You just finished watching a documentary about the environment, how the usage of plastics is affecting the ecosystem and the amount of waste we are dumping into our landfills. You share the documentary with your friends, talk about it with your coworkers, and think about what you can do to help, but what really is the next step?
Have you ever wondered how you can use less around the house? There are so many little things you can do to make your home more sustainable. Using less can also help the planet in a big way. We’ll begin with the kitchen, which is also one of the places where the most household waste is produced!
Annual food waste in America is estimated to be approximately $161 billion in value. On average, an American family of four throws away $1500 worth of food every year. The majority of the discarded food is sent to landfills. This accounts for about 24.1% of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).
That is a scary fact, but what does zero waste kitchen even mean?
A zero-waste kitchen is a way of living where we use products that are reusable and compostable as much as possible. Any waste we create like food scraps will be put in compost (a process which uses the rich nutrients of certain items to turn into soil). Zero waste can seem daunting and hard to actually practice. It can be good to break your transition down into actionable steps like achieving low waste by cutting back on a few things at a time, then adding more improvements once you’re used to the change. It can be a bit overwhelming in the beginning but, if we start doing this consciously and if we are mindful of the things we use, we can easily turn this around.
Here are some ways to reduce our environmental footprint in our kitchen:
- Plan your purchasing
Yes! This might sound basic and simple, however planning and budgeting your trips to the grocery store is an essential building block for a mindful kitchen. We always end up buying more groceries than we require. We tend to forget what’s already in our refrigerator and buy extra just to be sure. This might definitely take some time in the beginning but remember, beginnings are always the hardest part! If you plan everything out, the rest of the week seems easy! You know what you are going to cook for every meal, so you are actually saving a lot of time instead of trying to think about what you have to cook.
Purchase in bulk (no plastic!) and shop locally
Buying in bulk can actually eliminate a lot of waste. When you buy in small amounts, you must keep going back for more. This means more packaging materials but also more gas as you are driving more. Most grocery stores have a dedicated aisle for nuts, granola, pulses etc. You will be surprised at the options available. Bring your own containers to cut back on the massive amount of packaging waste. Shopping for produce from the farmer’s market near you is another great way to eliminate waste. Buying produce that was farmed close to you means helping to eliminate industrial gas use! Food miles is a term used to quantify the distance the food has to travel to make it to your nearby supermarket. The more food miles the more harmful greenhouse gas emissions. On top of this, many local farms use less pesticides, hormones and allow livestock to have a healthier life.
3. Use as little plastic as possible
Prepping your meals is the easiest way to save time while reducing waste. This can help you even if you haven’t planned your meals. Meal prep like chopping vegetables to cook the night before makes your life easier! This gives you the breathing time you need on a busy morning! Always store your prepped meals in a container, or Beeswax wrap. Cling wraps or any other plastic containers for that matter can have adverse effects on our health. The chemicals from the storage boxes and wraps can leach into our food and beverages especially when exposed to heat. Supra Endura wax wraps are a great alternative to plastic, they also come in fun, colorful prints!
4. Flip leftovers into new meals, and eliminate food waste
Some foods cannot be frozen and saved long term. In that case, use the leftovers in a different recipe. If you have leftover stir-fry, just put it on bread and grill it and you have a tasty and healthy home-made grilled veggie sandwich. They can also be used on tortillas to make yummy quesadillas. Your creativity is your best friend here. Shake them up a bit and create your own recipes!
You can plan, plan and plan but let’s face it- some days are just hard and it’s easy to slip up. Although we plan so much, there is always a little leftover. You can always save the food by refrigerating it and using it the next day. Certain foods can also be frozen. Because it’s so easy to reheat and I always find myself craving it, I’ll make my favorite foods in bulk and freeze them. This helps especially in times when you have had a long day, but you know you can always count on the food you have stored in the freezer. You can try freezing a variety of foods like chicken, pasta, and many others!
5. Switch your practice to using non-toxic, eco-friendly, and reusable products
Another great way to transform your kitchen to a zero-waste kitchen is by using Swedish Dishcloths. They can be used to wash vessels, clean your countertops, and wipe away spills. They’re perfect for replacing typical and non-sustainable products in your kitchen like paper towels and sponges. One great fact about Swedish dishcloths is that they are biodegradable and compostable. They can last anywhere between 9 to 12 months. They never see landfills in their lifetime!
Next comes eco-friendly soaps and dishes. Eco friendly soaps are made from non harmful materials and are non toxic. Recently you can find refillable bottles where you can buy a concentrate and cut back on plastic use. Some even use plant-based ingredients. Using soap bars instead of liquid soap and wooden soap dishes instead of plastic dishes are another option. Eco friendly soaps are biodegradable and recyclable.
The above options are a great way to jump start your sustainability journey. Imagine the amount of food, groceries, and money a single family can save just by using these tips. What if we all contributed?
The starting stages can seem daunting, but don’t worry, it gets easier once you’re in the habit. Every little step taken today to save our environment is going to make the world a better place to live in for our future generations.