One of the places where you create the most waste is certainly the kitchen. Unfortunately, almost everything you can buy at the supermarket comes in plastic. Which is not ideal.
I for one love cooking and trying new things and let me say this from the start. It is impossible to go completely zero waste in the kitchen if you don’t live completely self-sustainable. If you have shops in your town where they offer products without packaging you are one of the lucky ones. Thus I try to do my best, but still, I have to buy items in plastic or cling wrap. I’ve done what I can to reduce waste and will strive to do more.
So what steps can you take to to produce less waste in the kitchen.
Buy items in glass or metal
When you are going shopping be more mindful of what you buy. Opt to buy items in glass or metal. These containers you can reuse or be certain that they will get recycled. I donate the plastic containers I have to buy to a school that most certainly need them. Ask around and you will most certainly find a place that will gladly take them off your hands.
The big identical console jars almost everyone uses in their cupboards for food look very appealing, but you don’t need to buy new glass jars to store food in. Reuse the glass jars you have or if you want and desperately need the big old glass jars you can pick some up from Faithful to Nature. (I know I mention Faithful to Nature a lot, but they are an online store and I can’t drive to Cape Town each time I need something. It is just more convenient. But I will most certainly first buy the items I need at our local farmers’ markets.)
Reusable shopping bags
You see them now at almost every big supermarket and that is fantastic! Get yourself some big and small reusable shopping bags. You don’t need the high-end designer cotton cloth bags that will break the bank and bring yourself to tears. But get something that you don’t mind getting dirty and that you can throw into the wash. Just pop the bags in your car’s boot and remember to fetch them when you go shopping. If you forget, try to reuse plastic bags. We still use some plastic bags to pick up the cat’s litter. The best option for that will be to get compostable bags, but before that is affordable we shall reuse what we can.
Vegetable/Fruit Reusable bags
When I first started using these bags the staff at your local Pick n Pay thought I was crazy, but with a bit of knowledge sharing, they became accustomed to me bringing my mesh bags to collect fruit and vegetables in. Some Pick n Pay’s even started selling them. Get yourself some of these wonderful reusable bags, they weigh nothing. So instead of opting for the little plastic baggie to put your fruit in you can use your own. And yes you can wash them because they will get dirty.
Cloth wipes instead of paper towels
Now, this is a thing I have been doing for years and was shocked when I heard that people actually use paper towels or wet wipes instead of cloth to clean their kitchen or dry their hands. You can get some very funky dishcloths for your kitchen, just go buy some. If you are afraid of bacteria, just pop it into the wash after you used it and get some natural or even better make your own antibacterial kitchen cleaner.
Compostable dish scrubbers or pot scrubbers instead of sponges
Take a stroll down memory lane. Think about how many dish sponges you used and threw away over the years. Shocking isn’t it. You can use a cloth to wash your dishes but some very stubborn food particles never want to get loose. Instead of using your trusty ‘plastic’ scrub sponge get yourself a compostable dish scrubber. I have two. One bamboo one that I use to scrub the little food particles with that won’t get loose and one with a handle to get most of the food loose from my pots before I put it in the dishwasher. Both of them you can drop in your compost after its life is done.
Beeswax /Soy Wraps
I’ve used these wraps over and over again. They are a great alternative for cling wrap and foil. To clean them you just use some cold, not warm, water and a little bit of dish soap. They also come in some nice patterns and colors, score!
Compostable Black(Green) Bags
These bags are one of the newest zero waste items I am trying out. They are made out of potato starch and completely compostable. You just have to be careful in removing them from your bin as they are not as robust as plastic bags. But bags made out of potato starch, what will people think of else! These are amazing.
Compostable Parchment paper or silicone baking mat
This is a perfect solution for all the baking enthusiasts out there. Get some compostable parchment paper or better yet a silicone baking mat. I am on the lookout for a nice silicone baking mat for myself as my cauliflower pizza base stuck to the parchment paper last night which was a huge disappointment as it is the first time I tried to make it.
My husband thought I was nuts when I told him I bought some recyclable foil because the foil is metal and you can recycle it anyway. The wonderful thing about this foil is that it comes from 100% recycled aluminum. BAM, double recycled. What more can you ask for?
Compost food waste
I’ve started my own veggie garden. (Attempt number 100) The best way to make them grow the way you want them is to create your own compost. And what better way to do that than to compost your own food waste. You might just have too much food waste. Then recycle or reuse plastic you can’t get rid of.
Cloth food bowl covers
Personally I have not tried these cloth food bowl covers myself as most of my containers come with its own lid. But if you want to get fancy get some of these nicely designed food bowl covers.
Loose Tea Leaves
Every single little tea bag has some plastic in. So get some loose tea leaves, use a french press or buy a tea strainer and compost the leaves after you used them.
If possible buy food at a zero-waste store where you can use your own containers. Choose vegetables and fruit that are package free. Take your own containers when buying meat at the butcher.
Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins
Make or buy your own colorful napkins. It can spruce up any dinner party and bring some color into your kitchen.
Create your own dish soap or buy some eco-friendly dish soap in your own container at a zero-waste store.
Use your own DIY cleaner recipe or buy one at a zero-waste store, in a glass or reusable plastic container of course. I found this lovely DIY recipe for stubborn stains but use my own all-purpose cleaner to clean my sink.
All-Purpose DIY Recipe
I use ½ vinegar, ½ water with some organic bleach and use it as an all-purpose kitchen cleaner.
These are some of the things I have tried and that I found worked for my zero waste kitchen. Just by doing a little you can help to reduce your own waste. Moral of the story is just to be mindful of what you buy and how you use items. You don’t need to go buy all these zero waste alternatives. You can make some of them yourself or ask someone if they have some to share. Please let me know of more zero waste tips for the kitchen and around the home. I am eager to learn and find out more ways I can reduce our family’s waste.
Click here for more information about reducing your waste in the bathroom.
Click here for a comprehensive list of zero waste replacements around your home or take a look at the zero waste directory to find a zero-waste store near you.