Zero waste kitchen - the essentials to get you started on the zero waste lifestyle journey
Zero waste is all the rage at the moment. Say no to plastic, refuse the straw, plastic kills and more are the slogans of our day. But why? I do not understand why people are making such a big deal and fuss about this. Weren’t we charged with looking after and protecting the earth? At the moment, we are failing our God-given purpose by not looking after our planet. Zero waste should not be a movement, it should be a lifestyle.
I realized this about 2 years ago. It hit me like a bucket of cold water (no not the ice bucket challenge…) and shook me to my core. Here I was, nonchalantly going about my day, using and misusing things without even thinking about the consequences of any of it. If I did stop to think I would quickly remind myself that it was someone else’s problem, or someone very smart will think of a solution. No. I was the solution, and like a small stone can cause a ripple that goes on much further than you would think, in the same way, my small actions and choices can make an impact.
This definitely established my “why” – the reason I was thinking off and trying to go zero waste. For you, it might be something else. Maybe you are concerned that your kids will never get to see an unspoiled nature scene, or you have seen the devastation that a plastic ring (those found around bottle caps) can wreak on an animal, or are you worried about the money that you are mindlessly spending?
You have your why, and if you know why you are doing something it makes it a lot easier to actually stick with it. I cannot stress this enough – going zero waste is a journey. Even if you want to, jumping all in head first is difficult. It requires a fair amount of money and time to be invested; yes the rewards are big, but for every reward, an investment is required. As part of the journey, you are going to have to replace certain items. This replacement cost money, and sometimes a bit of effort too since not everything is readily available. My advice? Replace as things run out, or as they break/reach the end of their lifetime. Buy local, and always ask yourself very seriously before you buy: do I really need this item?
My next tip would be: start eliminating single-use items. That includes takeaway coffee, straws, paper napkins, plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, etc. Any items that you will use only once, then throw away. Usually made from plastic (or any of its different forms such as polystyrene), paper or foil. Although most of these materials are recyclable, they are usually not recycled because they are usually soiled (from the food or drinks that they carried), broken, or not disposed of properly. By simply stopping to use these items you are already making a major difference in the balance of things.
The biggest tip: make things yourself, or put in the effort to prepare. The waste that we generate in my house, is mostly packaging from pre-prepared or pre-cut vegetables, salad leaves, and frozen vegetables. I know these are all things that I can either buy in bulk and then chop up and freeze myself, or grow in the garden. But it is difficult in our fast and busy lives, so, for now, I have made peace with this. We make eco-bricks using this packaging, so at least it is not ending up on a landfill. Things that I have started to make myself, to curb on the packaging, including tomato paste, mayo, cleaning products, stock, oat milk, and frozen yoghurt. Oh and most of my beauty and hygiene products, but that is a post for another day (if you are interested, get my free zero waste beauty ebook here)
Of course, there are things that will make your progress towards a zero waste kitchen a bit faster, and your life a bit easier, not to mention the money you will end up saving. I call them my zero waste essentials, and I would highly recommend that you get a few, if not all, of the things listed:
1. Glass water bottle – refill from the tap. No more plastic bottles.
2. Re-usable takeaway coffee cup such as an Ecoffee cup – disposable coffee cups are not recyclable, even if it looks like they are made from paper. They are lined with plastic, and that makes them unrecyclable.
3. Produce bags – to buy loose items in. weigh them as you would if you used the shop’s plastic baggies.
4. Beeswax wraps – instead of cling wrap. You can buy them, or make your own. You also get vegan varieties.
5. Glass containers – to store leftovers in, prepared food, or items you buy in bulk. You can also use stainless steel, but I find glass to be easier to clean and handle. Also, I keep all glass bottles and jars.
6. Cloth shopping bags, or a basket to carry your shopping in – no more plastic shopping bags
7. Cloths for cleaning, drying, and dusting – instead of sponges.
8. Wooden or bamboo brushes to clean inside glasses, bottles, etc. – again, instead of sponges. Also, eliminate the need for steel wool. (Honestly: I keep that fine mesh bags that oranges usually get packaged in, and use that to scrub my pots and pans. Made from plastic, this mesh should be avoided, but if you had to buy something packaged in it you might as well use it a bit more before safely disposing of it)
9. Silicone mats to bake on, roast on, or grill on – no more baking paper or wax paper
10. A composter like a Bokashi bin, or an outside compost heap with a small counter container for easy transport – this will cut down on your municipal waste like you won’t believe. So much of what we throw into the bin is organic waste.
These are my zero waste kitchen essentials. Of course, there are nice to have products, many more must-have products, and even more lust-after products. But just remember, this is a journey and Rome wasn’t built in a day. So take it slow, change where you can and as you go along, and in a while when you look back you will be so impressed to see how far you have come.
Let me know what are the things you changed first, what are you struggling to change, and if you have any tips or advice – please share!