When thinking about household waste, going ‘zero waste’ can be very intimidating. I like the terms, ‘low waste’ or ‘reducing waste’, which makes me feel positive about continuing to actively change and improve our family’s household habits when it comes to leading a more eco friendly lifestyle.
Being just the three of us, with a relatively small kitchen, I was often surprised (and appalled) at how much waste we would produce. I therefore started looking at all things going into the bin/bins with a new view to reduce this as much as possible. Here are just seven easy tips to reduce waste in your kitchen. However, there are many more!
1. Compost organic matter
Food waste is a major problem contributing to landfill and accountable for a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. By composting food waste, we can not only stop this problem, but also turn organic waste matter into nutrient rich compost for our gardens.
There is a difference between what is home compostable and what is not. Some compostable items can’t break down in a home compost system. However, many can. You’ll soon work out what doesn’t as there will be items just left almost as they were in your compost matter. Items that have hidden plastics will also leave smaller bits of plastic in your compost.
There are numerous home compost systems available, even for small apartments with no yard. Do your research and look into what will work best for your household, as the easier it is for you to do, the more likely it will be done. It can be a little trial and error at first, keeping the balance of wet and dry materials, however it’s easy to pick up and many composting systems nowadays take a lot of the work out of the process for you.
2. Reduce single use items
There are many single use items used in the kitchen which can be replaced with reusables. Think about how you store food and leftovers. Cling wrap is a single use plastic that’s easy to cut down on as there are numerous alternatives, such as wax wraps, silicone wraps, cloth bowl covers etc. Or simply place an upside down bowl over a plate of food.
Rather than using sandwich and snack bags for lunch boxes etc, use washable and reusable containers.
Other washable and reusable swaps that can be made in the kitchen are upcycled cloths (or there are a number of ‘unpaper’ towels on the market) for paper towels, and cloth napkins for paper napkins. You can also wash dish cloths numerous times before they can no longer be used.
3. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk wherever you can produces much less packaging. You can buy most pantry items at bulk stores. Staples like pasta, rice, flour, spices and sugar are available, however, so are many snack foods, liquids like oils, vinegars and sauces and cleaning and personal care items.
There are also bulk sections in supermarkets and many pantry and refills markets stalls are popping up for refilling items in bulk.
Keep your stash of shopping and produce bags and jars handy and you’re set to go.
4. Set up a recycling sorting system
Recycling. It isn’t pretty and sometimes doesn’t feel very easy. The easier you make recycling at home the more likely you’ll do it, and it becomes habit.
Where you keep your kitchen bin (landfill) you can also keep a curb side recycling bin, to be able to empty each into Council collection bins easily.
You can keep a funky looking shopping bag near the front door, or anywhere else you’ll remember it, to collect soft plastics for recycling via Redcycle at the supermarket. Then the bag doubles its use to bring your shopping home once you’ve emptied the soft plastics.
Look for somewhere tucked away where you can keep containers of harder to recycle objects, like batteries or other items you take to specific points to recycle. A drawer or part of a cupboard somewhere with some empty, clean jars you’ve collected works a treat.
5. Upcycle items like empty jars
Empty jars can be used for so many things from collecting small objects for recycling, storing art and craft items and freezing sauces.
You don’t always need to buy new pantry jars or even vases for flowers. Each time you finish a large jar or bottle of something, look at to see if you could turn into storing pantry items or displaying flowers, or even use as candle holders.
Plastic yoghurt tubs can be used to germinate seedlings which not only saves them from going into landfill, but also saves on you collecting those tiny plastic pots with seedlings from nurseries. Metal cans are great for this as well.
There are so many uses for different kitchen items. Get creative and think about items before binning or recycling to see if there are other uses for them.
6. Buy items in glass instead of plastic
This is a simple step you can start next time something in your kitchen that’s stored in plastic runs out. When replacing it look for the product in a glass container instead.
Sauces, spreads and drinks are easy to buy in glass. Tomato sauce, peanut butter, honey, juice and sparkling water are all things we now buy in glass that we didn’t used to.
7. Clean with eco friendly refillable products
There are so many little things we can do to keep our kitchens and homes clean without nasties or producing (too much) waste. Looking for no added fillers, cruelty free and locally made is a great place to start.
Refilling containers for your kitchen and cleaning items like dishwashing liquid, surface spray and floor cleaner creates less packaging waste. Refilling is better than recycling, where possible.
Wherever you are on your low waste journey, start with some small steps in your kitchen and you’ll be surprised how much progress you can make really quickly.
Small switches can lead to big changes.