Author: Kristen Summers, Everyday Sustainability Committee
Sustainability Day is celebrated on the fourth Wednesday of October. The kitchen is one of the most wasteful areas of your house. If you are looking for ways to transition to a low or zero waste kitchen, here are some ideas for you to implement this Sustainability Day.
1. Food storage & waste
Wasted food is a huge problem. When food and other organic matter goes into the landfill, it becomes methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas. Reduce food waste by properly storing food and then composting food when it is done. You can also reduce plastic waste by investing in silicone storage bags to replace ziplock baggies, beeswax covers to replace cling wrap, or hoarding glass jars to fill with your leftovers.
Four tips that have helped me a lot in reducing food waste are:
1. Learn which fruits and vegetables can be stored together. Some fruits and veggies emit ethylene gas which causes other fruits and veggies to ripen…and then rot quickly. Here is a resource that can help you properly segregate your gassy fruits.
2. Label your food. Have you ever opened a jar of spaghetti sauce and then immediately forgotten how old it is resulting in you eventually tossing an almost-full jar, or is that just me? I’ve gotten in the habit of writing the date that I opened jars and containers directly on the container with a sharpie. That gives me the confidence I need to know which items need to be eaten quickly and which are still good. This is also a great habit for leftovers.
3. Create a menu and shopping list ahead of time. Taking the time to be thoughtful and intentional about meal planning greatly reduces food waste. It also encourages healthy habits like cooking at home with fresh produce.
4. Save your scraps! When preparing dinner, I used to chop my veggies and toss the ends and other nibbly-bits into the trash. No more! Now when I chop my veggies, I toss their heads into a baggie that I keep in the freezer. Once it is full of onions, carrot, and celery heads (or whatever), I dump them into a pot and make a delightful stock. Those veggies can then be thrown into the compost.
2. Grocery shopping
We all know to ‘remember our reusable bags’ but we also know that is easier said than done. Despite having a pile of bags at home, I often forget to bring them to the store. If that sounds familiar, these are two tips that I have found to be helpful.
1. Keep them in your car! This sounds obvious, but keeping a little no-waste kit in your car can be a great idea. I have my reusable bags, a coffee mug, a set of silverware and straw, and a to-go container at the ready in my backseat for whenever I may need them.
2. Skip the bag altogether. Avoid bags altogether by loading up your shopping cart and then transferring your groceries to empty bins in your trunk. That makes it easier to carry things in in bulk and is one less thing that you have to remember.
3. Paper products
Paper towels are a thing of the past in my household and this has been one of the easiest things to transition. I have a large collection of rags that I keep under my sink that are on the ready to clean up any spills or to clean my counters. These then go directly in the wash once I have a big enough load to get cleaned and sanitized.
I’ve also replaced paper napkins with cloth napkins, which has added a dose of whimsy to dinner.
4. Cleaning products
Another transition that you can make is cutting out plastic bottled cleaning products. there are many commercially available options where you can buy a reusable spray bottle and cleaning product concentrate. This is true for everything from glass cleaner to dish detergent.
Remember that the transition to low or zero waste doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t be pressured into tossing the “bad stuff” in your kitchen to replace it with low waste alternatives because the most sustainable option is always going to be to use what you have first.
Do you have a favorite low or zero waste kitchen swap? We’d love to know what you did. Leave us a comment below and let us know how it went.