Networx logo Do you know which animal-derived, eco-unfriendly ingredients might be sneaking around in your kitchen cabinets? If the answer is "no," don't despair. You're not alone! Most people are surprised to learn that there might be whey (that's milk curd runoff) hiding in their paper towels, or that their hand soap is harboring tallow (that's rendered fat), or that there's lanolin (sheep's wax) lurking in their upholstery polish.

Animal by-products are a direct result of the factory farming machine, and that's why ethical and environmentally-minded individuals, regardless of diet or lifestyle, are making the move towards natural, plant-based products.

In my own home, I keep an eco-friendly, cruelty-free kitchen. It took a bit of research and a bit of reconfiguring to get all set up, but now it's just as easy as vegan pie. Quite a bit cheaper, too! Here's how I do it:

Things are pretty easy now that entire lines of cleaning products have gone green and vegan. Method comes to mind as the leader of the cruelty-free cleansers, but there are other popular brands, such as Seventh Generation, that are almost entirely animal-free (the Seventh Generation automatic dishwasher pacs may contain tallow). These are great options to pick up in a pinch. But the truth is, I prefer to make my own DIY cleansers using simple, natural ingredients. Baking soda, white vinegar and castile soap can be combined in any number of ways to create some seriously fabulous DIY concoctions.

I use diluted Castile soap for hand washing dishes, and I make Natural Homemade Liquid Dishwasher Detergent, an easy homemade mixture for my dishwasher. I also use vinegar in my dishwasher rinse aid, and to disinfect my countertops, and in my "hacked" Swiffer-style mop. For stains that require scouring, such as caked-on stovetop spills, I apply a layer of castile soap, followed by a sprinkling of baking soda, and finished with a spray of vinegar. This is an absolutely fantastic "soft scrub" formula, and it works on almost everything.

About that mop hack, I picked up one of the spray-and-wipe models a few years back. But instead of buying a new cleaner cartridge full of chemicals, I simply filled the old one up with white vinegar. And instead of buying (and wasting) the disposable pads, I just tore up an old bath towel and fastened it to the mop head instead. Re-purposed, re-usable, and just as effective!

Along those same lines, I've pretty much banished paper products from my kitchen. I use cloth napkins for meal times (they're so much prettier, and a snap to sew — they make for great gifts as well!) and paper towels have been replaced by cotton rags. We have two types: "Nasty rags" are for floor spills, doggy accidents, and other dirty work. They're made of old bath towels. "Nice rags" are for kitchen counters, dining table clean-up and other not-so-messy messes. These are cotton dish towels, store bought, in a variety of fun colors and patterns. Even factoring in the energy and water cost of washing cloth towels, they're still the environmentally prudent choice (by a significant margin). However, if you're not quite ready to let go of paper for good (or for your next party), the brands Natural Value and Seventh Generation have got you covered with Earth-friendly products.

In fact, Natural Value is a powerhouse in the eco-vegan kitchen. Besides their recycled paper goods, they make trash bags, lunch bags, waxed paper bags, dish sponges, plastic wrap, parchment paper and freezer bags. All green, all ethical, all vegan.

Aside from cleaning, there's lots of teeny tiny ways to reduce your waste and keep your kitchen cruelty-free. For example, choosing unbleached, recycled paper coffee filters is a great start. But buying a washable, reusable hemp coffee filter is even better! (I use one by Mr. Naturals.) For food prep, the brand Earth Friendly Products makes a great "fruit and veggie wash." And for meal times, I've replaced disposable plastic straws with the ever-so-elegant glass variety, by Glass Dharma. Don't worry — they're almost indestructible!

And finally, even though you'll be saving resources left and right, you'll still have to do something with that (greatly reduced) garbage. BioBags, Seventh Generation and Natural Value all make for great vegan, eco-friendly waste disposal systems. And hey — don't forget to recycle!

Sayward Rebhal originally wrote this for It is reprinted with permission.

How to keep a green, vegan kitchen
I keep an eco-friendly, cruelty-free kitchen. It took a bit of research and a bit of reconfiguring to get all set up, but now it's just as easy as vegan pie.