zero waste kitchen

zero waste kitchen

Our biggest source of trash used to be kitchen waste- food scraps, plastic food packaging, ziplock baggies, saran wrap, straws, aluminum foil, paper towels, sponges, and cleaning products.  Over time, what used to be the trashiest place in our house has turned into an efficient, simplified, easy to cook and clean area.  I can breathe when I look in the fridge and cabinets and everything is easy to see and use.  Here’s what I do to keep it that way.

zero waste cupboard

– I don’t buy single use items, and instead I found reusable solutions.  Instead of paper towels, I use rags.  I got rid of plastic wrap- there’s no need for it anyway, bee’s wrap  or vegan work well in its place.  I bought a mismatched set of colorful cloth napkins at World Market instead of paper napkins.  Instead of sandwich baggies, we started using a stainless steel lunchbox for Carmelas lunch and a bigger one for our own.  Or I simply wrap in a kitchen towel.  We stopped using garbage bags since most of the wet items were compostable.  I use stainless steel straws and glass straws instead of plastic.  Many of the single use items we were using, we really didn’t miss at all- on the contrary, I felt free letting go of them and the way it automatically de cluttered the kitchen.

Under the sink zero waste

under the sink from left to right: recycling crate, stainless steel compost bucket, dishwasher detergent with metal scoop.

– I buy in bulk instead of in packaging, at Davis Food Co-op and once every few months I make a day trip to Rainbow Grocery for harder to find items.  I bring my own jars and bags to the store and use those to buy grains, beans, nuts, peanut butter, vinegar, and more in the bulk section.  If you eat meat or cheese, you can take your clean jars to the deli counter, too.  The deli bar is a great source for olives and pickles, especially if you’re entertaining.  If you don’t have bulk access in your area, talk to the stores you have and encourage them to bring on even a few bulk options.  You have the power as a consumer!  (post on reducing impact without a bulk store)

zero waste kitchen

– I go to the farmer’s market to avoid produce twist ties and stickers, and to find veggies like cauliflower sans packaging.  find a market near you here.

zero waste food groceries

– I wash dishes with compostable wooden scrubbies, a knit cloth, and a stainless steel scourer instead of the plastic sponges and brushes I was using before.  For soap, I buy in bulk from Refill Madness, but liquid castile soap works well too, and I’ll be experimenting with this french block soap for dishes too (update 3/29/2018:  I’ve since switched to the french block soap for dishes and it’s fantastic.  Lathers nicely, cuts grease, smells fantastic and looks beautiful on the counter.  Food 52 shipped it to me with zero plastic packaging, too- all recycled paper).   As a rule, I generally prefer to avoid liquids when possible for soap and detergent as they involve more plastic for transport and use.  For dishwashers, opt for bulk powder or powder in a cardboard box.  I save the water from washing dishes to water outdoor plants.

dishes kitchen plastic free

– We started composting (check out this post for more info) and also reducing the amount of food waste by buying less at a time, and eating/using every part of the plant (beet and celery leaves, potato peels, freezing peelings to make veg stock with, adding coffee grounds to houseplants).

veggie scrap stock

veggie scraps ready to roast with miso, kombu + fresh onion for broth

– I preserve food in season to enjoy it out of season without the packaging: pickling, fermenting, and canning are all very simple once you learn how and are a great way to preserve.  I visit u-pick farms for cheap berries (and a fantastic family day) in the summer to stock up the freezer for winter without the plastic.  I can over 100 quarts of tomatoes every year with my mom to get us through the winter without cans of tomatoes.  You can freeze, too, if canning intimidates you.  But it’s so easy.  We just follow the directions that come with the pressure cooker!

home canned tomatoes

– I make a select few items that I can’t find in bulk.  It has to be easy, though- I don’t have time to make complicated stuff and I don’t like feeling overwhelmed.  Some examples of DIY staples here: coconut yogurt, sauerkraut, hot sauce.  Next up, mustard.

