The kitchen is a household hub for the creation of waste. If you are trying to live a more sustainable life, you may feel overwhelmed by your kitchen habits.
Vegetable scraps, spoiled leftovers, and all of that food packaging; where do you even begin?
Turning your kitchen zero waste simply requires you to change your perspective on food and make a few easy household product swaps.
To live sustainably, we need to only use what we need to be less wasteful. In a world of excess, this may seem like a foreign concept, but it really is easy to employ.
Think about this:
Over 1/3 of all food produced globally goes to waste.
If you just open your mind to being a little more conscious about your consumption, you are already well on your way towards living a sustainable life.
In addition, I would like to share with you some easily adaptable tips to transforming your very own zero waste kitchen.
1. Baby Steps: Reusable Bags
We all know that plastic bags are bad for the environment, yet a lot of people still use them.
It takes at least 500 years for a plastic bag to fully degrade in the landfill.
That is, if they even make their way to the landfill! Often times, plastic bags end up in waterways and can harm wildlife.
Do not fret:
It is beyond simple to incorporate reusable bags into your daily life. Keep them in your car or get one that folds up and always have it in your purse. Think ahead before leaving your house in the morning.
Do you plan on going grocery shopping after work?
Don’t forget your reusable bag!
If you already are dedicated to reusable shopping bags and want to take it a step further, try eliminating plastic produce bags from your life.
2. Buying in Bulk & Avoiding Packaging
For some unknown reason, many companies love wrapping their food products in an excessive amount of packaging.
Here’s how you can avoid it:
Buy in bulk! Many health food stores allow you to buy items like pasta, granola, rice, beans, and other grains in bulk. Some stores even sell bulk dish soap, shampoo, and other products like that.
What does this mean exactly?
It means that the store has large, unpackaged containers of each item. You can bring a reusable bag, jar, or container and take as much or as little of the product as you want.
You just pay by weight!
Buying in bulk is a such a simple way to avoid packaging waste and it tends to be cheaper than it’s pre-packaged cousin.
It’s so worth it!
3. Eco-Friendly Cleaning Solutions
Have you ever thought about the packaging waste created by cleaning products?
Besides generating waste, many household cleaning solutions contain chemicals that are actually toxic to yourself and the environment. Ah!
Here’s an alternative:
Sure, there are eco-friendly, nontoxic cleaning products on the market, but to be a true zero waster, why don’t you try a do-it-yourself solution?
If you follow any sustainable living blogs, you probably have seen DIY recipes for toothpaste, dish soap, etc.
One of the easiest recipes to start off with is your very own non-toxic all purpose cleaner.
Here’s how to do it:
Get a glass spray bottle and fill it halfway with water. Fill the rest of it with white vinegar and then add 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil.
You are ready to clean up any mess and did not even have to combat any packaging along the way. Also, the glass spray bottle can be reused over and over again!
4. Swapping Disposable With Reusable
Always think about how you can swap single-use products with things that can be reused.
Remember, reduce, reuse, recycle!
Here’s an idea:
How many napkins do you think get thrown into your garbage each year?
Consider replacing napkins that you dispose of with reusable napkins that can be washed.
It may seem more expensive up front, but investing in some quality napkins is more cost-effective over time since you will not have to constantly keep buying more.
It may seem insignificant, but swallow this:
If 50% of the United States population used one paper napkin per meal three times a day, over 164 billion napkins would be used in a year. If that does not bother you, think about the 11.5 billion gallons of water it takes to produce all of those napkins.
5. Changing Perspectives: Zero Waste Kitchen Products
Our kitchens are chock full of products.
Plates, napkins, cleaning brushes, sponges, cutlery, appliances, etc. If I were to offer you a sustainable solution to every single kitchen product, this blog post would never end.
Having knowledge about materials is integral to making your own sustainable decisions. For instance, plastic should be avoided at all costs.
Plastic production emits greenhouse gases and it takes hundreds of years to break down in landfill.
