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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.

  • Meg P. 17 days ago
    My compost bucket does get rather wet, so I like the idea of using some paper to help with that. I have a shredder, use it for important things that must NOT go to the recycling center, and then must find a way to dispose of the shredded paper. Since our recycler will not take shredded paper, putting some in the bottom of my wet garbage is a very useful idea. Thank you. I have tried using the shredded paper in the garden but it tends to blow around, making a massive mess. It really does not break down all that well, either.
  • Gina L. 17 days ago
    I don't get it with promoting paper napkins. Just as disposable diapers it is better to use cloth. If you are going to do a wash, why isn't it just as easy to throw the cloth napkins in with rest? Using paper napkins is not a good alternative.
  • David and Allison P. 1 month ago
    Seems kind of weird to promote this on Recyclebank... Duct tape? Paper towels? What would be great is if someone had an article about what to do with butter wrappers! For those who are torn with washing cloth v. tossing paper napkins: For everyday use find or make a special napkin ring for each person & have them stick it on after use. Most people barely use their napkins at each meal, so then it can be reused & only need to be washed/replaced after it gets REALLY dirty.
    • Meg P. 17 days ago
      My grandmother, who did much more baking than I do, used the butter wrappers over and over to grease baking dishes. Eventually they didn't work any longer.
      I, too, find that people barely use napkins. I reuse them for myself even if I feel a need to provide new ones for others. Very wasteful, IMHO.
  • Cheryl S. 1 month ago
    You can use an envelope with the corner cut off and the sides cut down a bit for a funnel for dry beans, grains, flours, etc.
    I write my shopping list on a used envelope, add a "C" for coupon and tuck the corresponding coupons inside the envelope along with a pencil. My son crosses off each item as we shop and i don't buy anything but what's on the list - that cuts down on our food expenses and reduces waste too.
  • becky p. 1 month ago
    I use a piece of newspaper when peeling potatoes, and when preparing other vegetables. It is then easy to wrap up and carry to the compost pile.
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