By Kathryn McLean

Earth Day is this month so here are some tips to reduce waste in your kitchen.

1. Excess Packaging

Try buying your family’s most-used products in bulk packages, like family-size boxes of cereal rather than smaller ones, and a large bag of oats over a box of individual packages.

Maybe you rely on the convenience of individual servings, like juice boxes and pudding cups for packing lunches and snacks between sports and clubs. Consider making a house rule around those items.

You will still buy cellophane-wrapped packs of juice boxes and single-serve puddings for lunch boxes. But also buy a large carton of juice and a box of pudding mix. The juice boxes and pudding cups will only be for out-of-the-house use; for at-home snacks, fill a glass with juice from the fridge and take out a bowl of pudding that you made previously.

Remember, when you discard a juice box you need to recycle the box itself, but also put the plastic straw and straw wrapper in the trash. One carton of juice offers numerous servings with only one package to recycle.

Apply your new rule to other products that you can buy in a single large package. Replace cans of pop, small tubs of yogurt, and “snack size” packages of crackers or chips with larger versions. When these foods are consumed at home, you don’t need the single-serve packaging, just portion out what you’ll eat or drink from the larger package and seal up the rest.

Reserve the mini containers for when you’re not at home and will appreciate their convenience.

2. Plastic

How should you pack crackers in your lunch without an individual-sized pack? Before you grab plastic sandwich bags and disposable zip-top plastic bags, consider what else you could use.

Portions of crackers and other dry snacks, grapes, berries, mini carrots and other veggies can all be transferred to small containers for packed lunches. Opt for reusable metal or plastic containers, or bento-style lunch boxes. Some stores sell washable and reusable fabric snack bags in various sizes.

If you can’t seal the original package, try to choose a reusable vessel with a lid before reaching for plastic wrap and one-time-use plastic bags.

3. Paper towels

Do you routinely grab a paper towel to wipe spills and clean up around the kitchen? Cotton kitchen towels will do just as good a job as their paper counterparts.

Buy a package of white dishcloths; you will easily see when one is soiled. Then, simply toss it in the laundry bin and take a clean one from the drawer. A few extra towels and dishcloths in the weekly laundry is better for the environment than constantly discarding used paper towels into the garbage and compost bins.

Start with one less-waste change and build on that. It’s easier to make changes if you don’t try to overhaul your entire household’s routines in one go, and you’ll be more successful.

Little steps will add up over time, especially as others in the community join in as well.