5 Tips to Green Your Pantry

5 Tips to Green Your Pantry

EcoSalon
Published: 06/18/2012


Photo: Nils Thingvall

This is the first post by writers from EcoSalon, a conscious culture and fashion website that lives by the motto “Have a heart.”

By Stephanie Rogers

You’ve committed to a healthier lifestyle, buying more fresh produce and switching to organic foods. In the rush to give your diet an eco-makeover, don’t neglect the portion of your kitchen often kept behind closed doors: the pantry. These five simple tips to greening this space will reduce waste, cut clutter, and replace foods harmful to your body—and the planet—with healthier options.

1. Limit processed and packaged foods.

If you grew up eating packaged convenience foods, it may be hard to let them go. But processed foods often contain unhealthy ingredients such as trans fats, which can damage heart health, according to the American Heart Association. Try replacing one type of packaged food at a time, such as chips or cookies, with nourishing whole foods. If you want to ease yourself into it, look for products with no more than five ingredients. As Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and Food Rules, recommends, “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

2. Swap plastic for glass.
Plastic food containers are often petroleum-based, says the USDA, and can contain chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) or phthalates that have questionable effects on our bodies. Instead, try using glass canisters or large mason jars. These materials aren’t costly—you can pick them up for around $1 each—and they put all of your food on display at a glance so you can see what’s on hand and what needs replenishing.

3. Buy in bulk.
Beans, grains, and pulses are some nonperishable foods that can stock your kitchen. Together, they provide a highly nutritious source of vegetarian protein. Avoid refined grains like white rice, which are processed to remove the bran or hull, resulting in less fiber and fewer nutrients. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, amaranth, and oats can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, the AHA says. Buying whole grains in bulk can make them less expensive and cuts down on overall packaging.

4. Cut back on canned goods.

There’s a reason canned goods are so popular: They’re inexpensive, long lasting, and cook up instantly. But while canned goods can help in a pinch, many of them, such as beans, tomatoes, vegetables, and soups, are stratospherically high in sodium. For example, one popular brand of chicken noodle soup contains 890 milligrams of sodium per serving—nearly 40% of the 2,300-milligram daily cap recommended by the CDC. And according to the FDA, can lining typically includes BPA, a chemical found to interfere with hormonal functioning.

5. Store foods properly to prevent spoilage.
Unnecessary waste is the opposite of green. Cut back on the amount of food you trash weekly by extending each pantry item’s shelf life through proper storage. Keep a permanent marker nearby—in the pantry, in a kitchen drawer—to mark the purchase date on each item, or create labels on your glass jars and canisters with chalkboard paint. Keep onions, garlic, and potatoes in a breathable cloth sack or a brown paper bag in a cool, shady spot. Be sure that your canisters have tight-fitting lids. Use metal tins for items that keep best in a dark place, such as tea bags, coffee, and yeast.

Stephanie Rogers, a writer for EcoSalon, currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.