Have you noticed more eco-conscious brands carrying bamboo products?
Bamboo is a low impact, eco-friendly material. It is very regenerative and requires no pesticides, fertilizer, or irrigation to produce. In fact, it fully matures and is ready to be harvested in just 3-5 years.
Unlike plastic, bamboo biodegrades once you are done using it. When purchasing products, always consider the material. If it is made from something natural and can be composted once it’s life is over, then it is a better option than plastic. Try to stay away from synthetic materials.
The handles of both of these products are made from wood and the scrub part is made from loofah or sisal. These are both plant-based materials that are 100% biodegradable and compostable.
6. Shop Local
Food is the star of the show when it comes to your zero waste kitchen. You may be wondering:
How do you make your food consumption more sustainable?
As a species, humans have become increasingly distant from our food sources. We go to the grocery store, pick up what we need, and rarely ever think about the amount of water, energy, or time it took to get it on the shelf. Wasting food means wasting those resources.
First off, buy only what you need and really try to avoid throwing away leftovers. Secondly, shop local!
Not only does shopping local help support your local economy, but it is great for the environment! Sometimes, produce comes to us from the other side of the country. It travels miles and miles, burning gas and emitting a ton of carbon monoxide along the way.
If you shop local, the produce is coming from a nearby farm, meaning it has to travel less to get to you. It saves a bunch of resources and therefore is more sustainable.
7. Earth-Friendly Food Storage
Now that we have our local produce, how do we sustainably store all of that yummy food?
My pre-zero waste kitchen was equipped with plastic containers, single-use zip bags, and saran wrap. Ew! Yeah, I was that person.
It was super easy to change my habits once I became aware of all the great sustainable alternatives there are out there.
For every single-use plastic product out there, there is a reusable alternative.
Here are some of my favorites:
Replace saran plastic wrap with reusable, beeswax wrap. Many of the ones available come in really cute patterns and designs. You could even make your own beeswax wrap!
Instead of using those single-use zip bags for snacks and leftovers, switch over to a reusable silicone solution. These are much sturdier than their flimsy, cheap predecessor, so they can be used over and over again!
My all-time favorite sustainable food storage product are mason jars. They can be used to store food, pickle veggies, or even just be used as a cup. They are so multi-functional and can be used a million times over again.
8. Not All Waste Is Created Equal
There are three main waste streams: compost, recyclables, and trash. Keeping all of our waste organized and separate is an important step into making sure everything is disposed of properly.
Always check with your local waste management department for guidelines on how to deal with your waste. Every town has different rules and programs.
You want to try to compost as much of your waste as you can. Most people keep their compost in a bucket and bring it to a facility, but you also can start a compost pile in your backyard.
Why does it matter?
Composting transforms waste into a nutrient-rich material that can be used to generate new plant life. In doing so, it prevents the carbon emissions that would have emerged if the waste was sent to landfill.
Next is recycling. Again, check your local regulations. Some places allow you to mix all of your recyclables, while others ask you to sort it out by material. One of the most important rules in recycling is to always make sure the waste is clean before you place it in the bin.
If your container is still full of food, chances are the facility is going to have to send it to the landfill instead of being able to recycle it. Bummer, I know, so be sure to rinse!
The last and final option is trash.
You really want to make sure that this is your last resort.
Are you sure it can’t be composted or recycled?
If you are avoiding packaging and purchasing reusable products, you probably aren’t generating that much trash, anyway.
Avoid the landfill at all costs!
9. Goodbye To Single-Use
Single-use coffee cups and water bottles need to go and here’s why:
However, this does not mean that you have to say goodbye to your favorite local coffee shop.
Just start using reusable cups/mugs/bottles! It is really quite easy once you get the hang of it.
I hope now that I broke down some alternatives, you see how obtainable a zero waste kitchen truly is.
Here’s some take away tips: shop local, avoid packaging, and swap disposable with reusable. You got this!