To continue the zero-waste home series (and piggyback off my previous zero-waste post about grocery shopping + meal planning), I’m turning my attention to the kitchen. This is the room in our house where I spend the most time and probably one of the most zero-waste areas as well.
So let’s get right to it!
Eliminate plastic and paper
You would be surprised at how much you’ll de-clutter by simply removing these two types of items from the kitchen and replacing them with other materials/products. Not to mention, how much more aesthetically pleasing your kitchen will look and feel!
Some of our favorite kitchen item swaps include:
glass water bottles instead of plastic water bottles
bamboo drying rack instead of plastic dish-drying rack (we hand-wash all of our dishes)
old dishrags and cloth napkins instead of paper towels and paper napkins
sturdy plates, cups, and utensils instead of paper plates, cups, or utensils
stainless steel pour over coffee filter instead of paper or plastic filters
glass containers such as Pyrex or Glasslock (which still have plastic lids, unfortunately. Ball jars or Weck jars also make great substitutes) for plastic containers
metal or glass mixing bowls and spoons instead of plastic (I have used metal bowls in the past and I had to switch to glass because I couldn’t stand the “ting!” sound every time a spoon hit the sides)
Now I’m not saying you have to go out right now and completely swap everything. It’s taken us almost five years of marriage to swap out items and we’ve still got more to do! But every little bit makes me feel oh-so-much better 🙂
Food storage and preservation
We are total glass jar hoarders. Okay, maybe me more than Asa. We love using Ball jars for most of our storage, and any other glass jar that we come across, whether from an old peanut butter jar or salsa jar, we keep it if it fits with our style. It is so aesthetically pleasing to me to store food this way and I just enjoy seeing all of our items when we open the cupboard.
When we bring groceries home, I immediately take food that is packaged in a plastic bag (I know*) out of its bag and put it in a jar or glass storage container. Produce in the fridge (like bell peppers or carrots or broccoli or apples) is stored as-is: nothing containing it. Food like cilantro or asparagus is placed in a jar of water. *We are continuing to be more intentional about not purchasing food stored in plastic! Buying in bulk helps to reduce the use of plastic but we aren’t always as consistent with it as we could be.
Food waste and preparation
We started composting recently which has been really great. We keep a bowl in the freezer for compost scraps and then once it is full we dump the compost into our compost bin. Our trash bins are much lighter (and less smelly!). Right now, our purpose for composting is to put our food waste where it belongs: outside in the earth and not in our trash or landfills. Have you seen the statistics on how much food we waste in the US each year? It’s insane and completely unnecessary. A rule in our household that we are teaching our daughters is “we don’t waste food” and we take that very seriously. We also recycle a lot which helps to cut down on waste… at least, we hope.
Another way to cut down on food waste is to make your own homemade meals. I know this isn’t always possible for everyone every day, but it is worth mentioning. When you make your own meals and meal plan for them, you are purchasing the right amount of food that you need. Avoiding pre-packaged or convenience food also cuts down on waste. Making meals in your own kitchen is a very visual way of seeing the ingredients your meals contain as well as how much preparation and clean up goes into the dining experience. I am reminded of a quote from a documentary I watched, “the amount of time it takes you to enjoy a meal should be at least as long as it took to prepare it.” I think that is very respectful and positive way to view the meaning of a meal.
It is a lot of work, absolutely. But I have realized that when I am more mindful about the process, I aim to create less messes and less waste. Not to mention, the benefits of serving a homemade meal to your family and friends: healthier options, relationship building and bonding as you dine around the table together, and the sacrifice and selflessness of it all.
Additionally, having pretty utensils and linens to use during preparation and dining will make preparing meals and cleaning kitchens much more enjoyable and purpose-filled. If you don’t enjoy looking at or using certain things, then your experience of those tasks will be even more dreadful. So, replace what you don’t like and start delighting in household tasks!
I think that about sums up the topic of zero-waste in the kitchen. Any questions on items or areas I may have missed?