Reducing Waste in the Kitchen

Lately, I’ve been trying to learn more about zero waste practices.  Taking care of our environment has always been important to me, and I’m realizing that I have room for improvement when it comes to minimizing my environmental footprint.  In making a conscious effort to reduce waste in my home, I’ve found that using less goes hand in hand with a simpler, more intentional existence.  As someone who often struggles with anxiety, simplifying has also helped me to lead a calmer and happier life (win win!).

Since I spend most of my day in the kitchen, it made sense to start there when it came to implementing reduced waste practices.  Instead of trying to completely overhaul my lifestyle, I’ve made small, sustainable changes over the last few months that have (happily) really stuck!  Here are some of the ways that I’ve cut back on garbage in my day to day life:

  1. Compost, compost, compost! If you’re not already familiar with composting, learn more about the practice and how to get started here.  I have a small countertop compost bin where I religiously compost all vegetable scraps and coffee grinds – I empty it periodically into a larger outdoor compost bin where the scraps are eventually transformed into nutrient dense soil – everything goes back to the Earth!  According to the EPA, nearly ¼ of our collective waste is organic material that can be composted!
  2. Meal Planning. I find that meal planning can really cut back on food waste – if I have recipes/meals in mind when I’m shopping, I’m much more likely to use everything up and can avoid having to throw out (compost!) produce past its prime.
  3. DIY Cleaning Products. Commercial cleaning products often come packaged in single-use plastic bottles – yes, the bottles are recyclable, but why not eliminate them altogether?  A few months back, I started making my own all-purpose cleaner and laundry detergent.  Both recipes are super simple, effective, and much cheaper than store bought versions!
  4. Buying in Bulk. I’ve been shopping the bulk bin aisle more often – I bring my own bags/containers and fill up on things like nuts, grains, beans, legumes, dried fruit, flours, and even nutritional yeast.  When you shop in bulk, it not only saves money, but eliminates the packaging that would typically come with the product – also, you can buy as much/little as you need.
  5. Replacing Disposable Items with Reusable Ones. Plastic utensils, plastic straws, paper napkins, paper towels, plastic bags, coffee cups, coffee sleeves, coffee lids, water bottles, Ziploc bags, sandwich bags, plastic wrap, foil…these are all things (to name a few!) that I was using on the regular and have made a conscious effort to reduce.  I have reusable flatware and metal straws for dining on the go, tote an insulated coffee mug and/or reusable coffee sleeve for Starbucks runs, and at home, I store food in glass containers instead of in Ziploc bags/plastic wrap/foil.  I’ve made an effort to start using rags in place of paper towels and cloth napkins in place of paper ones, and always try to remember to bring my own bags to the grocery store.
  6. Giving Old Items New Life. I save marinara sauce and jam jars for food storage, and old toothbrushes for cleaning.  Plastic grocery store bags become small wastebasket liners or are used to pick up dog poop when I take our pup on walks.
  7. Reducing, overall. I’m buying less in general – I find that the more “stuff” I own, the more cluttered my life feels, and the less waste I’m ultimately creating.  When I do make purchases, I try to consider if it’s something I really need or want before plunking down my credit card.  I’m very guilty of ordering lots of stuff from Amazon Prime, but lately have been conscious of the excessive packaging that comes with many of my orders.  Instead, I’ve been driving to brick and mortar stores (preferably small businesses) to buy things.  It eliminates the excess packaging, and it also forces me to think a little bit more about whether I truly need or want something – it’s much easier to click “purchase” than it is to get in the car and drive to the store.

I still have a (very) long way to go before I can confidently say that I’m remotely close to “zero waste”, but I’m encouraged by the small changes I’ve made, and I’m already seeing a difference in the number of garbage bags that we fill up each week.  Have you made any changes to reduce waste in your home?  I’d love to hear your tips!

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