What’s worse than emptying the kitchen trash bin?
No other chore is as nausea-inducing as taking out that stinky, and often drippy, bag out of your kitchen and to the curb. Every member of the family is supposed to have their turn, but why does it seem like you always have to do it?
But imagine if that chore somehow disappeared.
No, I’m not talking about an app which gets a professional kitchen trash thrower to your home on-demand (although that would be awesome too!).
I’m talking about the nuclear solution: completely eliminating the chore.
Think about it. Kitchen trash wouldn’t be an issue if you didn’t have any kitchen waste to begin with, right?
There are people who have taken this fact to heart and adopted a completely zero waste lifestyle – they need no trash bins because they produce no waste.
Examples like Bea Johnson, mom of two, who fits all of the trash she’s created into a jar. Same goes for Lauren Singer, who for over two years has only created a mason jar of garbage. Everything else they discard is either composted, recycled or reused – they don’t send anything to the dump.
Now, going completely zero waste is a significant undertaking – but what if we just focused on one room?
Sounds doable, right?
The Zero Waste Kitchen
Follow these 8 stupid-simple steps to a zero waste kitchen, and soon you’ll be saying goodbye to disgusting kitchen garbage bags once and for all.
1. Get a plan – A meal plan.
Did you know that 25 percent of all food bought by Americans is thrown away? It’s a huge shame and a major source of kitchen waste. This statistic shows that the first step to zero waste is reducing the amount of stuff that you buy overall.
This is easy to do with some planning. Very few people take the time to carefully plan their meals. But once you start, you can make accurate grocery lists, avoid impulse purchases and have a plan for all of the ingredients you bring home.
As a bonus, it could be fun to sit down with the family once a week to create the weekly meal plan.
2. Make multiple grocery trips.
If you look at grocery stores in Europe, you’ll be surprised as to how much smaller their bunches of herbs and lettuce are. In fact, all of their grocery store items are significantly smaller.
Why is that? It’s because Europeans do multiple grocery store trips a week. They take the approach of buying just what they need for the next few days, instead of purchasing huge amounts to last them a week or more. This greatly helps reduce waste.
Try sprinkling a bit of European flavor into your next grocery trip. Buy less than what you think you need, consciously choose the smaller bunches and do two grocery trips a week, instead of a big biweekly trip.
3. Make use of scraps.
There lots of fun stuff you can do with kitchen scraps. Onion peels add a hearty kick to soups and homemade broths. Add kale stems to your smoothies. Stick green onion ends into a pot of soil (or a cup of water!) and watch more grow. Check out Pinterest for some more scrappy ideas (see what I did there!).
4. Compost like it’s your job.
If you aren’t composting, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you are lucky to live in a city which offers composting services, use them immediately. If not, you can start a bin in your backyard, or subscribe to a private composting service.
If you are a true believer, you could even create a worm bin in your basement. These worm bins are very efficient and odorless, plus they generate supreme compost for your garden. Although this may seem gross, there is no way of getting to a zero waste kitchen if you are not composting. You can put the broom dust in there, food scraps and even leftovers.
5. Say yes to bulk.
Packaging is everywhere, and it’s filling up your trash bin. It doesn’t have to be this way – say YES to bulk and no to packaging. Bulk foods are typically cheaper and you can bring your own reusable bags and jars.
Remember: packaging is often made of plastic, which is made from oil, a non-renewable resource.
6. Make more from scratch.
You might scoff at the idea of making food from scratch, but some things are so easy that you really have no excuses. Learning to make foodstuffs from scratch is an essential part of the zero waste journey. It’s really not as hard as you think.
It can be as simple as making your own frozen fruits. Try making homemade salsa or granola to prove to yourself that these are truly easier, yummier and cheaper to make at home than dragging yourself to buy them from a store. One day you’ll graduate to making things like tofu and mustard on your own as well.
Try some of our super simple recipes for from-scratch inspiration:
7. Buy long-lasting products.
Why is it that when you buy a frying pan, you have to replace it every 3 years? You know what else is ridiculous: plastic stirring spoons. Did the person who invented that think cooking doesn’t require heat?
You don’t have to put up with this type of throwaway culture. Invest in quality tools which will last you a lifetime. Not all of these are expensive.
Cast iron skillets and other cast iron cookware are affordable and can last generations. Inexpensive wooden utensils are equally long-lasting. It’s an easy investment in your kitchen and planet earth.
Recycling should be your last line of defense after reducing, composting and reusing. But be sure to make use of this powerful zero waste tool.
A zero waste kitchen is within reach, it just requires some small and consistent lifestyle changes. Anyone can do it, whether you’re a mom like Bea Johnson, or a young college student like Lauren Singer.
Give it a try – no one will complain when there is no more trash to take out.
Which of these steps will you be implementing in your life first? What other tips do you have for a zero waste kitchen?
Top photo: Steve Larkin on Flickr