12 Simple Ways to Make Your Kitchen Zero Waste
Have you ever taken a look around the kitchen and become overwhelmed with the amount of plastic that will eventually become waste? Do you want to start your zero waste or less waste journey but don’t know where to start?
I am here to give you a few easy swaps and tricks to start reducing plastic in your very own kitchen!
Plastic production and consumption have catastrophic effects on our planet including oceans, ecosystems, and the wildlife that inhabit them. An insane amount of plastic is produced every single day amounting to about 300 millions of tons of plastic produced every year. Plastic consumption is quite a common thing and yet, most of the time, it goes unnoticed. We are confronted with it readily available and convenient during many parts of our daily lives. Have you ever stopped to wonder how much plastic you actually purchase and consume per day, per year, or even over the course of your lifetime? The results may shock you!
We’ve all heard of reduce, reuse, recycle… but what if there was more to it than just those three terms? Surprise, there is! There are a few more hierarchies used when it comes to zero waste models but let’s take a look at the simple one below.
It starts with reduce. The first step to a zero waste lifestyle should always be reducing the amount of waste we purchase and consume. Once we get in the habit of bringing less plastic into the home, we can then look at the next step: reuse it. Now, you might be thinking, ‘But I always recycle the plastic I purchase...’ Although recycling is a helpful system in some ways, it is definitely not a perfect system. Less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled globally, which means the rest of the plastic simply ends up in landfills as waste. This produces greenhouse gasses and can again, have negative effects on all parts of the planet. So, although plastic can be of value, most of us are consuming more than what is necessary.
But of course, there is good news!!! We all have so much power to reduce our plastic waste, and it’s not that difficult! It just takes a little extra planning and building of new habits. Plastic inhabits all parts of our lives and it can be an overwhelming battle to try to consume less, but let’s dive into some of the ways we can each reduce plastic and work towards having zero waste kitchens! :)
PART 1: Do an inventory of what you already have in your kitchen.
Like moving to another home, you truly don’t realize how much you have until you really take a look. Once your plastic radar is on, you’re ready to evaluate what you have. The next part of the process is to look at where you can reduce plastic! Let’s start with a few basic steps.
Bring in less plastic in.
The easiest place to start is fruits and vegetables. Are there any alternative non-packaged options?
Photo: feministjulie on flickr
Nature provides us with beautiful packaging in the form of a peel on many produce items. For example, bananas are a wonderful and nutritious snack which don’t need a bag! Opt for loose bananas, no need to wrap them in a grocery store plastic produce bag. They’ll come out of the bag when they get home anyways! Sometimes reducing your plastic-wrapped produce means starting to shop at a different store. For example, in San Diego, Sprouts has a great produce section with the majority of produce devoid of packaging. If you prefer the convenience of bags, you can try the zero waste option of reusable mesh or muslin bags! They’re very affordable as well.
Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are definitely convenient and sometimes, that’s just what you need to consume enough servings of fruits and vegetables that day! Trick: prep, cut and chop all of your fruits and vegetables after grocery shopping for quick use all week!
Shop bulk sections with reusable bags.
Bulk sections are one of my favorite parts of a grocery store, and definitely a factor when I’m choosing which store to shop at. Not all stores have a bulk section, but if you can find one, it’s totally worth it! Not only can you save money, but you can bring your own bags and opt out of plastic packaging! Many stores with bulk sections sell bags to use or you can purchase some online!
*Due to the current state of coronavirus, many bulk sections now have each item pre-packaged in plastic bags but this is a trick to keep up your sleeve for when they open back up ;)
PART 2: REPLACE COMMON KITCHEN ITEMS
If the plastic items you already have work perfectly, there is no need to throw them away! If for any reason you are looking to purchase any new items, this is a great time to look into an alternative! Here are some suggestions for commonly used kitchen items. Keep in mind these might have a more expensive upfront cost but will likely last a lot longer than a plastic version.
BAMBOO KITCHEN UTENSILS
Bamboo cooking utensils make a great alternative to plastic ones.
Fun facts about bamboo
- It naturally regrows when it is harvested.
- It grows much faster than hardwood, which is often used as an alternative.
- It does not require fertilizers or pesticides!
- It grows up to 3 ft per day!
METAL ICE TRAYS
Metal ice trays are a great alternative to plastic. They may be a bit more expensive but people love them!
GLASS MIXING BOWLS
Glass mixing bowls are a great alternative to plastic ones! Although plastic mixing bowls may last a while, buying them still creates demand for plastic and they can’t be recycled.
Plastic dishes can leach plastic into food over time. We know ceramic dishes are not great for babies and toddlers but they are a great alternative to plastics.
MASON JARS & GLASS TUPPERWARE
- Storage for pantry items such as beans, flour, grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
- Use for storage in the fridge or freezer (for meal prepping or for taking food on the go)
- Make great drinking glasses
OLD GLASS JARS
Glass storage containers also make a great alternative to plastic. They can be heavy to lug around for extended periods of time but for in the home or a quick walk into work, they are just as good as their plastic counterparts!
If you don’t have the budget for mason jars or simply don’t want to purchase them, old sauce jars are also great for pretty much all of the same uses! Save old jars from tomato sauce to capers and they can be reused over and over!
The only tricky part is getting off the labels. Check out: 9 Different Ways To Get Sticky Labels Off Glass Jars
REUSABLE FOOD STORAGE BAGS
Okay, a lot of us may refrain from plastic grocery bags but what about plastic storage bags? They’re all too convenient for on-the-go snacks and storage. But what if I told you that you can have the convenience of those plastic food storage bags without them being single use?! Introducing reusable food storage bags (which are actually usually made of silicone)! They’re easy to rinse and even dishwasher safe but aren’t single use. A win-win!
BEES WAX WRAP
Plastic wrap is also known and widely used due to its convenience but is single use, or sometimes zero use (you know, when it gets tangled on it’s way out or torn into too small of a piece). Bees wax wrap became widely popular in the past few years as an alternative to plastic wrap! It is made with a thin piece of cotton that has a sticky coat usually consisting of resin, beeswax and jojoba oil.
We can all start with one single action.
Although there are many ways that you can reduce plastic, that does not mean that each of us needs to immediately take all of these steps at once. Creating a zero waste life takes time, and honestly, a little effort.... But it is all SO worth it in the end.
P.S. At SOULMUCH, we are putting in the effort to move towards zero waste step-by-step by offering compostable cookie packaging!