Kitchen gadgets that are good for you and good for the environment

I love finding products that are better for me, and better for the environment.  I like cooking, I like making my own food.  And I want to make sure when I am cooking, storing, and heating my food, I am not adding chemicals to my food.  I also try to reduce or eliminate waste – especially plastic (which, once created, never biodegrades).  I’ve also found that replacing single use, disposable, and limited use products with reusable products, I save money in the long run.  Here are 6 of my favorite products, what they replace, an why I love them!

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Food Storage

1. Silicone Lids:  I love these!  They’re a fantastic reusable replacement for plastic wrap.  I usually soak my grains overnight before cooking to reduce phytic acid content, and it’s so easy to just toss one of the flat lids over a bowl and I’m done!  No struggling to get the plastic wrap to stick, nothing to throw away when I am done.  It’s great for quickly packing up leftovers, too.  I just stretch the covers over a bowl or place a flat cover on top.  These form an airtight seal, keeping my food fresh longer.

Kitchen gadgets - good for you and good for the environment
silicone lids. the seal is so good you can pick up the bowl by the lid!

2. Mason Jars: Anyone who has seen my fridge, or my lunches at work, knows I am obsessed with mason jars.  They are so versatile, great for food storage, and very inexpensive compared to products that serve a similar purpose.  While is seems the consensus is that microwaving food in plastic is not in fact dangerous, I still prefer glass.  Glass is non-reactive so I have complete confidence that it cannot in any way contaminate my food.  Plus, it doesn’t stain like plastic.  And it is VERY difficult to break mason jars.  I have dropped several from the top shelf of my freezer.  The lids may get dinged (not a problem – they’re recyclable and very inexpensive to replace) and I may think I have broken a toe, but the glass has never been damaged.  The only way I have managed to break a mason jar was by pouring boiling water into a jar to sterilize it (we all know from reading warnings on pyrex bakeware that thermal shock can break glass; this is why you should sterilize jars by placing in room temperature or cold water in a pot, placing on the stove and heating, so the glass heats evenly).  The pint (2 cup) mason jars are a great size for packing my homemade meals for lunch, chopped raw veggies for snacking, or cut fruit.  The half pint (1 cup) jars are a great size for yogurt and other snacks.   At roughly $12/dozen (I can often get them cheaper) – $1 each or less, I have yet to find a less expensive non-plastic option.  And these last so much longer than plastic food containers!

Kitchen gadgets - good for you and good for the environment
mason jars

3. Ceramic nonstick skillets: The most environmentally friendly cookware I have found are solid cast iron.  The heavy pans heat evenly.  Cast iron pans can last for generations if cared for properly, and when (if) they reach the end of their lives, iron is recyclable.  However, I have never been able to cook food to my satisfaction on cast iron.  Despite purchasing pre-seasoned pans, then seasoning some more just to make sure, EVERYTHING I cooked stuck, so I felt like I wasted a lot of food, then I had to clean off all the stuck food.  I was determined to find a more Diana-friendly pan.  I have a couple stainless steel pans, but need to use a lot of oil to prevent sticking.  This works well for some meals, but I don’t always want a lot of oil.  After much research, I found aluminum pans with ceramic nonstick coating.  The ceramic won’t peel or scratch off like teflon can, so my food is safer.  Sadly, the pans I found all have plastic handles.  I have the 12.5″, 11.5″, and 9.25″ Farberware ceramic nonstick skillets, and I love them.  Just make sure you don’t expose them to heat higher than medium, and they will stay nonstick.  I can easily cook eggs, brown onions or my “veggie chicken,” and stir fry.  Bonus: the pan cleans up SUPER easily!  

My friend over at PharmaFarm has an excellent, informative post about cast iron.  I recommend you check that out to help you determine which type of skillet would be best for you.

Kitchen gadgets - good for you and good for the environment
ceramic nonstick skillets

4. Bamboo cutting boards:  Wood or bamboo cutting boards are the best for so many reasons!  It’s the best material for your knives – its softer than your knife blade so the wood/bamboo always gets cut by the knife, never the cutting board damaging your knife (avoid glass and ceramic cutting boards – they might be nice for presentation but they can dull your knife blade); wood/bamboo is naturally antibacterial so it’s the safest for preventing illness; it’s made from a renewable resource and is completely biodegradable; and extra props for bamboo: its the fastest growing wood (ok, technically it is grass), doesn’t need a lot of space (look at a bamboo forest – the bamboo grow happily and healthily a lot closer to each other than trees can) making it an extra great resource to use to make our products.  If you do opt to use bamboo or wood cutting boards, you will need to care for them by seasoning with oil.  I recommend mineral oil – it will not go rancid, and it’s not a common allergen.  I oil my cutting boards with mineral oil until they are well seasoned, then I do a final coat with a beeswax-mineral oil paste.  This seals in the mineral oil seasoning and cuts down on the frequency that reapplication of oil is necessary.  Mineral oil is sold as a laxative – you should be able to find it at a local drugstore or Walmart.  

