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Cook Smarter. Use Paper.

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You can use paper products in the kitchen and still be green — here’s how.

What is one of the most surprisingly useful tools in the kitchen? The answer, at least in my kitchen, is paper. It has a wide range of applications including writing, cooking and baking, and, of course, cleaning.

In case you find yourself using lots of paper products in the kitchen, here are some ways to make sure your paper use is wise and sustainable:

  • Line your baking sheets with parchment paper to keep cookies, biscuits, and other baked goods from sticking. If you’re doing multiple batches, you don’t need to put a fresh piece of paper down every time. Just shake off any stray crumbs and reuse the same piece as many times as you like.
  • When you’re packing up the cookies you’ve just baked, cut up the parchment paper you used for baking and layer it with your cookies. This will help pack the cookies more neatly and prevent them from sticking to each other.
  • Stick to unbleached parchment paper and cupcake liners, which were made without the use of chlorine. Chlorine bleaching produces toxic pollutants that are harmful to both humans and the environment.
  • When buying waxed paper, look for unbleached paper that is coated with a non-paraffin wax, such as soy wax. Soy wax is made from a renewable resource, while paraffin wax is derived from fossil fuels.
  • Opt for responsibly sourced paper towels or ones made from recycled fibers, and choose the kind that has the adjustable sizes — that way you’ll be able to take just as much as you need.
  • Cupcake liners are great for cupcakes that aren’t going to be eaten right away because they help the cake stay moist. But if you’re baking cupcakes or muffins that will be eaten that day, skip the liners and simply grease the pan instead.
  • Place a layer of newspaper on a baking sheet and set a cooling rack over it. Let fried food drain on the cooling rack, and the newspaper will catch the oil drips.
  • Turn scrap paper into pads of paper for jotting shopping lists, writing down recipes, and making other notes. Cut it all to a uniform size and use a binder clip or duct tape to hold it all together. The backs of envelopes are great for shopping lists, too.
  • Shred a few pieces of newspaper and put in the bottom of your kitchen compost bin. It’ll help absorb liquid from soggy ingredients, and it can be tossed in the compost pile with the food scraps. In fact, the addition of paper helps regulate the moisture levels of a compost pile.
  • Use parchment or waxed paper as an impromptu funnel: simply roll it into a cone and insert the point into the container, then carefully pour dry or liquid ingredients in.
  • If using only cloth napkins at your dinner table seems unattainable, try striking a balance (after all, there’s a trade-off between cloth and paper napkins, since using cloth means you’re increasing water and energy consumption to clean them!). Use paper napkins only at breakfast, for instance, and cloth at dinner.

Do you have any tips or tricks for smarter paper usage? Share your best tips in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

  • Catherine J. 17 days ago
    I use parchment for my flat iron
  • Tammy B. 26 days ago
    I started using parchment paper about one year ago. My husband loves it.
  • Wanda R. 1 month ago
    I use parchment and waxed paper too. But I found a Silpat liner that I substitute at times. I have been using the same one for 15 years. With proper care, it will last forever, and no trees had to be destroyed.Is it a good alternative, or did I make a mistake?
  • Sophie N. 1 month ago
    parchment/waxed paper is great for making icing bags
  • Dona E. 1 month ago
    Trying to reduce paper waste in the kitchen, I took old kitchen towels and backed them with pretty veggie fabric and made several reusable, washable, "unpaper" kitchen paper towels and tried to do away with paper towels in the kitchen entirely. These work great for spills and messes! I have discovered, however, that for food prep, I really need the small,natural,white paper towels. Sandwiches get soggy without being able to blot the tomatoes and pickles!
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