Zero Waste Kitchen: 5 Simple Hacks You Can Do Today!
Photo by Uliana Kopanytsia on Unsplash
Why Aim for A Zero Waste Kitchen?
A zero-waste kitchen, or any other zero waste room for that matter, seems like a daunting prospect. We’re so used to the convenience and instant-ness our modern life presents.
But we all know that we need to make gradual steps to ensure that we still have a working planet come the next decades.
So if you’re like us, and you’re ready to be on this journey, then let’s jump in!
But first: let’s make sure what’s the best way to go about it.
Zero waste practitioners suggest that it’s a good idea to start room-by-room. You don’t want to end up with a home that’s turned upside down trying to make every inch more eco-friendly.
So let’s focus on having a waste-free kitchen, shall we? This is where most household waste is produced. And the food wastage impact and costs are staggering - according to data, the average American family of four throws out $1,500 in food waste!
Making small changes towards a zero-waste kitchen can create a substantial impact on reducing your impact and lessening money and resources wasted on throwing stuff out.
5 Simple Ways to Have a Zero Waste Kitchen
Trying to cultivate zero-waste kitchen can be intimidating. After all, cooking just one meal for a family can generate a lot of trash – compostable and not. But contrary to what you may assume, there’s no need to buy a zero-waste kitchen kit or anything like that. You can start low waste cooking or low impact eating. Let’s start with the simple, doable ones:
1. Reuse containers for your storage needs
If you shop regularly, you’ll surely amass a lot of glass bottles of all shapes and sizes. So why not reuse most of them?
Glass is among the easiest materials to reuse because you can store them in the fridge, in the pantry, and easily wash them afterward. One of the easy ways to bring less trash is to do this simple zero waste swap.
Tin coffee cans and other metal containers can store dry goods. And you don’t need to part with your plastic containers, either. As long as they are still usable, you can prevent them from entering our full-capacity landfills, which is a win in itself.
Lately, we’ve been reusing wine and whiskey bottles (we’re not spiraling, don’t worry) for everything, from condiments like olive oil and vinegar to home accessories like candle holders and flower vases.
2. Don’t scrap your food scraps just yet
Going zero waste in your kitchen involves doing something about the food scraps you inevitably accumulate. Sure, you could always compost them. But not everyone has access to it at home or within the community.
The good thing is many food scraps can still serve other purposes; you just have to know and remember what they are!
Here are a few clever and fuss-free ways to reuse some common food scraps:
Photo by Julia Kuzenkov on Unsplash
Fruit peels for plants and for odor control – Don’t throw away peelings from citrus like lemons and oranges, and from bananas as well. You can still use them to beautify your plants. Just soak these peels in a jar (reuse one!) for a day or two and pour the water on your plant babies.
We’ve also tried using these to make homemade cleaning agents smell citrusy. And we’ve even thrown a few peels into the garbage disposer. Instant deodorizer!
Old veggies as stock – Let’s face it, there’s always some produce that ends up old and gnarly in your fridge or pantry. We say, throw them in a pot, not in the bin. Old carrots, onions, celery, even apples can still create a rich homemade stock. For minimal effort, you’re able to use them and keep from buying soup stock from the store.
Banana peels for polishing – Aside from making vitamin water for your plants, you could also use banana peels for polishing the plant leaves. Rub them on leather shoes, too for a good shine.
Leeks, spring onions and bulbs for replanting – Start a homegrown garden with your vegetable scraps. Place the root end of leeks, spring onions and onion bulbs in a tray of shallow water to grow them. If you have a bit of soil (which is likely since plants are all the craze right now) you can also plant them straight onto a pot of soil.
Coffee grounds as fertilizer – If you’re a coffee drinker, you drink it everyday, not occasionally. You usually end up with mounds of used coffee grounds that will be thrown away. Not so fast! You can also make it more useful if you put the grounds in the compost bin or throw it directly on soil. It’s a natural pesticide that also feeds our earthworm friends.
3. Eliminate (or lessen) single-use items
This is another zero waste kitchen essential! It’s time to do away with disposables. One of the simplest (and money-saving) ways you can go zero waste in your kitchen is to avoid using single-use items.
Whether it’s single-use plastic, paper, or can, these are designed to be used once only to be thrown away. Using these items only once means we’re also throwing away all the raw materials, manufacturing efforts, and energy consumed to create these items in the first place.
It takes getting used to, but anyone can try these simple zero waste kitchen swaps:
Cloth rags and napkins in place of paper towels (reuse old textiles or invest in high-quality kitchen napkins)
Metal, glass, or silicone straws in place of plastic or paper straws
Cloth, parchment, silicone or beeswax food covers in place of plastic cling wrap
Glass or other reusable tableware in place of disposable plates and cups
Metal tea strainer in place of teabags
4. Choose stovetop
Zero waste kitchen isn’t just about smarter food storage or food waste disposal, going low waste cooking will also involve power usage.
Our kitchens aren’t only a source of waste, we also use a lot of energy when we’re cooking, heating stuff up, or keeping appliances on. We use considerable energy each day. Remember, energy comes in many forms: heat, electricity, nuclear energy, electromagnetic energy – even our eating gives us caloric energy.
The thing is, when we transfer energy from one form to another, it’s not a hundred percent efficient. Some of it disperses into the surroundings.
Tom Williams, a researcher at National Renewable Energy Lab details how each appliance compares in relation to which one uses the least amount of energy (electricity) for heat:
Microwave is around 50% efficient, pretty low as half the energy is lost in the process of converting electricity to microwaves.
Electric stovetop is around 70% efficient, but it varies on the type of pot or kettle. The heat is lost on the air around the stove.
Electric teakettle is around 80% efficient, as it is well insulated and the heating coil is sitting directly in the water.
Induction stove is 85% efficient, as it creates electromagnetic current that places heat directly in a pot.
Gas stovetop is around 70% efficient with natural gas (no electricity needed). Like the electric stovetop, some energy goes to heating the air around the flame instead of into the pot.
So how do you decide if you want a zero waste kitchen?
It depends on what you have of course. Not everyone has an induction stovetop, and sometimes you just want to zap food in the microwave (gourmet chefs be damned).
Experts suggest that it all boils down to our behavior. Need to boil water? Measure it and boil only what you will consume.
Williams points out that if a person boils a whole pot, the energy consumption is quadrupled!
5. Keep trimming
Anyone who’s decided to go zero waste must not have come to that decision while at Bed Bath and Beyond or IKEA.
We get it. The goods in these gigantic stores are sometimes too good to pass.
But do you really need a veggie spiralizer? Truffle shaver? A bread machine? (Hint: the oven will do).
Most of our kitchens house some of the most useless and gadgets and gizmos. They’ll just sit there for years, dusty and unused.
Now that you’re actively advocating zero waste in your life, reflect before you buy. Do you really need it? If you need it, buy it. If you buy it, use it and take care of it.
A more streamlined, minimalist kitchen might just motivate you to go the extra mile towards a low impact, low waste kitchen.
Zero Waste Kitchen Hacks: The Takeaway
Looks like your zero waste kitchen is starting to shape up, huh?
We’ll be sharing more tips as we go along. These are just five of the many, creative ways to step up your sustainable lifestyle and create a more low waste cooking routine at home.
You’re only bound by your imagination when it comes to thinking of strategies to lessen our impact on the environment.
We’d love to hear your comments, tips, questions, recipes, whatever you want to share! Drop us a comment below.