– If I cannot find items in bulk and I can’t/don’t want to make it myself, I go to the source: ice cream in my own jar at Good Scoop, bread from Village Bakery, chips from a taqueria, corn tortillas wrapped in a napkin from a restaurant I work at.

bulk ice cream

bulk vanilla coconut locally made ice cream

– I store food leftovers directly in glass jars and containers in the fridge.  No leaching of plastic, easy to see what’s in there, aesthetically pleasing, and can go straight from the bulk shop into my jar into my fridge.  No need to buy separate storage containers, canning jars do it all and are freezer safe too.  In depth guide to plastic free fridge storage here.

zero Waste fridge

– We eat all our leftovers- I freeze, repurpose, or reuse all of it.

– I’ve simplified appliances, gadgets, tools, pots and pans AND our cooking.  I only kept what we needed and used regularly.  Everything else- multiple sets of things, one trick ponies, things that only saw the light of day once a year, panini press, toaster that I hated cleaning, kitchen aid mixer that I had unrealistic expectations of my baking skills/time available attached to – got donated to friends or our community via Freecycle.

What are your biggest struggles with kitchen waste?  Leave questions/comments below!

xx Amanda

44 thoughts on “zero waste kitchen”

  1. You are an inspiration! I love this! I have cut back significantly on my plastic and waste but bags for veggies has been an issue. I need to go to farmer’s market more or bring reusable bags/just don’t use a bag for those things! I want to work towards minimalism and as waste-free as much as possible. Thanks for sharing and can’t wait for more tips! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much!! Baby steps and you will be there in no time. Can’t wait to share more, thanks for reading and being open to change xx

  2. Great post! 🙂 really like your kitchen. I can’t say I face challenges with our kitchen anymore. Even as a child, I disliked a lot of extra things and so naturally when I was an adult, I transitioned into having even less. My parents are the same way. I’d say about 99% of our meals are cooked at home.

    I started canning and soaping with my mom when I was perhaps eight years old. I’m now 47 and still doing all of those things. We do have a garden, and so I look forward to planting and harvesting season each year. We also have honeybees. Food scraps are used as compost. Raw food scraps are sometimes ground into a pulp and made into crackers or cookies.

    We use glass in our house also. I spin, weave, knit and sew and so our shopping bags/food baggies are created out of cloth. I started sewing when I was five or six years old. The dishtowels are knitted from cotton yarn. I haven’t found a more absorbent dishcloth yet and my goodness is they sturdy. I wanted a kitchen that wasn’t dependent on electronics and so the kitchen appliances I use often are non-electric. My favorite is my granite mortar and pestle, which gets used almost daily.

    I must say there is a certain freedom in reducing clutter, although some of my friends think I’m a bit off especially when they take a peek into our cabinets/refrigerator. It’s all plant-based the little processing (crackers, cookies, and breads) are created by myself.

    1. Wow! That is lovely. I’ve been looking for a big mortar and pestle to hopefully take the place of my food processor. I agree, life without clutter is freedom. Thank you so much for sharing your life with me xx

  3. You are doing so many fantastic things! Our biggest waste are veggie scraps – as two vegetarians we have loads – and we have no way of composing at the moment as our local authority has not come up with a way to offer composting to blocks of flats, although they do provide this for houses. I think it will come and then we can really reduce our waste.

    1. Have you considered vermicomposting? Food scraps make up roughly 20% of the methane producing garbage in landfills…. not enough oxygen or water to decompose prooerly. Bonus, you can use all the soil the worms create to plant something pretty or delicious!

      1. Thanks Kate. Yes they are fantastic and I have thought about it but it doesn’t seem practical in a small flat with no balcony and what would the worms do when we are away for two or three months in the van?

