7 Simple Green Kitchen Skills To Teach Kids

Regular readers know that I’m really into having my kids in the kitchen with me. I’m not a pro; it’s partially because I get super bored playing on the floor with toys and part of it is because I love cooking and baking. So as soon as my kids could follow simple directions (toddlerhood) I have had them cooking and baking with me in the kitchen and it’s been awesome. Kitchen prep offers natural sensory and mathematical integrations and learning how to be functional in the kitchen is a huge life skill.

There are a million different basic kitchen life skills I could share about, but in the next installment of my life skills series (see previous posts on how to negotiate, library life skills, and public transit) I want to focus on super simple but impactful green kitchen life skills. Because OMG Mother Earth needs our focus and intention in a big way and there are some really small tweaks you can teach your kids to make a difference. Let’s do this thing!

1. Put a lid on boiling water

I’m going to start with perhaps the simplest green tip I can think of—it will literally involve one additional reach for something you probably already have in your kitchen. Next time you boil water for pasta or whatever, PUT A LID ON IT. The water will boil faster and you’ll waste less energy. I mean, seriously, it does not get easier than this!

2. Make paper towels the exception not the rule

OK, so seriously, if you use paper towels regularly to dry your hands or wipe down the counter, you could make a huge difference by swapping in dish towels. The only reason we still have paper towels in our kitchen at all is because I haven’t found a replacement for when, for example, I need to squeeze water out of cooked spinach for quiche or when I need to drain water out of tofu. We have a lot of dish towels in rotation at our house but a lot of them are getting quite ratty and are ready to move to the cleaning rag drawer. I just ordered a bunch of Full Circle plant-dyed dish cloths as replacements. They’re made from 100% organic cotton, woven to dry quickly, and are naturally dyed with pomegranate, tea leaves, and aster flower! OBSESSED, you guys!

Full Circle plant-dyed dish cloths; image via Full Circle

Full Circle plant-dyed dish cloths; image via Full Circle

3. Teach your kids how to load the dishwasher

You may be wondering why teaching kids to load the dishwasher is a green kitchen life skill. Beyond being a mega-win in the general family helping/life skill department, here’s why: First, you want to teach kids to load the dishwasher properly so you’re utilizing all of the slots but not jamming things in so tight that items don’t get washed and need to be re-washed. Second, you want to teach them to wait to run it until it is totally full so you’re not wasting water.

4. Replace cleaning chemicals with pantry items

You know how in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula Portokalos’ dad’s go-to solution for everything is Windex? Well, my kids hear me talk ALL THE TIME about the power of baking soda, lemon, and vinegar as magical cleaning agents in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry!

5. Reduce food waste

Food waste makes me NUTS. There are three simple tactics I’ve taught my kids. First, before you go grocery shopping, take a quick look in the fridge so you know what not to buy. (I use a grocery store app to make my shopping list but you could also just snap a photo of what’s in your produce drawers). Second, put new groceries away behind old ones—both in the pantry and refrigerator—to prevent food waste. And third, and this is a triple win: buy seasonal produce (less expensive!) + prep produce en masse (for easier healthy snacking and quick cooking) + compost those food bits! I’ll talk more about composting in a moment, but I love the Full Circle scrap happy for produce prep. The wire rim attaches to drawers to collect food waste (BRILLIANT), the silicone container is dishwasher safe, and you can use this bin in the Full Circle Fresh Air composter or stick it in your freezer.

Classic Christine Koh produce prep before a dinner party!

Classic Christine Koh produce prep before a dinner party!

6. Make recycling easy

Do you know what’s just as easy as tossing something in the trash? Tossing something recyclable in the recycling! Check with your city’s recycling program for proper handling (literally, Google your city name + “recycle” and that should get you there) and here’s a great guide from Waste Management on what you can recycle. Set up an easy recycling spot in your kitchen (we just use a paper grocery bag!) and teach your kids about what they can toss in there (instead of the trash). 

7. Compost

Seriously, composting is SO EASY and it offers an incredible way to reduce landfill contributions while also creating “black gold” for your garden. Produce scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags all make for awesome compost fodder! I was beyond thrilled to replace our gross makeshift mixing bowl with saucepan lid with the Full Circle Fresh Air composter. (The gross mixing bowl needed to be washed after every empty and smelled awful.) The Fresh Air is cute and unobtrusive on the counter, has a patented air-flow design to reduce stink, and is easy to clean. It comes with a set of compostable liner bags (I definitely recommend buying the lemon-scented compostable liners (I literally just ordered 3 boxes so I don’t have to think about them for a long while!) because you now know how I feel about lemon) and the liner bags make it easy to just drop the compost bag out in our outdoor compost barrel without having to return anything to the house! Added bonus: Violet thinks the button operated lid is about 8,000 times superior to our gross old mixing bowl with lid countertop compost solution.

Composting while veggie prepping situation in full effect with Full Circle products; image via Christine Koh

Composting while veggie prepping situation in full effect with Full Circle products; image via Christine Koh

It warrants mentioning that you have two other options with the Fresh Air composter. The aforementioned scrap happy silicone container fits inside, as does the Full Circle compostable paper scrap sack. Though the scrap sack was originally designed as an entry-level compost option (the paper bag itself can be a short-term countertop compost collector), what I especially love about it is that it provides the perfect solution for high volume produce waste. We eat a ton of watermelon and corn during the summer, and in the past, the rinds and corn husks took up a ton of room in our compost bowl and I will admit that sometimes I would just dump it in the trash because I hated taking the gross mixing bowl to the outdoor composter. Now, I can just put the husks and rinds in a scrap sack and toss it the whole bag in our outdoor composter on my way out! This simple product has totally leveled up my composting.

Full Circle composter + scrap sack; image via Christine Koh

Full Circle composter + scrap sack; image via Christine Koh

Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Full Circle, purveyor of amazing eco-friendly home care products. I’m thrilled that sharing about Full Circle worked so beautifully—and dare I say organically!—with my summer of life skills series!

Here’s a video version of this post if listening/watching is preferable!