask on and bring your own bags to the grocery store. Because a plastic bag that you use for five minutes then lasts forever and ever, and ever. And in your kitchen, that version is Ziploc bags. So I’m going to start with that.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Oh, not the Ziploc.

 

Friday Apaliski:

That’s everyone’s response. They’re like, oh the Ziploc bag. I know. First things first, mark my words, if you are serious about stopping using Ziploc bags, do not keep a little bit of them in your kitchen. I know that you will go back and use them. Everybody does. Everybody does. So the best way to deal with it is to take those Ziploc bags and put them in the garage or put them in the laundry room or get them out of the kitchen.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

I have to log off now.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Okay, let’s think about what you use a plastic bag for. Maybe you use it for half a lemon or some leftover, I don’t know…

 

Ruth Krishnan:

I go to Costco. I cut up stuff. I put it in there. I put it in the freezer. I’m from the Midwest, so if there’s a nuclear explosion, I need stuff.

 

Friday Apaliski:

I’m with you there. I’m with you there. I have a freezer, an extra one.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

But what do I put in it? What do I put all that stuff in?

 

Friday Apaliski:

Oh the wondrous Mason jar. This is my favorite tool in the whole kitchen, no joke. This is my favorite size of Mason jar, mostly because it perfectly houses an avocado. But also, Mason jars come in a bajillion sizes. You can get the really small ones. You can get big ones. You can get tall ones. You can get wide ones. You can get them for everything. You can put pasta in them. You can put lemon in them. You can put any leftover that you would put in a Ziploc bag, you can put it in a Mason jar. And it seals tight.

 

Friday Apaliski:

There’s three pieces. And while you can only use the lid once, when you’re actually canning, once you’ve opened it, you can’t reseal it to can something. But you can use it all day long for leftovers. It works just fine. So keep those lids, don’t throw them away. And you just put it on and tighten it up. It’s airtight. So it’s going to keep your food really fresh. Here’s another bonus. It’s see through. And I’m telling you, when you see your food, you eat it. You don’t wait. So this is my first one. My first go-to is always the Mason jar.

 

Friday Apaliski:

If that doesn’t work because maybe you have a sandwich or something. I love myself a reusable sandwich bag. This is just cloth. And it folds over just like those old paper ones used to. But cloth is a great solution. This one is made by this amazing woman in San Francisco. Her business is called Aplat. She has some beautiful textiles for your kitchen that are definitely worth checking out. So that would be another place where you could eliminate a Ziploc baggie. Similar to Ziplocs is Saran Wrap, or plastic wrap. Lots of people have a hard time with that. We don’t want this. Most of the time I see it used as a bowl covering. You make a salad, you put plastic wrap over it. I would like to show you my favorite bowl cover. It looks a bit like a shower cap.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

It does. I was just thinking that, the shower cap.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yeah, the shower cap. This one is linen. I love it very much. It comes from this woman, Molly, in Mill Valley. And you can find it online at Non-Disposable Life.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

You’ll have to send me the links for stuff. And when we transcribe this, we’ll add the links to the people who you’re recommending.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yeah, for sure. Because they’re all local, and mostly women owned, and amazing. But these come in multiple different sizes and I love them. They also are beautiful. There’s something really nice about having beautiful things in your kitchen. This is a space that, especially now, we’re spending so much more time in. And plastic is kind of, let me say it this way, Martha Stewart never has plastic in her imagery at all because it just doesn’t look particularly nice, I think. Anyway, a bowl cover is great. I will also say lots of people really like this beeswax wrap. Have you ever seen this?

 

Ruth Krishnan:

No, I have not.

 

Friday Apaliski:

It’s kind of tactile, because it’s like a cloth. You can see this. And it’s a little bit stretchy, a little bit sticky. Not sticky, but tacky. And you can mold it over anything, a bowl or whatever. You could wrap stuff in it, if you want to. It’s a great alternative to plastic wrap. But I will say this, I am a person with very cold hands, and it does not work for me. I had this in my house for two years and I just about threw it away. And then my husband grabbed it and was like, “Wow, this works fantastic.” I’m like, “How did you get it to work?” He goes, “I don’t know. It just kind of melts and molds.” His hands are very warm.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Interesting.

