You've probably heard of the Zero-Waste life. What is it and why do it? Well, it's a great way to reduce your carbon footprint overall and help maintain a cleaner earth. The biggest factor in zero-waste is reducing your plastic/trash. According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. That's enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic.
Now I don't know about you, but I do not want my beaches to be landfills. That's why I've been doing my part in living a more zero waste lifestyle. I can still make improvements, but I am consciously focusing on reducing my environmental impact through zero waste ways.
A BIG shift you can make in zero waste is through our kitchens. From a Feng Shui perspective, kitchens are the heart of a home. It's where we storage and create the nourishment our bodies and qi need through food. Food is one of the top purchases people make on a routine basis, and this shift alone can drastically reduce someone's environmental impact.
With the kitchen being such a vital part of our homes and lives, here is your guide to shifting to a zero-waste kitchen.
The biggest shift you can make in terms of having a zero-waste kitchen is how you buy your groceries. An individual spends between $150 - $350 per month on groceries, so you can imagine this impact over a duration of time. With groceries being a replenished item in the kitchen, it's important that we're choosing more eco-friendly options.
Buy Items without Plastic Packaging
I know it's convenient to buy pre-sliced squash and a bag of dried apple rings, but nearly all of these items come in single use plastic packaging. 42% of plastic manufactured is single use, and out of all the plastic products consumed (and end up in our oceans and landfills), half of these are single use plastics. That's a big amount, but even bigger when you learn that 78 million tons of plastic are produced each year.....78 MILLION TONS!
Instead, opt for Packaged Items in Glass or Metal
Many of the products we buy in plastic come in glass and metal containers and jars as well. It's a common misconception that if you buy items in plastic bottles, such as ketchup or juice, that the plastic will get recycled. In actuality, only about 25% of the plastic produced in the U.S. is recycled. Products in glass jars are also great for zero-waste kitchens because you can reuse those containers for future projects!
Buy Bulk Food
If you're finding it challenging to go full zero-waste, getting food in bulk, such as a giant bag of almonds or coffee is a way to reduce your plastic consumption. The bigger the package, the less the plastic waste. For example, instead of individual yogurt cups, get a tub.
Another bulk food solution is to actually shop in the bulk food section in the grocery store. Many stores have these, where you can fill up your own bags and jars with exactly how much you need. This is great because you're not only reducing plastic waste, but food waste as well.
Need sometime to transport your bulk food? Colony Co has great bulk bags for you that are made from natural materials and extra durable for those heavy bulk buys.
Get your Produce from Farmer's Markets and CSA Boxes
Since these items are coming straight from the source, they don't have the excess packaging and fluff grocery stores have. Those little twisty ties and fruit stickers add up when you're trying to reduce. Plus, it's create to support your local community! Find other reasons to support farmer's markets with my post, Five Benefits of Farmer's Markets.
Make sure you're Composting
Food waste is a BIG deal. It is estimated that 40% of our waste is food that humans can consume. That is 1.3 billion tons of food each year that is getting thrown away. By composting, you're reducing your food waste by turning it into valuable nutrients for the earth. Learn more benefits of composting and pick up your own compost bin to get started.
As far as a zero waste kitchen goes, there aren't too many shifts when it comes to cooking habits. Some of us may already be doing these things.
Using Wooden and Ceramics vs Silicone
Silicone is popular in today's kitchens because it pride's itself on being non-stick, easy to clean, and durable. It even boasts that it's eco-friendly...but is it? Silicone is an FDA approved synthetic (man-made) material. That being said, it still is a plastic.
There is also some current controversy over the health and safety of using silicone. Due to the high heats that the silicone baking items endure, there are a lot of concerns about the chemicals in silicone 'leaking out' during baking. This is greatly dependent on the manufacturer and the quality of silicone they use in their products.
That being said, I personally just prefer ceramic baking pans and bamboo utensils when cooking. It may take a bit more love (or a longer soak) to clean, but these items have lasted me for years.
Non-Stick Cooking Pots & Pans
Nonstick pans are great and all, I know I burn my fare share of food, but the Teflon that keeps the food from sticking has been debated whether it is harmful for humans. I suppose I am skeptical, and when an item needs questioning for it’s overall health safety, I usually take that as a sign it isn’t too great for us. Avoid the whole topic, and go for cookware that is non-toxic. For example, I LOVE my cast-iron skillet.
Tea Towel over Paper Towels
Paper towels are a convenient item, but they create a huge amount of waste. Some zero-wasters will compost their paper towels instead of tossing them in the trash, but there is still the issue of the valuable resource of trees it takes to make these items. Opt for a reusable tea towel instead. I have multiple tea towels in use for different tasks: for cleaning up messes, drying my dishes, and drying my hands.
One of the biggest zero kitchen wastes (aside from food) in one-time storage such as sandwich bags. Aside from this big shift for some, the rest of these are not so out of the ordinary.
While you may have your plastic containers for years, there are many limitations to this storage option, the first being that it's PLASTIC! Glass containers offer some great benefits. I've found that my lockable glass containers are less likely to leak or spill. They also don't their taste into the food, as many plastic containers do. You can even freeze and heat food in them with ease.
Another great option are metal containers. These too are 100% recyclable and don't give your food that weird off-gas plastic taste some traditional containers do.
Mason jars are such a versatile storage option. You can use it for canning, storing dried goods (such as beans or flax seed), to drinking your daily smoothie or coffee. There is even a range of lid options for all your storage needs!
Even though more grocery stores are ditching plastic, paper bags still use waste by the manufacturing of trees into paper. Reusable bags are so convent. I have mine easily stored in my purse, so even when I have a spontaneous grocery store visit, I still have my bag at hand. If you don't have a bag yet, opt for canvas or cotton, as these are natural, biodegradable materials.
Instead of using ziplock and other plastic sandwich bags, I've been using wax wrap for a couple of years now and LOVE it. These wraps are made of wax and linen, which are reusable and biodegradable. They're even moldable to take on many different shapes, from wrapping a sandwich to holding mixed nuts.
Another great option is silicone baggies. These reusable bags are great for marinades and small snack items like apple chips and trail mix. I love Stasher because their bags are heavy duty and great for using in every scenario, from ovens to dishwashers.
See, not so bad! Slowly introduce these sustainable swaps into your kitchen and start living a more eco-friendly life. For more sustainable tips for the home, be sure to check out my other blog posts.