Easy swaps you can make to reduce or eliminate waste in your kitchen.
The amount of garbage the average household creates is staggering! Have you ever stopped to think about how much waste comes out of your home? When I started paying closer attention, I was shocked at the amount of useless packaging that I bought and brought into this house which eventually ends up in the landfill.
Say No to Single Use Plastic
As you probably know, there are a multitude of single use items we use once and throw out like plastic grocery bags, produce bags, cardboard and molded plastic packaging, take-out styrofoam boxes, plastic forks and knives and let’s not forget the neverending plastic straws that wind up in our fast food bags.
Plus, we’ve all seen the news reports of the enormous island of plastic waste floating around in the ocean called the Pacific Garbage Patch. Some say it’s twice the size of Texas but we’ve also seen reports that it’s approaching the size of Russia.
If that’s not alarming enough, we now see reports almost daily of whales and other marine animals washing up dead with pounds of plastic in their bellies.
Fortunately, there are some super easy things you can do right now to eliminate much of the waste generated in your own kitchen. And let’s be honest, being completely zero waste is probably impossible, but here are 10 simple steps you can take right now toward going zero waste in the kitchen.
10 Easy Ways to Go Zero Waste in Your Kitchen
1. Buy in Bulk
If you live near a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, you’ll be able to purchase many dry goods such as beans, rice and spices in bulk. To be even more eco friendly, make sure and bag your bulk items in reusable containers, such as mason jars or paper bags. If you don’t have a bulk food option near you, buy your goods in the largest containers possible.
2. Eliminate Paper Towels
Believe it or not, paper towels account for about 2% of the garbage in landfills (The Guardian, 2011). And yes, while paper towels are compostable, most people just throw them away in plastic garbage bags which leaves them … not composted. Not to mention, rolls of paper towels are usually wrapped in plastic when you buy them.
So, why not switch to washable cloth towels? You can easily take some old t-shirts, cut them up and use them for every day clean-ups. I keep mine in a glass jar on the kitchen counter.
3. Skip the Plastic Wrap
Plastic Wrap is one of those plastic items that is used once and then thrown out. As you know, it’s not very easy to reuse and it can’t be recycled. So, out in the garbage it goes. (Plastic storage bags or zip bags are not any better, so don’t go there lol).
Lucky for us, there are now wonderful reusable and sometime organic food wraps made from cotton fabric. Or, better yet, you can make your very own Bees Wax Food Wraps very easily. This article on Apartment Therapy shows you how.
4. Replace Plastic Food Storage Containers
Plastic food storage containers (such as Tupperware) are a little better than plastic wrap in that you can reuse them over and over. Plus, they are usually recyclable. However, they’re still plastic containers that will end up in the landfill at some point.
On the other hand, glass containers can be recycled indefinitely. But, don’t run to the nearest Walmart and buy a bunch of glass storage containers. Use up the plastic containers you still have and replace them as you go with mason jars and repurposed pickle or spaghetti jars.
5. Make DIY Dish Detergent
Dishwasher Detergent is one of those products that is super easy to make in bulk at home. You can find many different recipes online which use easy to find ingredients that can be purchased in large quantities (s.a. washing soda and epsom salts). If you do choose to purchase ready made dishwasher detergent, make sure you choose powder which comes in cardboard boxes.
6. Replace Plastic with DIY Produce Bags
You know, those super thin plastic bags you get in the produce department for your broccoli are a huge pet peeve of mine! One use and they go in the garbage.
Alternatively, you can just use your reusable shopping bags for your vegetables. Or, it’s actually super simple to make some reusable and washable produce bags out of old t-shirts. We’re going to be posting a tutorial for making your own soon but in the meantime, just search for ‘DIY Produce Bags’ online.
7. Compost Food Waste
One of the easiest ways to go zero waste in the kitchen is to compost your fruit and vegetable scraps. You don’t need a huge garden or even a fancy compost bin. A small corner of the yard is sufficient.
Just pile your vegetable and fruit scraps in the corner of your yard and cover with a bit of dirt. Or, you can dig them straight into your existing garden beds, throw in the scraps and cover them back up.
8. Use Wood Tools instead of Plastic
Kitchen implements such as cooking spoons and even dish brushes can be purchased in wood or bamboo. Not only are wooden kitchen tools compostable (once they wear out), but they are also much more aesthetically pleasing than plastic.
9. Buy Cans or Glass to Eliminate Waste
Whenever possible, buy your food products in glass jars or aluminum cans. Lots of drinks, ready made soups, sauces or even coffee grounds can be purchased in glass or cans which are usually recyclable.
10. Buy Used Appliances
This is a big garbage and waste saver! Buy used appliances such as blenders, toasters or even microwaves. Not only are you keeping the mountain of packaging waste out of the landfill but you are also going to save a ton of money. And no, it’s not gross. You can find gently used and even new kitchen appliances at many thrift or consignment stores.
More Zero Waste Ideas
Finally, here are a few more quick tips for going zero waste in the kitchen. As I said, it’s probably impossible to eliminate all waste from your kitchen or home. But, we can all make small changes which can have a big impact on the amount of garbage we add to our environment and the planet.
- Use brown paper bags or compostable garbage bags
- Buy items s.a. juice frozen in cardboard instead of a plastic bottle
- Use compostable parchment paper
- Buy loose produce instead of bagged in mesh which contains plastic
- Use wood clothes pins instead of chip clips
- Buy pastas in cardboard rather than plastic bags
What Can I Buy For Zero Waste?
There are lots of products out there to help you with your zero waste journey including: Reusable Grocery Bags, Water Bottles, Organic Cotton Cloth Napkins, Sustainable Drinking Straws and Portable Cutlery Kits.
But, before you go out and buy a bunch of new things, take a close look at what you already have. Instead of buying new glass storage containers, do you have any mason jars you can use? Can you repurpose an old tablecloth into napkins and paper towels?
Want more tips on how to convert reduce and hopefully eliminate needless waste in your home? Trash Is For Tossers is a website that has loads of helpful hints and tricks for you.