Since the beginning of my #InspiringZeroWaste challenge in January, I’ve hesitated to tackle one of the biggest areas that my household (and most households, I think) creates waste.
Smaller space, as I’ve learned, doesn’t mean less waste and sometimes, it can mean producing even more waste for the sake of convenience.
This post won’t portray me as a perfect zero-waster, because the reality is that, especially in the kitchen, I’m far from it. But I’m working on implementing small steps (that I can actually stick with) thanks to this monthly challenge.
Today, I’m excited to share a bit of what I’ve already done to decrease waste in my kitchen — in this post, I’m welcoming the help of Do Good Shop (although you don’t need to buy anything to lessen your waste!). I’ll also share a few goals that I have for the coming month(s) and hopefully spark a bit of inspiration on your end as well.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for ethical home goods, Do Good Shop is a great resource. They’re a non-profit marketplace stocking items that support artisans, end trafficking, and encourage traditional craftsmanship. You’ll be hearing lots more about them in the coming months.
In my “waste audit” of my tiny kitchen, I learned that packaging and food waste are the two biggest areas my family and I create waste. Although I’m not sure we will ever fully eliminate packaging from our home (packing school lunches without single-wrapped foods is HARD) and I may never find the perfect balance of buying and cooking the perfect amount of food, I’ve found a few ways to consciously reduce waste in these areas that have helped tremendously.
We still produce far too much trash than I’m comfortable with, even for a small family, and I would ideally like to recycle even less than we do (consuming less in general) but reducing waste as a family isn’t easy and I’m choosing to celebrate each small step instead of beat myself up for the long ways I have left to go.
Here are a few ways I’ve gotten started that you can try too:
DIY as much as you can
DIY-ing, as much as my aesthetics-loving self hates to admit it, doesn’t have to be pretty. First and foremost, it should solve a problem or expense in your life, ultimately saving you time and money. I’ve fallen in love with DIY-ing my own cleaning supplies which saves my home from unnecessary plastic packaging and the unnecessary toxins found in most cleaning supplies. I also DIY things like tupperware, meaning I’ll reuse packaging certain foods come in to save other food before eventually recycling it. Things like cheese cartons, or even the twist ties found in the produce section can be used in other ways.
Swap cloth for disposables
It can be a beautifully-made swap, like my cloth napkins from Do Good Shop made by artisans in India using time-honored block printing, or it can be as simple as a cut up old t-shirt to use as cleaning rags. I have (and use) both daily. While my tee-cloths are essential for cleaning the daily messes, I wouldn’t use them to serve as dinner napkins or even something to clean up crumbs or coffee grounds. With these two “products” I’ve eliminated paper towels and other disposable cleaning wipes from my home.
Shop seasonally and avoid plastic where you can
I won’t even pretend that shopping zero-waste for groceries for a family of almost five is easy, because it isn’t. We have limited access to farmers’ markets and bulk food stores, so I’m usually left with shopping from the organic produce section and crossing my fingers that I remembered my reusable shopping bags. BUT it’s do-able to make a dent in your packaging and plastic intake and it’s worth trying, even if you can’t do it perfectly.
Use your food scraps
It’s hard to plan how long your food will last and, similarly, how much of it your three and five year old will eat once you make it, but there are ways to reduce your food waste by cooking with unused food scraps and strategically cooking/shopping to reduce extras. I learned about some great ways to use food waste from Going Zero Waste and her newly released book, but you can also do a quick Google search to find lots of inspiration. There are also lots of foods you can regrow from the stems and bottoms, so I’ve been experimenting a lot with that lately too.
I’m the worst at meal planning. The absolute worst. In my almost six years of marriage and 5 years of motherhood, I haven’t consistently stuck with it until this year, when I realized how much of a money and sanity saver it really is. Meal planning, it turns out, can significantly reduce your waste in the kitchen too.
Not a super glamorous list, I know, or even what you may have expected (a list full of products you need to buy and eco-switches you need to make). Although products can be helpful for convenience and keeping you motivated, I’ve learned that reducing waste is really a mindset (and ultimately a lifestyle) shift, especially in the kitchen.
I love keeping a few "pretty things” around to keep things cheery and bright, like my Olivewood Serving Tray from Do Good Shop that serves as an in-bed tray, a plant display, a snack server and so much more, and a few pretty napkins and hand towels. But other than that, the kitchen is a place to make messes and get creative, and reducing your waste in the kitchen may not be as pretty as you’d expect either.
My #InspiringZeroWaste goal for this month is to research small space composting! I’d LOVE any resources you know of or tips that have worked well for you. I’m not opposed to an outdoor composting bin (in fact, I’d prefer it) but it needs to be bear and wildlife proof! (#mountainliving).
How hard has reducing waste in the kitchen been in your life? I’d love to hear your tips!
*This post is part of a long term collaboration with Do Good Shop. But all opinions, creative direction, and photographs are my own. Shop the links in this post to support brands that create a better world for artisans all over the world!*