Kitchen gadgets - good for you and good for the environment
bamboo cutting boards

5. Silicone making mat: Years ago I discovered that parchment paper makes clean up from baking so much faster.  No more scrubbing tiny bits of burned on cookie fragments from my pans.  The cookies peel right off, the cookie sheet stays clean.  But the part I never liked was tossing the parchment paper in the trash.  I looked into composting parchment paper but the consensus is that there are components added to the parchment paper that affect its compostability.  This article does a good job of summarizing what I found.  I searched for something else that meets the same need, without the waste.  I found silicone baking mats and loved them.   Cookies come off easily, and the remaining cookie dough comes off the mat even easier, with just water and a gentle scrub with a sponge or brush.  I use this mat for my 14″ x 16″ cookie sheets (I just cut it down to size),  and these for my rimmed cookie sheets.  I also use these silicone mats instead of aluminum foil in a rimmed cookie sheet for roasting veggies.  After roasting, I soak the mat in a little water then scrub off any burned bits.  I also use these baking mats to line my dehydrator wire racks.  Not only do these silicone baking mats help me cut down waste produced from my cooking and baking, but they also save money since they are reusable for a very long time (my oldest baking mat is over 10 years old, used at least monthly and typically more often, and it still works as good as the day I bought it.  

Kitchen gadgets - good for you and good for the environment
silicone baking sheet liners

6. Silicone cupcake pan/Silicone cupcake liners: Similar to the silicone baking mat, silicone baking pans and liners eliminate the need to use disposable cupcake liners while still looking nice and presentable (when I am just cooking for myself, I often just grease/grease and flour directly in a metal baking pan).  I also use my silicone cupcake pan for a lot more than cupcakes and muffins.  I like to make mini tortilla wrap or pita bread pizzas in the cupcake pan, and I’ve use it to make mini baked omelettes.

Kitchen gadgets - good for you and good for the environment
silicone cupcake pan and liners

Do you have any favorite earth friendly/reusable kitchen products?  

Staying fit on a budget

Fitness is a very important part of my healthy lifestyle.  I schedule workout time into at least 5 days each week.  (For adults, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity/cardio each week plus strength training 2 days/week, which I work into these 5+ workouts.)  I see physical exercise as an essential part of my well-being, working both to keep my body healthy, and to keep my mind healthy.  I have found exercise to be the most effective way to combat stress, which is the main reason I make sure to exercise regularly.  

My two go-to fitness activities are walking and yoga.  Both can be done with no equipment, and both can be free!  

I’m not into organized sports or working out at the gym (extreme lack of coordination…I’ll stick to things I can do well or in the privacy of my own home).  So I have found other ways to exercise.  It’s all about finding what works for you!


The strength training (and major stress relieving) part of my exercise plan is yoga.  My friend got me interested in yoga by dragging me to a yoga studio a few times two years ago.  I like the physical and mental challenge, and also that yoga provides me with strength building exercise that does not require any special equipment.

After trying yoga in a studio, I went home to see if I could find any worthwhile videos online.  The second video I found was one from Yoga with Adriene.  I liked the video.  Adriene both demonstrates the yoga routine and verbally explains what she’s doing.  She explains very well, and seems to always remind me to breathe at the times when I have forgotten (yup, it happens…a lot).  Adriene also has a great sense of humor to keep things light. 

I have a list of liked YouTube yoga videos so I can find them easily.  My go-to videos are in the Yoga for Weight Loss series or Power Yoga, because I like the physical workout I get from these.  I also like to try new videos to try out new things, and usually work through a series, such as Yoga Camp or Revolution: 31 Days of Yoga.  

My current favorite videos are all ones that I consider more strength building: Yoga for Weight Loss: 40 Minute Fat Burning Yoga Workout, Yoga for Weight Loss – Strengthen and Lengthen, Yoga for Weight Loss – Hips & Hammies, and Core Strength Ritual.  

I also love that Adriene has playlists with videos grouped by video length.  If I only have 20 or 25 minutes, I can pick a video that I have time to complete.  If you have any interest in yoga, I highly recommend you check out Adriene’s videos.  I do not think you will be disappointed.


The cardio portion of my exercise regimen includes power walking 40-60 minutes, 3-4 days per week.  (If I average 50 minutes/workout, and only get to 3 walking 3 days/week, I have already met the CDC recommendation of 150 minutes.)  I am lucky enough to live in an area with several nice places to walk outside when weather allows.  Since I am kind of a wuss when it comes to cold weather, I also invested in a treadmill.  This gives me no excuse to skip a workout – I don’t have to leave the comfort of my own home.  Plus, I have a small TV set up in front of my treadmill.  This is pretty much the only way I am able to keep up with the half dozen or shows I try to follow – I watch one hour-long episode per workout.  

In the past I tried other exercise machines including the elliptical, and while that might have been more of a full body workout, I ended up with injuries (knee and hip pain).  My physical therapist (treating me for Achilles tendinitis) recommended that I stick to just the treadmill if I wanted to use any cardio equipment.  This was the one machine that would let my body control the motion, rather than the machine controlling my body’s motion – which is what caused my injuries.  Since I stopped using other cardio machines like ellipticals and stair steppers, I have not suffered knee or hip pain.  Please note that I am NOT recommending that you stop using exercise equipment that is working for you.  If you love the elliptical, stair stepper, erg, etc. and it is working for you, keep it up! 

I have found that walking and yoga are really easy workouts to keep up with when travelling.  I do yoga in my hotel room using a towel or two in place of a yoga mat.  Most hotels have a fitness center with a treadmill, or I’ll go out for a brisk walk to explore the area.  

Dock and view of Mount Rainier found when exploring in Washington.

If you’re looking to exercise on a budget, I recommend first considering what kinds of exercise you like.  If you like gym workouts, check if your employer has a gym that you can use for free.  Or look into your health insurance plan – some offer discounts or reimbursements on gym memberships.  If you like classes and are open to trying online classes, search your class of interest and see if there are free videos online.  If you like walking or hiking, search for walking or hiking paths in your area.  Or if you prefer hiking with a group, ask your friends or look for a local Meetup.  Meetup is also a great place to look for organized sports and other activities.   

What’s your favorite way to exercise?