The kitchen is a good place to start when you are looking to reduce the amount of waste produced around your house. Whether you don’t know where to begin or are looking to bring your zero waste efforts to the next level, we hope this article will help you find new ideas to implement in your own home.
From food shopping to storage and zero waste cooking, here are our top tips for a zero waste kitchen!
Reduce Food packaging
If you do a quick bin audit in your kitchen, chances are most of the content of your bins (landfill as well as recycling) will be food packaging. Packaging can come in a large variety of materials from easily recyclable cardboard and aluminum to obscure plastic materials which are often mixed together and nearly impossible to reuse or recycle.
There are simple ways to lighten your bin load and we suggest to start by trying the following ideas:
Try shopping in bulk or ‘zero waste’ shops where you can bring your own containers and refill them rather than buying new packaging with your food with every trip to the shops! Look for easy options in your local area so you don’t have to change your routine too much, for instance some supermarkets have started to offer refill options at their fish and meat counters. You can also look for your local farmers market and specialist shops like greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers etc. where it is easier to use your own containers.
If you are not familiar with zero waste shops, you can read our guide for absolute beginners here.
Drink tap water. This might seem like a silly suggestion but as we are lucky enough to live in a country where we have running drinking water in our house, why not make the most of it? In 2018 studies showed that 7.7 billion plastic water bottles were used in the UK every year, making an average of 150 plastic water bottles per year per person – or more than 3 a week. If you do not like the taste of the tap water in your area, it might be worth looking at natural water filter options such as charcoal or EM ceramic beads.
If you are a tea or coffee drinker, try more eco-friendly options such as loose leaf tea and a moka pot or cafetiere for your coffee. Loose tea leaves and coffee beans are often available in zero waste shops but if you do not have a bulk shop near you, look out for loose or bulk options in your local supermarket. Buying loose leaf tea in a bag will still reduce the amount of waste that ends up in your bin and it’s an healthier option than tea bags which are often bleached and/or sealed with plastic materials which you do not want to infuse your tea with (and are not compostable!). If you use coffee capsules, look for a reusable stainless steel one you can easily refill and use with your machine.
Choose home cooking over ready meals. Easier said than done, especially if you have a busy work/family/social schedule, but this is a great goal to work towards. Little by little, you can get organised to increase the number of meals cooked from scratch over takeaways and ready meals. This is not only a much healthier option, it will also save you money and prevent a lot of unnecessary waste in your kitchen.
See Reduce Food waste section below for more tips on this!
Finally, where you cannot buy products in refillable containers, see if you can choose recyclable materials instead of plastic. Glass, aluminium and cardboard are much easier to recycle and widely collected across the UK. This will help keep precious material from landfill and save a lot of energy and resources. If you live in Merton, see our practical recycling guide here.
Reduce Food waste
Did you know that in the UK, households waste 6.6 million tonnes of food per year - 4.5 million tonnes of which is edible food? The process of getting food on our plates takes a lot of time and resources such as water, energy, and transportation and rotting food can in turn produce greenhouse gases which are damaging to the environment.
Here are some ways we can all tackle this issue and reduce food waste in our houses:
Prepare a weekly menu. This will require a minimum of upfront organisation but once you have a routine in place it will save you a lot of time and prevent food waste as well as other types of waste in your kitchen. Having a weekly menu will make home cooking as well as food shopping easier and save you a lot of headaches. (Blog article to help you make your own menu coming soon!)
Prepare a shopping list based on what you have in the fridge or cupboard this week and according to the menu of the week / the quantities you normally consume in a week. This way you know you will only buy the quantities you need and nothing will go to waste!
If you are a bit adventurous, try cooking with vegetable peels (only if your fruits & veg are from organic or chemical free agriculture).
Organise your fridge and food cupboard so that the products that need to be eaten first are at the front and do not get pushed at the back and forgotten.
Freeze leftovers to avoid waste and help with your home cooking efforts!
A lot of the waste we produce in the kitchen comes from food leftovers, peelings etc. Starting a home compost will help you reduce the amount of waste in your landfill bin and will save a lot of energy down the line. If you have a garden, it is very easy to start composting your food waste outdoors and use the compost as a great natural fertiliser for your plants and trees. If you live in a situation that makes it more difficult to compost outdoors, you can set up an indoor compost station. If you live in Merton and do not have a garden to make use of your compost, the council collects food waste which is then turned into fertiliser and biogas fuel, through a process called ‘anaerobic digestion’.
Keep some reusables handy for food shopping
Reusable shopping bags: Have a couple in your kitchen near the place where you keep your shopping list.
Paper and cotton produce bags: Keep a few small bags in your shopping bag so you can reuse them for fruits, vegetables and dry loose items. Keep reusing the same bags again and again for as long as you can, even paper bags can have a longer life than you might think.
Keep some reusables handy for food storage
Reusable bottles for liquids.
Boxes and jars for food. Always try to reuse what you have, no need to invest in new fancy containers to start a zero waste lifestyle. Tupperware boxes and old jam jars are great for storing frozen foods for example.
Keep a few tea towels, and beeswax wraps in a drawer to replace cling film when wrapping food for transport or storage.
Water UK: Statistics on water usage and plastic bottles
BBC: Plastic in your teabags
BBC: Food Waste: What is it and how does it affect the environment?
More articles to come in the Zero Waste Room by Room series, subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop!