Reducing Waste Room-By-Room #1: Kitchen

When you buy foods in bulk, there is no trash to take home with your item! Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Room #1, the kitchen. I have always had the philosophy of starting a mission/assignment/journey with the hardest tasks first. This one has been the most daunting for me, I feel like the majority of waste comes into, and is produced in the kitchen. Whether it be plastic produce bags, plastic shopping bags, plastic bags that produce is sold in (like grapes), stickers, those little twisty ties for the produce bags or around greens, and food waste. Don’t forget about packaging for snacks, non dairy milks, and other necessary staples. I do not have a recycling program where I live, so it’s very difficult to avoid packaging. I find other ways that I can cut back on waste in the kitchen. I hope to find a store where I can buy food “in bulk” in the future. Bulk means to buy food in larger quantities without a package. How? 1. Bring your own container to the store; jar, tupperware, bag. 2. Weigh your container either at home or at the store. This allows the cashier to tare the scale so you only pay for the weight of your food, not the container. 3. Bulk foods will usually be displayed in bins that you can scoop from.

1. Don’t let it come into the house in the first place.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I think I will start off each room this way. It just feels right. Please keep in mind that sometimes keeping waste from entering your home may include carrying more items on you (reusable bags, cups, cutlery, handkerchiefs, pads/cups, tupperware), it is a hard pill to swallow at first, but each time you bring one thing at a time, you’re still replacing what would have been destined for a landfill. I will bring reusable shopping and produce bags to the store. I love ChicoBags! They can fold into themselves into a little ball with a carabiner for easy travel. You can pop them in your car/purse/backpack and be ready to carry groceries, or anything you would need additional storage for! I will take a traditional reusable shopping bag and put several ChicoBags into it so I don’t need a lot of real estate to carry many bags. I try to find produce that does not have a sticker on it, the cashiers have a list of produce codes so the stickers are obsolete. Unfortunately, they are placed on the food while still at the facility it came from. I try not to buy too much food. If there’s excess, it will go bad and be thrown out. If your local grocery store has a bulk foods section, check it out. Sometimes they have nuts, grains, or pasta. If you can’t avoid packaging for necessary staples, try to recycle or upcycle it. Upcycle means to reuse an item in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.

2. Try to avoid single use items.

Two silicone bags.
(re)zip bags

This would include plasticware, paper plates, plastic cups, saran wrap, parchment paper, muffin cups, coffee filters, K-cups, baggies, single use food storage (like tupperware, but disposable). If you don’t have access to reusable versions of these items, don’t stress yourself out over using them. If you do have a reusable swap, get into the habit of implementing them into your daily routine. Washing dishes is pretty lame, but so are plastics that don’t degrade and leech out the materials they’re made from. I really like Stasher and (re)zip bags. I also use Rubbermaid containers to store food in, I don’t like the idea of using plastic, but I do not need to purchase more because of what I already have. A good swap for clingwrap is to either put it in a container with a lid, or using wax paper wraps. They’re similar to saran wrap, but you can clean them and use them over and over! Another way to stay away from single use items in the kitchen would be to buy coffee in a metal can or in bulk, instead of K-cups. Then, you could either use a French press, which does not require a filter, or a coffee maker and a reusable filter. Yes, there are reusable coffee filters! They are so common now that they are made in different sizes and for different models of coffee makers. If you only have a Keurig-type coffee maker, some models will come with a plastic “K-cup” that you can scoop your own grounds into. You can still have the convenience of making one cup at a time without the waste! For paper towels, you can use “unpaper” towels. Kitchen towels/rags are perfect if they’re absorbent. Instead of using foil or parchment paper for baking, you can swap to a silicone baking sheet. They’re non-stick, so they are very handy for cooking. There are silicone muffin cups that you can bake in!

3. Avoid food waste.

Juicing kale stems after taking off the leaves. I will just keep the stems in the fridge until I juice them.

