A zero-waste kitchen is at the heart of minimising our impact on the planet.
For too long society has slipped into a throwaway culture of buying more than we need, plus relying on disposable items to carry out regular chores.
Your kitchen and climate change
The result is anything but zero waste. We end up sending tons to landfill which produces more of the greenhouse gases and climate change we are already experiencing. But there are steps each of us can take to minimise our footprint.
Some of these tips are easy, they don’t take a lot of commitment. Start small and leave the big changes till you’re into the swing of it. Most home waste originates in the kitchen so that’s where to start for maximum impact and maximum savings.
Zero waste isn’t just good for the environment – the savings you make are good for your pocket too
How to make a zero-waste kitchen
Buying in bulk means a lower product to packaging ratio, so there’s less to throw away. If there are no bulk bins in the supermarkets you visit then you can minimise packaging waste by selecting the largest container on the shelf.
You could eliminate packaging altogether by making some of your own essentials like laundry detergent from ingredients you already have at home.
It’s easy to forget how much water we waste too. The first step to waste less water is to start with efficient appliances.
You might consider a greywater system that reuses household water as garden irrigation; you could re-use water from kitchen appliances. But please note that the water from your sink may contain high amounts of cleaning products and unsafe food bacteria.
And keep an eye out for leaks – we all know how quickly those little drips turn into a lake.
Efficient appliances have an effect on more than water conservation. Choose an A rated model of fridge to reduce your electricity demands too. It takes less energy to maintain the temperature in a full fridge but don’t think this gives you a reason to cram it with food you don’t need – a good tip is to place reusable frozen cold packs inside.
For a true zero-waste kitchen think beyond food to the equipment you waste too
Cut down on the number of gadgets you buy – kitchen gadgets often have a specialist bent and end up breaking, which then takes you further away from the goal of a zero-waste kitchen. Instead aim for quality products that can serve you in many situations.
Try to choose recycled and handmade products. You’ll be cutting down on the waste material that other people are sending to landfill, and you’ll be showing them how to do the same too.
Donate excess crockery and appliances to charity shops rather than send it to landfill. You’ll be minimising your waste impact, plus making it easier to find things.
Treat the recycling bin as a last resort. Although glass and metal can be recycled over and over that’s not the case with plastics. When plastic is ‘recycled’ it’s actually ‘downcycled’ into lower quality plastic until it eventually ends up in landfill – much better to avoid buying it in the first place.
Eliminate the amount of disposables you use such as paper towels, plastic bags and disposable cutlery. If you must use single use items such as plastic cutlery look for a product that features recycled materials – but bear in mind that recycling plastic is not the answer to everything we used to think it was. Better to go for something biodegradable.
- Instead of cling film use reusable glass storage containers, a plate lid or home-made linen food covers. If you must have a product on hand take a look at these silicone lids as a cling film substitute.
- As an alternative to paper towels create reusable cleaning cloths from old sheets or clothes. You can display these in a pretty jar so they’re always at hand.
- Sandwich bags and other pack lunch disposables can be replaced with reusable containers.
- For paper napkins swap over to cloth napkins (for extra points try sewing these yourself from old fabric).
- You can even get reusable glass straws as an alternative to the paper variety.
When you take one of these steps however small you’ll notice all the other disposables that we don’t need to use
Eating out doesn’t reduce your waste, it just piles it up in someone else’s kitchen
‘On-the-go’ food wrappings can be replaced with reusable containers, all it takes is a little planning.
In the UK the war against plastic shopping bags has been won… possibly. I wonder if people now just use the same number of bags but in the form of bin liners? You can make a great saving by just using the bin without a liner and washing it afterwards.
As well as your own shopping bags try to bring reusable containers when shopping as well as for storage when you get home, especially for bulk items. It’s a fairly easy step to add glass jars for items like flour, seeds, spices, etc but also consider metal containers for meat and fish.
The most significant factor in a zero-waste kitchen is food waste
By far the most significant factor in achieving a zero-waste kitchen is food waste. About a quarter of all the food we buy is thrown away – so the first step to reduce your waste is to buy less in the first place. This will take some planning! Plan your meals, make detailed grocery lists and avoid impulse purchases.
Make multiple shopping trips rather than one big weekly shop. You won’t feel the need to buy more than you need, so there’s less chance of food sitting around at home until it turns into waste.
Because food is the most important factor in cutting waste I have written a separate article focusing on great food tips:
20 tips to achieve zero food waste.
However hard you try there will probably still be a small amount of food waste in your kitchen. Composting is invaluable for its ability to take you closer to a zero-waste kitchen.
You can transform food scraps and leftovers such as coffee grounds, carrot tops, onion peels, egg shells and other non-meat food waste into a useful resource. You can also compost some non-food items such as cardboard and newspaper.
- If you can’t accommodate a full-size bin for compost how about a tabletop compost caddy?
- If you have a garden you may already know the wonderful benefits of compost. It can carry on increasing yields six years after you apply it.
- If you don’t have a garden search online for a municipal composting scheme or a local farm.
For the dedicated composter you may consider vermiculture bins, in which worms turn the waste into a soil conditioner. But if you’re not too keen about a vat of worms in your kitchen you’re not alone – please join me in trying the other ideas on the list 🙂