When you think of kitchen waste, what comes to mind?
I’m guessing food. Yes food is a huge waste that adds a bulk to your garbage bag that turns against you rather quickly. But what else? If you live in a town that recycles, first off, hooray for you, but secondly, weekly recycling doesn’t take care of everything. I’ve heard of some pretty picky towns where only cans, plastic bottles and cardboard is allowed. What about the bread packaging, inside the cereal plastic bag, frozen veggie plastic bags…if you eat cheese, the plastic around the cheese and don’t even get me started on PLASTIC BAGGIES. The list goes on and on in the plastic department. What about paper towels and napkins? Foil? Styrofoam? The wrapping from your deli meat?
These are all sources of unwanted waste. I say unwanted because the recycle folks don’t want this stuff. So it goes in the landfill.
My kitchen waste revelation came one day a few years ago when my garbage can smelled so horrid I just couldn’t take it any more…okay, enough is enough. We didn’t use those hefty plastic bags, we used recycled brown paper bags from our weekly grocery shopping for our garbage, so all our food waste and other gunk was exposed and oh boy it started to take on a life all its own.
I said to myself…I know I can do better!
I started very, very slow and assessed my waste. Food was at the top of the list so I started there and slowly worked my down the list finding alternatives and replacing old habits with environmentally frienldy behaviors. So if you are new to the concept of decreasing kitchen waste, please see below for some very easy ideas to get you going on your journey.
*We made a very modest 5×5 box out of redwood in our backyard and started to pile in our uncooked kitchen waste with equal parts carbon and nitrogen. And I read this quick, simple guide to composting. There are so many other composting ideas, many I found in the book, but you can also research on-line and find what works best for you. For example, we are going to start a worm bin soon for our cooked food waste!
*Okay, let’s be real for a moment. Plastic baggies are a hell-of-a-convenience, and if you have kids, well, they may feel like a must-have necessity. It was difficult, but these were #2 on the list to go for me. I stopped buying them and looked for alternatives.
e. ECOlunchbox three-in-one. My daughter takes this for her lunch. It’s lightweight and easy for little hands to use and maneuver.
*This solution is three-fold. First of all, milk alternatives are EXPENSIVE. I did the math and I started saving serious money when I stopped buying packaged milks and started making my own. Second, you have total and complete control of the ingredients when you make your own milks – awesome for you! Third, and let’s be honest here, those milk alternative containers are not recyclable. I shed a tear of guilt every time I had to throw away those huge cartons. Okay, so problem solved. Making your own nut milks is so super easy. I make the following: almond milk, cashew milk, hemp milk and hazelnut milk. You can find a slew of how-to videos on the internet. And you don’t technically need an expensive high-speed blender to make these milks. Before I purchased my vitamix, I used a Ninja Blender for years and it worked fine. Don’t be detoured my friends!!
*Ahhh, this was so hard at first! I had a very unhealthy addiction to paper towels. I would use them for everything…if I had them I would go through them like crazy. I had zero control. So one day I just stopped buying them and also stopped buying paper napkins.
*I used foil for so many things in my kitchen. This was difficult at first too. I tried very hard to clean the foil and recycle it, but it didn’t always work. And my philosophy wasn’t, “well, it’s okay to throw it away once in a while,” it was to “never again throw anymore foil away into garbage ever again.”
One day I purchased a pork shoulder from the meat deli at our Coop and I was appalled when I got home, unrolled it, and saw how much paper and plastic waste was from this single (albeit rather large) portion of meat. My next trip to the coop I was equipped with my snap glass and Pyrex storage. It takes some planning, but if you know what you are going to be purchasing it’s not a problem – plus I highly recommend going to the grocery store with a plan and a list. This saves time, energy and money.
Vegetarians can incorporate this concept when purchasing cheese. Go to your cheese deli and have them slice out what you need into your glass storage. Then it’s home and into the fridge. No more fussing with a half (plastic wrapped) block of cheese.