Try not to buy too much food. If you do, you could freeze it until you’re ready to use it, depending on what it is. If you plan out your meals and ingredients, you will be more likely to avoid wasting food. One source of waste created by food is scraps. You can take veggie scraps and boil them, strain it and you’ll have broth! You can also take the scraps from juicing and the aforementioned broth and make it into almost anything! When I’m juicing, I like to separate the veggie pulp from the fruit pulp so I can save them for savory or sweet recipes, respectively. If you can’t avoid throwing out a food or food scrap, you can always compost it! One specific example of using the same food multiple times is kale. I take the leaves off to eat, and I will save the stems to juice. I then take the pulp from the kale stems and freeze it for future recipes, like broth. I not only try to avoid throwing away (or composting when I can get a few more uses out of) food, but I also try to stretch the dollars I used to buy that food item. With my kale example above, you can use a food more than once, and use all the parts of the plant you’re eating. In addition to using it before going bad, you can learn new ways to store food properly. You can put wilted greens in water to perk them back up, put a ripe avocado in the fridge to “pause” the ripening process for a day or two, or freeze bananas if you love having them on hand, but don’t eat them often.

4. Upcycle!

I have mentioned ways to upcycle scraps in #3, but I have a couple more up my sleeve. If you have vinegar and eat citrus, you can soak the peels in the vinegar to make a citrus-scented all-purpose cleaner. You can also make your own apple cider vinegar from apple scraps! You can use ACV for many things like cooking, dressings, scalp rinse, all-purpose cleaner, and many more!

If you can’t avoid packaging, you can either compost, recycle (which includes mailing into TerraCycle, more information in my intro post!), or upcycle them. The goal is to reduce waste, so any action taken in that direction is a win.

Have you tried any of these swaps? What about the swaps from the introductory post? Let me know which is your favorite!

Room-By-Room Guide DISCLAIMER

I’d like to kick off the start of the guide with a disclaimer.

  • You do not have to incorporate these swaps into your life, I am just putting some ideas out in the open for anyone who is curious about reducing their impact.
  • Everyone has a different situation, so find the swaps that fit with your life, budget, and ability.
  • Budget: I am sharing links to many items, and the initial cost may seem steep at first. Let’s say we pay $4 for 500 cotton swabs, and one reusable one costs $10. The reusable swab is supposed to replace the single-use ones and will start paying for itself after several hundred uses. On the bright side, you may never have to buy reusable swabs again!
  • A lot of items I will link will be from Earth Hero. I am not affiliated, I just really like their products and the way they package orders. They use paper and don’t use too many packing materials.
  • A lot of swaps will require you to carry more items on your person, try to get into the habit of having some of these items on hand: Reusable water bottle, coffee cups, tissues, cutlery (if the place you plan on eating at does not have silverware or you’re getting takeout), feminine hygiene products. I really like my jansport “half pint” backpack, its big enough to fit these items and still have room for my phone, wallet, keys, chico bags, etc. If I don’t need to bring many items with me, I can fit my 32 oz water bottle in it.
  • I am not perfect. I am nowhere near “zero” waste, nor am I strict with the swaps I use. A lot of these swaps are ideas that I have either tried, implemented, or have looked into and plan on implementing in the future.
  • I may miss a lot of swaps and behavior changes. This guide is based on my experience (which will definitely differ from yours). There may be very basic ones I don’t have, and some might be very advanced.
  • Everyone’s lifestyle and journey are different.
  • This is all about sharing simple ways that people can make a change in their lifestyle to improve the health of the planet and themselves (by using non-toxic reusable versions of toxic single use items eg. tampons).

The lifestyle change should be fun and come from a place of love.

With this out of the way, let’s get started! I’ll see you in room #1!

