There’s no question that the waste we produce is completely out of control. Estimates put the numbers at around 2.12 billion tons of waste annually, much of which isn’t properly handled. It’s a scary thought, but certainly not a reason to simply give up and despair. By adopting zero-waste lifestyles we can drastically reduce our waste generation, cutting individual contribution by up to 90%.
Sadly, due to the nature of modern living, it’s all but impossible to reduce waste completely. However, studies show that those living zero-waste lifestyles produce just a jar of waste annually, as opposed to a small mountain. But how does a zero-waste lifestyle work?
You can get started right now in the area that most matters; your kitchen.
The majority of all households generate most of their waste with food products. So, of course, the kitchen is the best place to start making a difference.
Here are 8 zero-waste kitchen ideas that really work.
1. Shop At Farmers Markets
Amongst the biggest culprits in waste generation are supermarkets. Of course, supermarkets are convenient, and the average person won’t survive without visiting them at least once in a while. However, reliance on supermarkets can be drastically slashed, and by extension, a big portion of waste generation is reduced.
How? Simply by visiting farmers' markets rather than supermarkets. Since farm fresh produce comes directly from a farm, a significant amount of needless waste is eliminated. From packaging and plastics to the emissions of delivery trucks, farmers' markets are a big step in the right direction. Just don't forget to take your own basket, bag or box to carry your produce home in.
2. Reusable Shopping Bags
An unbelievable 5 trillion plastic shopping bags are produced yearly. Want to start helping cut that number down? Use reusable shopping bags.
You can buy reusable shopping bags, or you can make your own. Many reusable bags are made from recycled materials such as bottle caps, so they don’t add to the waste problem.
3. Grow Your Own Herbs
Fresh herbs are wonderful for use in cooking, but they tend to get sold packaged in plastic containers or bags, creating a lot of waste. The zero-waste alternative is simple. Grow your own!
Herbs are amongst the easiest plants to grow and they don’t require much space, either. You can set up a small indoor herb garden on your windowsill and simply cut off a few leaves whenever you need them.
4. Turn Scraps Into Food
Did you know that the vast majority of food waste can easily get converted into more food? It’s true, which makes you wonder why there’s any food waste at all. From vegetable broth to carrot pesto, and even watermelon rind and tomato sauce, scraps are an almost unlimited source of additional food.
The trick here is to not just be selective about what you buy, but to consider how each food item will impact your waste output in the long run. For example, when buying watermelon, also take into account what you’ll be doing with the rinds. This leads us to our next idea…
5. Composting Food Scraps
Turning your kitchen into a constant chain of cooking can be time-consuming. The chances are, you won’t have the option to turn all scraps into more food. Not to worry, there’s always the composting option.
Compost is perhaps the most overlooked zero-waste solution in the world. The process is nothing short of miraculous, using only natural chemical processes to create extremely nutrient-rich soil. You can throw everything from the scraps of fruit from making smoothies to your coffee grounds into it, reducing your waste output dramatically.
The compost will come in very handy for the already mentioned herb garden and even more so for the vegetable patch, next on the list.
6. Grow Your Own Vegetables
Growing your own vegetables is a hugely rewarding process and it can help you to reach your zero waste kitchen goals in so many ways. Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, but you can also use your homemade compost, and grow vegetables from food scraps too.
You don’t need a lot of space to grow your own vegetables either. Even a few planters on a windowsill can yield a good crop, and you can rotate your plants seasonally. Before you get started, do some research into growing different vegetables and determine what will work best in your environment.
Tomatoes, carrots and lettuce are easy to grow and ideal for use in a variety of different meals, as are chillies, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
7. Change Your Water & Soda Habits
There are many parts of the world where tap water isn't safe and locals buy bottles of water to drink instead. This means that huge quantities of bottled water get purchased, creating enormous quantities of plastic waste. Rather than buying bottled water, filtering tap water is a far better solution.
Then there’s the soda problem. Aluminum cans and soda bottles also create a huge amount of waste. The solution is simple. Invest in a soda maker that you can use to make your own drinks, can- and bottle free.
8. Start Zero-Waste Cooking
Lastly, and tying into many of the other points on this list, we have zero-waste food preparation and cooking.
You can start by making a list before you go shopping. This will reduce the chances of buying food unnecessarily or buying too much and having it go to waste. If you want to buy food in bulk, you can plan ahead for this too. If you know what you need for every meal, you won’t end up with food that goes off simply because you didn't get around to cooking it.
If you’ve cooked and have leftovers, ensure that you save these properly. Pop them in a sealable, reusable container and freeze them so they don’t go off.
Meet Your Zero-Waste Kitchen Goals
A zero-waste kitchen is something we can all aspire to. Use these 8 tips to get you started, and don’t forget to recycle too! If everyone works towards the same goals, we’ll all benefit, and Earth will benefit most of all.