Give Your Kitchen An Eco-Friendly Makeover

In this week’s buying guide, I’ve collected the best eco-friendly gear my colleagues and I have tested over the years.

I’ve been working to make my home kitchen into a more eco-friendly space over the past few years. Investing in a few simple tools has made it easy for me to reduce my overall waste, and my new equipment will last for years to come. From clever bag drying racks to beeswax storage wrap, these well-designed tools are good for your kitchen and the environment. You could also trade one-time-use paper towels for a cotton dish towel and opt for our favorite travel mug instead of disposable ones from your local coffee shop. With these test kitchen–approved gadgets, you can join me and give your kitchen an eco-friendly makeover.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, America's Test Kitchen

Our winner had the widest mouth in the lineup, which made it simple to fill—no spills or drips. The screw-on lid had a wide, arched handle that was easy to grip and turn, though users occasionally took an extra few seconds to get the lid on track. We liked that this model was dishwasher-safe and had no extra parts to remove during cleaning, and it survived three indoor drops despite its 2½-pound (filled) weight. It's also available in a 16-ounce size, if you prefer a lighter load.

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This water bottle struck a happy medium: kids liked that it was easy to drink from and parents liked that it was easy to clean. It had a straw-free cap that allowed water to flow freely, as well as a cap lock that prevented accidental spills. It didn’t break or leak when dropped repeatedly or inverted and shaken. It also didn’t retain any smells or odors after the green smoothie test. The kids liked its grippy silicone sleeve and carrying handle that made for easy transport and found its lid easy to remove and put back on.

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Testers raved about this travel mug, which not only kept coffee hot and cold for far longer than any other mug we tried but also was the easiest to use. Slim from top to bottom, it was comfortable for hands of all sizes to hold, open, and close, but because the opening is narrow, we had to aim a little more carefully when filling it. A simple push of a button popped open its lid, exposing the clean drinking spout within. Testers also loved that this leakproof mug came with an equally easy-to-use locking mechanism, which provided good insurance against accidental spills. Just a few minor durability issues: Like the other models, it dented when dropped, and it smelled of coffee even after several washes. Also worth noting: Because it’s so good at retaining heat, you may want to cool your favorite beverage to the temperature you prefer before sealing the mug or you risk a very hot surprise on your first sip.

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While it didn’t keep drinks cold or hot for quite as long as our stellar winner, this leakproof mug still outperformed most of the other models, keeping coffee hot and drinkable for nearly 6 hours. And with a slim, streamlined profile, it was also very easy to open, close, and hold, but because it’s narrow, we had to be a little more careful when filling the mug. As with our winner, all we had to do was push a button and its lid popped open, exposing a clean drinking spout; a sliding lock prevented accidental spills. Testers also liked that this model came with a loop handle for easy carrying. Like the other models, it dented when dropped and retained coffee odors after several washes.

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This straw set came with two 8-inch-long and two 10.5-inch-long straws. Both were very comfortable to drink from, thanks to their 3-inch-long silicone tips. Because the silicone tips were detachable, both the straws and the tips were easy to clean. The 8-inch straw fit comfortably in a glass, a to-go cup, and a travel mug and came with an effective cleaning brush that had plentiful bristles and a grippy handle. These sturdy straws did not dent when we placed a weight on them for an hour and ably punched through the lid of a plastic to-go cup. The 10.5-inch-long straw is ideal for to-go cups and tumblers larger than 16 ounces. The downside is that this set did not come with a carrying case (OXO said it plans to release a set with one later this year); however, we felt that its performance, easy cleanup, and durability outweighed this drawback.

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This set came with two 7.75-inch-long straws, each with its own carrying tin. The silicone used to make the straws was thin enough to allow us to bend them to fit them in their carrying tins yet thick enough to keep the straws sturdy as we drank from them. It took a bit more effort to pierce the top of a plastic to-go lid with these softer straws than it did with the stainless-steel straws, but these straws were among the sturdiest of the silicone options. These straws did not come with a cleaning brush, but the manufacturer recommended a cleaning technique: rubbing the straws between our fingers in warm, soapy water and then rinsing them, which worked well to clean bits of smoothie out of them. These straws did not become misshapen during testing nor stained by the turmeric. If you’re looking for a set of portable, functional silicone straws, these are a great option.  More on this test

Using this bag was a cinch (pun intended): The combination of a smooth drawstring and a strong closure bead made filling and closing it simple and convenient. The bag also had the finest mesh among the synthetic options; it even held grits without leaking while still allowing us to view the contents. This bag had the largest capacity in the lineup, and it held strong when we tested its durability with a pineapple and dumbbells.

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These wraps provided a happy medium between a strong seal that kept food fresh and a relative lack of waxy residue left behind on our hands and bowls. Though cleaning them still took some scrubbing, they were easier to clean than their much stickier counterparts, and they resisted stains for the most part. They held up to washings well, retaining their clinging ability after more than 10 rounds of cleaning.

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This gusseted, widemouthed bag was by far the roomiest in our testing, holding nearly 6 cups of food; it was also easy to fill. Zipper-lock closures allowed us to seal this bag effortlessly and securely, helping keep food free of freezer burn. And it was one of the more leak-resistant models, safely containing water except when dropped. One small demerit: After extensive testing, the exterior got a tiny bit wrinkled but was otherwise sound.

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These inexpensive pouches have wide openings and can stand on their own, so they were quick and easy to fill. We also appreciated their clearly visible fill lines, which prevent spilling, and the space to record the contents and date on the pouch. One tester who used these with his 1- and 3-years-olds liked the pouches so much he asked if he could keep them. Though this model was easier than other models to clean, you still have to rinse the spout and pouch thoroughly before placing it in the dishwasher so it stays open during the wash cycle.

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These covers excelled by easily creating tight seals with only the slightest effort and resisting stains and damage throughout our durability testing. They stored fruit salad as effectively as plastic wrap did, and their nearly round shapes covered bowls nicely and sealed our winning 12-inch skillet well when we used it to cover the skillet and steam broccoli. They even maintained their seals in the microwave. The covers are available in 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12.5-inch round models.

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With a plastic lid that latched easily and securely and an airtight, leakproof seal that didn't drip or let moisture in, this container is our top choice for glass storage. Its ⅜-inch-wide, soft, square silicone gasket was easy to remove and replace for cleaning, and the faintly fishy odors it retained disappeared after rewashing. The plastic lid showed a slight orange tint after the chili test, but this faded as the container went through more dishwashing cycles. It also resisted warping and emerged intact at the end of testing. The 8-cup container, which looked like a glass loaf pan, held plenty of food, though we'd prefer a slightly flatter, wider shape to help foods heat and chill a bit more uniformly.

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With eight long arms and a stable base, this tall wooden rack has the biggest capacity in our lineup and did the best job drying multiple types of items at once. As a drying rack, it was the best overall, though it does not also function as a holder for filling bags. It stayed steady even when we placed an inverted water bottle and an inverted travel mug onto the rack to dry (though it teetered when a heavy item wasn’t balanced by other items). We appreciated that this eco-friendly rack is made of repurposed wood scraps from furniture making.

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This sturdy, handsome steel rack was the heaviest and most stable model in our lineup, and it folded the flattest for storage. It was one of three models we tested with a dual function: It held open quart- and gallon-size bags as we filled them, making it doubly useful in the kitchen. While we had to exercise caution when filling the gallon-size bag with liquid, it held a quart-size bag firmly open, even when we poured liquid into it quickly. We docked a few performance points because this rack had just four arms, which limited the number of bags or other items we could dry at a time. But if you don’t need more capacity, it’s the best and most versatile choice.

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