 

Friday Apaliski:

So if you are a cold-handed person, beeswax wrap might not be your friend. But if you are a warm-handed person, this is a great alternative.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Okay. Good one.

 

Friday Apaliski:

So I think, as we think about disposable plastic, often the other category for disposable plastic is food packaging.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

I was just thinking, do you have kids?

 

Friday Apaliski:

I do.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

The kids’ lunch.

 

Friday Apaliski:

I have an almost seven year old.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

They still have those little square things with the dividers. And they’re plastic. So what are we doing there?

 

Friday Apaliski:

Okay. So I had pulled this out. But see, this is why I do this in my kitchen so that I can quickly grab the thing. So what I have for my son, for lunch, which I love, although he’s at school right now, so many of the things are with him. But this company called You Can Serve is owned by another woman based in Sausalito, makes these great metal nesting containers. And they have clear silicone tops on them. So you can see what’s inside, it can go in the dishwasher. They’re great. So I like these for lunch. I also have this lunch box, which has all the dividers.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Oh, I see.

 

Friday Apaliski:

And it seals. I put strawberries in here and other liquidy things, and they all stay fine.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

And do they run into each other? Because my kids are like, the pepperoni got on the strawberry.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Oh no, no, no, no. This is real good. And you can get it in a million different configurations. So this one is the lunch box. You can get them. There’s some local stores that sell them, but you can also get them online. So that’s lunch. Then when you’re at the grocery store try and buy things in the bulk section. So if your kids are eating cashews or dried mangoes or whatever get those in the bulk section. You can put them in a cloth bag or paper bag. Then store it in a glass jar like this that’s sealed. Or a Mason jar would also work. But I have a bunch of these because my pantry is all the same. And then you can put them into your lunch containers really easily. And you’ve got no plastic all the way through. And you have got really fresh food.

 

Friday Apaliski:

So I think that’s one way is thinking about what you can buy in the bulk section? Almost every grocery store has a bulk section now. And certainly there are some stores that are better than others like Rainbow Grocery or Berkeley Bowl or Sprouts. There’s a bunch of them. Other Avenues. There’s a new one that’s about to open in North Beach I want to tell you about called Replenish Grocery. It should open at the end of this month. So anyway, they’re becoming more and more. So look for bulk shopping. Also, when you’re in the store, you have the opportunity to make a choice. It’s as simple as this ketchup comes in plastic. This ketchup comes in glass. They’re right next to each other on the shelf. Pick the one that comes in glass.

 

Friday Apaliski:

And I should say, glass is the best thing. It’s not toxic. It doesn’t leach into your food. And it is infinitely recyclable. The next best choice is aluminum. A tin can or soda can or whatever. The bad news about aluminum is it is lined with plastic, but aluminum is a very difficult material to get raw. So it is very, very recycled. Something 98% of all aluminum is recycled. So you can put it in the recycle bin and know with 100% confidence that it is being recycled. And it also can recycle and recycle and recycle. So pick first glass and then aluminum. And then of course, paper or cardboard is great, if possible. But usually, when you find something that’s in a cardboard box, the inside has plastic.  Plastic on the inside.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Oh, a couple more things. I bring my notes. I wanted to show you my bread box. Because bread is another one of those ones that generally is associated with plastic. I will tell you that getting a bread box fundamentally changed the whole dynamic in my family.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

But don’t you still have to buy the bread in plastic and then put it in the bread box? Don’t tell me you make your own bread.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Oh no. I did though for the whole COVID year. But no. You know what? I’ll just show you. Look, what is in my bread box today? Saltwater Bake Shop. This is from the farmer’s market. Name your bakery. Every store has bread in a paper bag. I keep it in the paper bag. This is loaf style bread. This is a real look into my family here. But this is for sandwich making and toast making. We’re the same as everyone else. We’re not only eating French bread and whatever. But this bread is a week old. This bread is a week old because I mistimed it, and we already had another loaf, and blah, blah, blah, blah. And it is soft.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Interesting.