  4. Thank you for your oh so complete posts (and sorry for my imprecise english) ! I also loved the one about how you store your stuff in your fridge. I was struggling avoiding plastic and keeping my veggies fresh in the meantime. Also, in France we call the soap you use for your dishes “Savon de Marseille”. Marseille is a lovely city in the south of France. I use it also for the dishes, it works really well. Sometimes it leaves stains on dishes so I put some vinegar on the sponge and then gone ! You can also make a liquid to wash your clothes with (don’t know how to say haha), remove stains on your clothes and even a toothpaste out of it ! Plus it lasts soooo long !
    I would love to make my own coconut yoghurt, but I’m afraid it would be super expensive (student budget !). How much does it cost you ?
    Thanks and cheers from France !

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for reading and your kind words. That is wonderful that you can use the soap for so many things, thank you for sharing all that with me! I’l have to try mine on stains, too. I hope to visit France some day! It’s quite cheap for me to make coconut yogurt, but prices may be different in France. I can buy bulk shredded coconut very inexpensively, it costs less than $2 US to make a quart (approx 1 liter) of yogurt, double the price if I use a fresh mature coconut instead of dried. Here the store bought coco yogurt is so expensive, some is even $25 US for a pint size (approx 1/2 liter).

  5. Love this, and all your posts! I’m intrigued by using bar soap for dishes – how long did the soap last you?

  6. thank you! can you share a little more on how you use the soap block? do you rub the dish towel on the block when you have something that needs extra help, or do you pick up with one hand and rub onto dish cloth in the other? what have you found that best works as a soap dish for this block? thanks!

    1. Hi! I just leave the soap on the counter in it’s dish. You rub a cloth or brush on it to get soap on it then wash as usual. I personally use a soap dish my daughter made for me, it’s just a ceramic dish. I think a tile would work better though!

      1. Thanks. so I’m assuming somehow you get your soap to stay put, rather than sliding around. can’t imagine being able to get a sufficient amount on the dishcloth with it sliding around!! I have been using bar soap to wash dishes for a couple months now since I haven’t found a way to keep homemade dish soap…all the pump bottles don’t have wide enough openings to allow me to get an immersion blender into the opening as the homemade dish soap always thickens from time to time and needs water added and a good mix from the immersion blender. but, using the bar soap….i really miss being able to feel like my dishes are really clean. i rub the soap bar in my hands underneath the faucet when I’m filling up the sink to wash dishes, but of course the sink of water never gets visibly sudsy (which I know doesn’t mean anything), but it more importantly doesn’t feel very soapy. do you use liquid dish soap at all now? do you wash sink loads of dishes at a time? what is your experience here?

      2. I don’t ever use liquid soap, this is the only soap I use. It gets things cleaner than liquid soap in my experience. The soap doesn’t move around at all? Once you use it it “sticks” to the soap dish because you’re never picking it up. My soap is probably different than yours. Mine soaps up. Like I said, I have a small tub in the sink. I put dishes in there with hot water. Then I take one out at a time, scrub (with water off) with the soapy brush, then rinse. Works like a charm! I wash massive amounts of dishes (we don’t use a dishwasher) and we cook constantly

      3. Thanks for sharing that! That is what i’ve been doing (in sink rather than tub) for the last few months. i don’t know why i feel like my dishes don’t get as clean as they used to …but i’ma keep working with this…and the soap maker who makes your bar lives in my city! so i’m stoked to pick up a big bar at the farmers market in a few weeks!

  7. i’ve been using a bar that a friend’s grandmother made and gave me for my birthday…its an old school bar of soap…just lye and lard. no fragrance or anything, just the way i like it! i have been using it by rubbing my dishcloth on it, but its def. not as convenient as the dish soap from the bottle i used to use. also, i really miss being able to have a sink of hot soap water. i turn the hot water on and rub the soap bar underneath the faucet, but the water never seems very soapy. i’m wondering if you have any tips for me?

