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5 Super Simple Steps to a Zero Waste Kitchen

Converting to a completely zero waste kitchen sounds like it would be ridiculously overwhelming and we’re here to tell you that no…It’s really not that big a deal! Yes, you may have a small initial investment, yes there may be a few unhealthy habits we’ll need to break but at the end of the day, they are all very DO-ABLE and will ultimately lead to not only a greener planet but also, a fair amount of added dough in your pocket. So with that being said, let’s get cracking!

The unfortunate truth these days is that living en eco friendly lifestyle is suddenly a “modern” idea when in fact, the way I see it is that we are simply coming to the sad realisation that we actually had it right up until about 100 years ago… Think about it; what we think of as “back in the old days” was before plastic took over the world, before mass production… We all grew our own food, raised our own livestock, ate seasonal food, didn’t use plastic products… Suddenly, we’ve all become overwhelmed by options: We all want our damn mangoes, even when they’re not in season, lack of nutrients be damned! We all want our disposable products because “it’s just easier that way”.

And what exactly have we accomplished?

Literal islands of garbage. That’s all we’ve managed to accomplish! Image credit

Many homes the world over do maintain a very eco-friendly lifestyle, sometimes without even realising it. It’s just common sense and second nature to them, while we’re all sitting here acting as if eating a damn vegetable is a fancy modern concept…

My parents for example, grew as much of their own fruit and vegetables as they were able to and traded with friends and family who grew different produce. They made their own skin and hair care products, created culinary masterpieces from scraps and leftovers, only ate seasonal produce, made their own clothes, and the list goes on and on! They weren’t just following a fad – That’s just the way they were raised to do things and in turn, that’s what they taught their children. My mother raised four kids, all in reusable cloth nappies – yes, disposable nappies would have most likely made her life that little bit easier but hey, she survived and so did we!

Sure, we have an enormous and ever growing population to cater for. Our lifestyles are considerably different in this day and age, and of course, we’re not all super ‘green thumbs’ (myself included!). But I do strongly believe that every little bit does count and if we can all try to make some cut backs wherever we can, we can definitely achieve something amazing!

This month we’re celebrating Plastic Free July: a wonderful initiative that aims to guide us into a plastic free lifestyle. Find out more on their website.

Now, to start things off, I just want to point out that part of the whole ‘overwhelm’ of converting to a zero waste kitchen is that it can often feel like A LOT to take in all in one go.

The best way to proceed is to just do it in stages; start small, don’t be too hard on yourself and remember that every little bit counts. Give yourself some breathing space and do what works best for you – If zero waste is simply unrealistic in your household, little changes here and there will definitely go a long way!

Let’s get stuck right in!

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

First things first: taking steps towards a zero waste kitchen means paying close attention to what you actually allow into your home. Most Aussie grocery stores are introducing soft plastics recycling bins in their stores which is a great first step in helping to reduce and recycle our packaging however, we can do better!

You can save big bucks while also eliminating plastic packaging from your kitchen by buying certain products in bulk from markets using your own reusable containers. Image: Pixabay
She Knows has shared some wonderful tips on how to best store fresh produce to maximise its life span, along with this handy chart for quick reference. Find out more here.

Zero Waste Meal Planning

There’s a lot of talk about the topic of meal planning and how beneficial it can be for your budget. Meal planning can also be beneficial for the environment when you spend just a little extra time coming up with ways to re-use leftovers and scraps to create a new meal.

An effective meal plan will help you dramatically reduce the amount of waste that comes out of your kitchen. After a while, you may even notice that the feeling of creating something new a delicious out of “waste” becomes seriously addictive!

Erin Rhoads of The Rogue Ginger has put together a fabulous compilation of zero waste ideas for every area of the home, from the kitchen to the bathroom. You’ll find our complete review here or head on over to Dymocks Books to purchase your copy!

Kitchen Compost Options

So now that we’ve found ways to re-use leftovers, what do we do with kitchen scraps? Certain things can be reused to create something new, for example fruit and veggie peels, those bread crusts we just had to remove from the sandwiches, etc. Otherwise, it’s off to the compost pile they go!

There are a few different options when it comes to setting up a composting routine for your home; the most popular choices are:

For a more in-depth explanation of each composting solution (as well as some handy troubleshooting tips!) you can have a look at Sustainability Victoria’s website.

Ideally, we want to have eliminated as much food waste as possible or at least, have gotten as much USE of it as possible, before it ends up in the compost pile. We’ve already looked at effective meal planning for a zero waste kitchen; the following are just a few ideas on how to get even more use of your kitchen scraps before they end up in the compost heap.

My last batch of homemade cordial included watermelon peels, strawberry tops and a couple of orange peels; It was absolutely delicious!

Zero Waste Kitchen Storage

Next up, we have zero waste storage solutions. How do we normally store our food? We use cling wrap, single use plastic containers, foil, etc. There are much more eco friendly, reusable products available that once again, are not only great for the planet but will also save you money in the long run.

Options to consider include:

600Snapware containers are my go-to when it comes to food storage; they snap shut VERY easily and are both freezer and dishwasher safe., making them super easy to use around the kitchen without having to rely on single use plastics. Check them out on Amazon!

Zero Waste Kitchen Cleaning Products

Last but not least, we’re tackling our kitchen cleaning products. Most household cleaning products these days do contain potentially harmful chemicals but thankfully, there are many ways to keep your home clean without the use of store bought cleaners.

I use a lot of essential oils around the home and in most cases, I’ve found that they clean my home as good as, if not better than any store bought products. My all time favourite essential oils are: Peppermint, Clove and Tea Tree oil. These three all have their own unique anti bacterial properties, smell amazing and each have a huge variety of uses.

Some great examples to help you get started are:

For more fabulous DIY cleaning ideas, you will find an incredibly thorough guide to creating your own eco friendly household cleaning products over at Household Wonders.

To complete your eco friendly kitchen cleaning set, opt for bamboo scrubbers, biodegradable cleaning cloths, glass spray bottles for any homemade spray on cleaners and glass airtight containers for everything else.

Bonus Step: What to do with any unavoidable waste…

A bit of kitchen waste can sometimes be unavoidable, so what do we do with any bits and pieces that have managed to sneak their way through?

Any food waste (with a few exceptions) can potentially be added to your compost and most plastic, cardboard or glass food packaging can be recycled however, the best approach is to either to eliminate these items from the kitchen altogether or, wherever possible, find another use for these items. Upcycling is a great way to further decrease the amount of waste ending up in landfill: Tin cans can be cleaned, painted and re-used as herb planters in your garden, glass containers can be cleaned out and reused for pantry food storage and cardboard can be reused for craft projects, DIY book covers and more.

Starting off on your zero waste journey can seem overwhelming at first; taking it step by step is the best approach to ease yourself into it and remember that if completely zero waste is simply not suited to your lifestyle at the moment, that’s ok – Every little bit counts! As long as we all make some cutbacks here and there, we are definitely heading in the right direction!

Join the conversation! Comment below with your top tips or join the party in our Facebook Group: Home Design & Decorating 101!

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