 

Friday Apaliski:

And delicious. I literally had a piece of toast this morning. It’s wonderful. So a bread box will keep your bread nice and soft for a good long time. And so then you don’t have to buy plastic.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Okay. That’s a good tip. My heart is still hurting from the Ziplocs, I have to be honest.

 

Friday Apaliski:

They’re the worst. They’re the worst of them. We have to get rid of the Ziplocs. Also, I really don’t want your food touching plastic. And I didn’t really say this because, once you start talking about toxics, people get really down about it. Just trust me on this. Plastic leaches into your food, and you don’t want that. You really don’t want it for your kids. We just don’t want that. And really, really hard no, on hot food in plastic. No reheating in plastic. Really, really hear me when I say this. Don’t do that.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

I’m definitely with you there.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yeah. Don’t do that. So the bread box is a big one. Other ways of thinking about avoiding plastic in the grocery store, Straus milk comes in a glass jar. And you can resend it back. What other opportunities are there? There’s yogurt now that comes in a glass jar instead of a plastic one. Look for those opportunities where you can choose something other than plastic. It’s usually there. You just have to take an extra second. And then once you get it, then you’re in the groove of it. Then you’re like, oh, I found that solution. And I just keep buying the same thing. Okay. How are we doing? Am I overwhelming you?

 

Ruth Krishnan:

No. We’re doing great. Do you have a couple last tips before we wrap up?

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yes. I have a couple more. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about cleaning in the kitchen because that’s the other big source of plastic. And I really have a good, well worked out kitchen system. So first things first, this is going to kill you too. We have to stop using paper towels.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Ooh.

 

Friday Apaliski:

I know. Here’s the thing. Yes, of course, your paper towels are paper and that is definitely better than plastic. But most people’s paper towels come wrapped in plastic. So that’s not great.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Well, I guess I’ll have to go back to the old thing that my mom always used to do, take all the t-shirts and cut them up. And we had a rag box.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yep. It happened in my family too, there’s definitely old underwear and my dad’s old shorts, definitely in the rag box. And my mom, bless her heart. She lives downstairs from us now. She moved all the old rags. They really do last. Look, I’m all for DIY. And if that’s your jam, do a little cleaning out on your closet. And all those marathon t-shirts or t-shirts from work things or whatever that you don’t want, cut them up and turn them into rags. They’re great.

 

Friday Apaliski:

If that’s not your jam, which is also totally fine. There’s this company in Oregon, in Eugene, Oregon called Marley’s Monsters, go ducks. I’m a duck. And they make the unpaper towel. And it looks just like a paper towel roll. You can even use your own paper towel roll. You don’t have to buy a wooden one. But you just roll these up, and they come off just like paper towels.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Oh, that’s kind of cool.

 

Friday Apaliski:

So you don’t really have to change your habit too much. And they work great for wiping your mouth, drying your tears, serving a piece of toast, wrapping up a sandwich. I mean, all the same stuff that you would use a paper towel for, and you can wipe the counter with them. Here’s the trick. So I’ve talked a lot about cloth. And cloth is key to getting rid of plastic. But a really important aspect of that is to have a hamper in your kitchen.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

I do have that. Yay. One point for Ruth.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yeah. Because you’re not going to use cloth if you have to walk into another room to get whatever once it’s dirty. I have one of these pull-out garbage cans in my kitchen. One is recycling and one is laundry.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Yeah. Got it.

 

Friday Apaliski:

So that’s the one thing. I think it’s really great. But these aren’t perfect for soaking up messes. That’s the other thing paper towels are really good at, soaking up spills. So for that, you need, and forgive me because this is my used one. This is a Swedish dishcloth. And when you buy it new, or when it dries, it gets hard. It’s made out of cotton and cellulose. It’s 100% compostable. So this is great. It’s floppy. You could put some soap on it if you want to. But it does a great job at cleaning up spills. And when you’re done with it, it lasts like, let’s say two or three months. And when you’re done with it, you put it in the compost bin.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Ah, very cool.

