When you're trying to commit to a sustainable lifestyle, one of the first places to look at is how much waste your kitchen is producing. With how much clutter there seems to be in our kitchens all the time, despite our best efforts, the concept of a zero-waste kitchen may feel intimidating and unachievable, but there are plenty of steps you can take to get closer to your goal.
Ditch as many disposable items as you can
Kitchen towels and tissue papers seem convenient, but they add up to a lot of waste. We all have a bunch of old, hole-ridden clothes lying about in our closets that can easily be turned into rags. Invest in some cloth napkin sets for serving guests. There are plastic-free alternatives to clear plastic wraps that you can look into, such as beeswax wraps.
Reuse all single-use items as many times as possible
As much as we want to have a perfect life, we have and might continue to have some relationship with single use items. Try to reuse them as many times to make it worthwhile. Clean and reuse any of these items you might end up having in your kitchen such as cling wraps, plastic bags, aluminum foils, etc.
Avoid plastic containers and opt for metal or glass options for your next purchase
Plastic containers, including water bottles, not only pollute the environment but they are full of toxins that can damage your health. Switch to containers made of metal or glass. They are more cost-effective, as they'll last for years and are endlessly recyclable, and they're significantly better for your health. Even better, upcycle what you already have. Use that glass coffee jar to store your spices, or an old bottle of wine to store your oil.
Recycle all the plastic you can
Segregate your wet and dry waste in separate waste bins to make sure both can get recycled. Sign up for waste management services near you that can help you recycle your plastic waste, and finds ways to reuse or upcycle what you can.
Think before adding a new gadget
Kitchen appliances such as air fryers, toasters, or microwave ovens, when thrown away, spew toxic e-waste into the environment. Before buying a new gadget, make sure to try your best to fix what you already have. A lot of appliances we buy are only a matter of convenience and aren't necessary for our lives, so make sure you are only buying what you need. Look into refurbished gadgets or at least appliances that are the energy efficient.
Plan your meals
Meal planning is in! Planning your meals ahead of time (say, for an upcoming week) will give you a fair idea about what you need to buy and will lead to remarkably less waste and save a lot of time you spend deliberating your meals every day.
Maintain an inventory to avoid over-buying
Remember to only buy what's actually necessary when going to buy your necessities. We often tend to buy more food than we need, and keeping track of the supplies that you already have can help you avoid wasting food as well as money. Making a shopping list before going to the store and vowing to stick to it is a good way to go about this.
Eat a more plant-based diet
When thinking of a zero-waste kitchen, it's necessary to think about what our actions mean outside the kitchen as well. Favoring a plant-based diet and minimizing your consumption of animal-based products is friendly for both your health and the environment. Research nutritional values of different types of foods and see what suits your tastes and needs.
Compost what you have left
Try and use as much of your food scraps as you can – look hard and you will probably find a home for your leftover veggies in a salad or a wholesome broth. But for whatever is left, composting is a great way to avoid letting it go to waste. Recycle your organic waste and turn them into a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your home garden, or sign up for compost collecting services available in your area.
Invest in long-lasting cookware
Cast iron and stainless steel cookware last a long time and are infinitely safer for you, unlike a lot of cookware that come with toxic non-stick coating (often made of plastic) that start chipping with repeated use and get into your food, and have a much smaller shelf life.
Make DIY cleaners
The cleaners that we use tend to have a lot of hazardous chemicals that are toxic to us and pollute our water bodies. Making your own cleaners with organic materials such as vinegar and lemon is easy and there are plenty of DIY guides online that you can look at.
Opt for coconut coir brushes for cleaning
Instead of buying wired utensil cleaners or plastic brushes that require frequent changing and increase plastic waste, opt for the same made out of coconut coir, which is a widely available, tough and versatile material that is eco-friendly and completely biodegradable.
Buy your supplies in bulk
Buying your non-perishable food items (such as sugar, flour, lentils and tea) in bulk instead of small packets significantly reduces waste. There are some stores which have bulk sections and if you have those in your area, bring your own containers to the store and ask them to fill it up instead of using single use packaging at all. For most of us that is not possible, so buy your products in large quantities so the packaging to product ratio is lesser.
Use a reusable shopping bag
One of the biggest problem in the kitchen is the humble single use plastic. The easiest way to cut that out is by carrying your own reusable bags while shopping for groceries and refusing the plastic bags that stores and supermarkets usually offer.
Buy your fruits smartlyBuying from local stores instead of supermarket chains (who usually sell them in unnecessary plastic packaging) can do wonders to reduce your waste. They're also fresher and more affordable. Buying seasonal fruits is also more sustainable instead of going for exotic, imported options that leave a much larger carbon footprint on their way from the orchards all the way to your pantry.
Stop using plastic strawsSingle use plastic straws are barely ever recycled and end up in landfills, or worse, our water bodies. They pose a serious threat to aquatic life forms. Invest in metal straws instead, or go straw free for your drinks.