Coming Soon! Room-By-Room Guide to Reducing Waste! [An Introduction]

Hi Friends! I know the main focus of my blog is health/fitness, but I am also very passionate about Mother Earth. She is my only home and the source of my entire existence. It is my duty to keep her as clean as I can within my means. I feel like “Ahimsa” can be extended to the Earth, as she is alive through housing many diverse living, breathing ecosystems. Besides, if you were to pass a house down to your child, you wouldn’t leave it filthy and in need of repair.

I’m making this little guide because there are many, many, ways to reduce your waste, and it takes a lot of these practices together to get to “zero” waste. This guide will break down habits room-by-room (take a drink of water every time I say “room-by-room,” you’ll thank me when you’re hydrated) to make reducing environmental impact more feasible. When I think of “zero waste,” I think of the people who can put a year’s worth of trash into a jar. I read “Zero Waste Home” and felt overwhelmed with so much information at once! Which is why I say “reducing waste,” I am nowhere near “zero,” but I make progress each day with the decisions I make. So, I will be making a beginner-friendly guide with tips, resources, DIY’s and people/books that inspire me! This guide will be for people who have never heard of reducing environmental impact, those who have heard of it and are interested, and people who have started their journey and need a little inspiration.

The upcoming guide will break down the waste produced by a household room by room. I will have a separate post for each room/category that goes a little deeper into the swaps or behavior changes related to reducing waste in that space. I will keep rolling out my standard health/fitness content as well!

I would like to kick off this guide with the “whole house,” rather than one room. Before we enter the first room of the guide, we will start with ways to prevent waste from coming into the home in the first place. Waste enters our home whether we are conscious of it or not. One of the first steps for preventing waste from coming into your home is to unsubscribe from magazines and various subscriptions. Some of these services may offer a digital version of their product. You can also go “paperless” for most bills and statements. Instead of a physical bill being mailed to you, you would get it in an email. A lot of people receive physical junk mail that we do not sign up for. One way to start the process of eliminating incoming junk is to write “Return to sender” on an unopened piece of mail. Here is a list of websites that will help you either sign up for a “no mail” list, or opting out of offers:

Another great resource that can apply to the “whole house” is TerraCycle. You can sign up for specific recycling programs and mail in your packaging/item once you are done using it. This is a great option for people like me, who have no recycling programs near them. This program is a good transition step into reducing waste. It may be difficult to get rid of all junk mail because our information is always being sold. If you keep receiving junk mail after taking these steps; contact the company directly as each piece of mail comes in.

The next step is to prevent the trash that we bring into our homes. You can refuse to eat out, or take a reusable storage container to prevent bringing home a single-use storage container. Refuse a straw entirely, or bring your own! Silicone straws are very easy to deal with because they don’t break and can fold up to store. You can also be fancy and go for a collapsible metal straw. I’ve had a bad habit of biting straws, so I like the silicone straws a little more. You can bring your own mugs for coffee/tea. This would also include declining “gifts”; goodie bags, pamphlets, snacks in single use packaging, trinkets, etc. People are pretty empathetic when you let them know you’re not trying to bring into your home things you don’t need. Lastly, do not bring home impulse purchases. Its typically the things we don’t think about buying that we end up getting rid of. We see something that looks good on a hanger, we buy it, we take it home and hate it, or we keep it for a few months and that piece goes “out of style.” Moving forward, try to think about the things we are bringing into our home.

Once waste stops entering your home, it makes it easier to tackle what’s already inside the home. It is also one less thing to worry about.

Some things you can do while waiting for this series to be published:

  • Read “The Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard. You can buy it as an e-book or audiobook.
  • You can read “Zero Waste Home,” by Bea Johnson. It is a really handy guide.
  • You can check out the following YouTubers, they really inspire me: Gittemary Johansen, Madeleine Olivia, Shelbizleee, and Sustainably Vegan
  • Make some swaps, starting with the ones in this post and my mini Head to Toe Guide if you missed it!

This is not a definitive guide to get someone to Zero Waste, but to get you started and to make small changes that will add up over time. There may be a lot of swaps that are missing from this guide, I will be updating it in the future if need be.