    1. Hm…I don’t know. Mine is really quite sudsy. It doesn’t make a big sink of soapy water but I soak in plain hot water then wash as needed. I have a tub in the sink. Remember that sudsy doesn’t equal clean though. It’s just a marketing technique we’ve been conditioned to think of as clean 🙂

  8. thanks, i’m going to find a ceramic dish without ribbing so the soap won’t move around. i know the suds was a marketing technique. i have such fond memories of my mom blowing the soap foam on me as a joke when she washed dishes…i was like three 🙂

  9. p.s. i sent a comment regarding glass jars for fridge storage. i was wondering if you like using weck jars or regular ball or kerr jars better? i was always intimidated by the fact the the weck jar lids are glass, but that’s exactly what also makes them wonderfully non toxic. i was shocked when i learned that there were plasticizers on the underside of canning jar lids!

    1. Oh no, I responded in depth to that when you posted it, but it must not have sent through 😦 only last year did I realize about the plastics on the lids! So frustrating. I have a huge set of ball/Kerr canning jars from my grandma that are old and useful so I’ll continue to use them. But I try to make sure food doesn’t touch the top and if it will I use one of my weck or le parfait jars. They’re a little more fussy to use but probably just because I’ve been using mason jars my whole life. I love that they’re all glass, and the glass seems to be much higher quality than the masons- especially the new masons which I’ve had the entire bottom fall out of more than a few times while using and canning- really a scary experience. They’re also quite expensive compared to masons. I’ve had my weck and le parfait for a few years and haven’t broken one yet. The lids are nice and sturdy. Hope that answers some questions!

      1. thanks for sharing that experience! yes, i was worried the glass lids and metal fasteners would be fussy to use, but i think i’ll consider buying some (yes, expensive!) in the future. what do you find yourself using the weck and parfait jars for most? i know you said you use them when food will touch the top of the jar, but just wondering if you had examples. thanks for helping us all achieve a lower waste and healthier lifestyle!

      2. I use all my jars mainly for food storage in the fridge, freezer or pantry as well as purchasing and transporting food.

  10. p.s. i love our dish brush (the one without the handle) by the sink in the picture. what brand is that one? i haven’t seen that style. thanks!

    1. Hi! This one I picked up at my local co-op 6 months or so ago, there’s no brand on it I can see, I’m sorry! Redecker makes good ones I’ve heard.

  11. ok, i must have jinxed myself. just yesterday the redecker dish brush developed a crack. so many of the reviews on amazon showed the same type of cracking, but i thought this since I soaked mine in oil before using it, it wouldn’t develop a crack. i’ve tried other brushes whose shapes were not as effective and versatile. if you can remember the brand of your brush i’d love to try it. it looks similar to the redecker brush – bristles cut flat instead of rounded, and not splayed out at an angle. really sad about the redecker brush. i’ve only been using it for a little over one month 😦

    1. Oh no! Ok, so I just bought a new one and its called ‘Harold’s Imports” although I see it’s made in Taiwan so next time I’m going to see if I can find a more locally made one.

      1. thanks. i’m having trouble finding it -do you have a link? how long did the brush last for you?

      2. I don’t have a link bc like I mentioned, I bought it at a local store. Not quite sure how long it lasted; but quite a while!

  12. My biggest struggle is even though here we have plenty of choice for bulk the organic shops are full of people so I am always hesitant to help me tare my jars as I do’t want to occupy the sales assistant’s.

    Also no rice noodles in bulk! In Asian stores they have huge bags of rice which we buy as I had some problems with worms in my rice from the organic shop. There’s always little flies flying around that I am scared to bring them back home.

    I will look for rice pasta in carton packaging!
    Also there is this chinese shop where I buy tofu sometimes and there I doubt they will understand me if I try to explain that I need it in my jar that has to be tared before, always full of people also. I try to buy more at once, in order to use just one bag and not many little bags every day..

    1. Hi Karo!
      Totally understand where you’re coming from. It can be stressful to ask for things that take time when it’s busy. If you use the same jars, they are always the same tare. I have an inexpensive food scale at home I use for baking but can also be used to tare my jars before I head to the store. Also certain styles of jar always will have similar tares that I have memorized. For example, the pint mason jars are .6 and the quart mason jars are 1.0. Hope that helps a bit!

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