The Little Trick I Use to Repurpose Plastic Container Lids Makes Cooking More Sustainable

published Apr 20, 2022
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Credit: Cathy Pyle

The kitchen generates more useful “garbage” than anywhere else in the house. 

Let me tell you what I mean. Glass jars can be washed out and repurposed for pantry storage — I like to put popcorn kernels and dry beans in mine — or to store homemade goods like salad dressing. Plastic containers, ones that hold foods like sour cream or butter, can be reused to send leftovers home with guests. Cleaning tools can be extended by cutting the corner off a dishwashing sponge and converting it into a cleaning sponge. Even certain food scraps can be put to good use before hitting the compost pile: Eggshells also sharpen blender blades, and a squeezed-out lemon can be steamed in the microwave to help clean its interior or used to scrub salt on a cutting board to deodorize it.

Recently, I happened upon yet another way to extend the life of so-called kitchen trash before it gets tossed in the recycling bin. One of my mom’s biggest rules is that you should always keep your counters clean. If you have a dirty counter, the mess gets multiplied. For example, a carton of milk set down on a counter that’s smeared with guacamole spreads the mess to the inside of the fridge. 

This rule is deeply ingrained in me, so when I cook or bake, I’m always looking around for a plate or a paper towel to set down my tools. I have a spoon rest for when I cook at the stove, but sometimes it’s dirty or already being used for something else. 

Enter my discovery: Plastic container lids are perfect disposable coasters or spoon rests! If you don’t need the container-and-lid set for food storage, then recycle the container right away and hang on to the lid for a little while longer. The plastic lid is the perfect size for resting spoons, measuring cups, or eggshells while you’re cooking or baking. This keeps counters and other surfaces clean — and makes you less likely to reach for things like paper towels to wipe a mess up. When you’re done with the lid, give it a quick rinse and toss it in the recycling bin.

Extending the usefulness of such a small item and cutting down on consumption is exactly the kind of tiny habit that can add up to more sustainable living overall. I’m just glad I thought of it.

This piece is part of Green Week, where we’re talking about ways to make eco-friendly choices and contributions at home. Head over here to read more!