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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.

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  • Denise B. 5 days ago
    This is more of a serving idea, but I always forget to pick up my plates or bowls when I bring goodies into work. So I looked online for a tutorial on making bowls and trays out of paper. Now, before I bring cookies in for my colleagues, I make a few trays out of scrapbook paper I have, put the treats out, and I don't worry about them. I don't buy the paper especially for this, I use what I have in my craft stash. It's fun to make different origami shapes, and my friends always like it.
  • Hilda S. 10 days ago
    WE buy flour tortialls in a package and freeze them, but for them not to stick together I use parchment paper between each one and reuse that same parchment since it stays clean and reusable. HS
  • Meg P. 30 days ago
    When I eat out, rarely, I bring home the napkins that the rest of the party take and don't use. My grandsons were puzzled, but my son explained it nicely about not wasting them.
    Shredded paper in compost bucket is a Godsend! Glad to have seen that idea earlier.
    At home, if the paper napkins are still good on one side, they continue to be used, and likewise with wet paper towles. I, too, save them for later spills after they have dried from first use, and when they are a bit stiff, they work well on cleaning the cook top. Even work for drying ironware. Reusing is very wise and economical, as well.
    • Denise B. 5 days ago
      I agree about the shredded paper! But this was the first time I saw it...ahhh if only I'd known sooner! LOL!
  • mary B. 30 days ago
    After drying our hands with a paper towel We lay them out to dry in their own recycled Cardboard box.Reuse for wiping up spills, etc. In the winter I use them to get the fire started in fireplace.Mary
  • Catherine J. 1 month ago
    I use parchment for my flat iron
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