 

Friday Apaliski:

It’s like real zero waste. So that’s the second thing. And then of course, you need to scrub your dishes. And I am so sorry to tell you this, but those blue sponges, they’re plastic.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Aah. Friday, you’re killing me.

 

Friday Apaliski:

It’s everywhere. It’s so bad.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Okay. So what is the sponge replacement?

 

Friday Apaliski:

Okay. So the sponge replacement is maybe my favorite thing I ever found. It’s a wool sponge. So this is what this wool sponge looks like.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Not that pretty.

 

Friday Apaliski:

I mean, it’s also not that ugly. This is what it looks like brand new.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

I guess a blue sponge is not that pretty either.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Yeah. A blue sponge is not that pretty either. And a blue sponge leaves all that blue stuff everywhere.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

I guess. I’m hearing you. This is good. We got to get the information.

 

Friday Apaliski:

So this is what it looks like when you very first begin. It’s a piece of wool. And it shrinks down, right, because wool shrinks when you get it hot and wet. But here are some great things. First of all, I don’t know if you can tell I’m going to put this really close. It’s real scrubby. So it has a good amount of scrub. It’s totally compostable and goes in the compost bin when you’re done. This lasts for months and months. At least three months. But my favorite is that wool is naturally antimicrobial so it doesn’t smell.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Yeah. I know sponges are really gross, which is another reason people probably throw them away or microwave them or different things like that.

 

Friday Apaliski:

You don’t have to do that with this. And I have the most sensitive nose, I promise you, the most sensitive nose. And that this thing does not smell.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Okay. I mean,  Well, you’ve given us some great tips today. I hope there’s somebody who comes on here and decides to implement all of these things. But I think we can all do a little better. And so my goal in talking to you initially was like, okay, what are some things that I can do a little bit better? Sometimes just a five millimeter shift, if we all made it, would change the world, right?

 

Friday Apaliski:

A hundred percent. You have to start somewhere. And better is better. No one is perfect. But better is better. And it’s really hard to change our community if we don’t change our house right?

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Yes. Yes. So I’m not sure about the Ziplocs yet. But there are some things that I will take immediately. I like the paper towel thing. Actually, the sponge thing is cool.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Oh, the sponges come from Full Circle Wool. They’re doing it right, in Northern California. Full Circle Wool. You can do it.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Okay. Awesome. If you guys want to hire Friday she’s not going to judge you and tell you you have to change every single thing in your world. But she can come in and tell you every single thing. Then you can pick which things to change. And maybe you implement those things for a year. And maybe next year, you want to take 10 more or not. But this has opened up my eyes to things that I wasn’t aware of. Or just some small changes that I know that I can make that aren’t going to dramatically make my life so inconvenient or change my life – but that can change the world around us. So that was my goal. Thank you for coming on and chatting with us today.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Thank you so much for having me.

 

Ruth Krishnan:

Absolutely. We’ll do a transcription of this and send it out to our email list. And then on that email list, we will include, I’ll get in touch with you, include all the vendors that you recommend. I love that a lot of them are women and local. That’s amazing. And I look forward to chatting with you again soon, Friday. Thank you so much.

 

Friday Apaliski:

Absolutely. Thank you.

 

Products recommended by Friday

Aplat sandwich bag – zero waste manufacturer in San Francisco, AAPI woman owned

Bowl Covers – woman owned in Mill Valley, CA

Bee’s Wax Wrap – woman owned in Albany, CA

Nesting Stainless Containers – woman owned in Sausalito, CA

Stainless bento lunch box

UnPaper Towels – woman owned in Eugene, OR. This link is a 10% off discount.

Swedish Dish Cloth – also from Fillgood

Wool Sponge – women owned NorCal, super climate beneficial

Bonus – solid kitchen soap – no more plastic bottles of liquid soap for the kitchen. Just rub your wool sponge on the soap bar, or hold the soap bar under the running water. 

 

Share
September 8, 2021
Homeowner , Webinars
previous next