You hear about Zero Waste everywhere now. But is it actually possible to go zero waste? I have done various things to kickstart my zero waste life. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve made a system that works well for me. This post is about how I set up a zero waste kitchen in 5 steps, and the steps that anyone can follow.
- Zero Waste Kitchen Organization
- Zero Waste Kitchen Products
- Zero Waste Kitchen Recipes
- Terminology of the Zero Waste Kitchen
- Plan Out Your Zero Waste Kitchen Strategy
- Let’s Set Up a Zero Waste Kitchen in 5 Simple Steps
Zero Waste Kitchen Organization
A place for everything, and everything in its place. This mantra was drilled into me as a child, but it’s quite useful when it comes to organizing and maintaining any space.
As an eco-minimalist and low waste proponent, the most critical thing is to avoid overconsumption. When you only buy what you need, and make sure all the waste is treated with the environment in mind, life becomes much simpler. On top of that, allocating specific spaces in your kitchen for specific purposes – and maintaining that – will make it much easier to have a zero waste kitchen.
Storage tips will be covered in the posts on paper-free kitchen and plastic-free kitchen. Compostable waste, and stylish kitchen compost bins are also covered, so you can make the best choices for your kitchen. Plus, check out these super helpful tips from the video below:
Zero Waste Kitchen Products
In choosing what zero waste products to buy for your kitchen, keep some important things in mind. First, you don’t have to buy anything new unless you need to replace something that is no longer fit for purpose. If things are working fine, leave them be.
Check out the post on zero waste kitchen essentials, and the one on zero waste cooking supplies for tons of suggestions and ideas for your own kitchen.
The zero waste kitchen appliances are loads of fun to look through, but, again, only purchase what you need. If possible, buy a refurbished product. Gradually modify your space and kitchen design to make it as convenient as possible for you to plan, cook, clean, recycle, and compost.
One big tip here is to learn about food: what are the ingredients? Where are they grown? How do they need to be stored? Being more in touch with our food extends our relationship with nature, and increases our concern for the wellbeing of all. Which is what the zero waste movement has come from. And which will lead us to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Zero Waste Kitchen Recipes
Most of us reading here are incredibly fortunate: we can buy the food we want, when we want it. But that easy convenience has resulted in tremendous amounts of food waste. Americans waste about $165 billion worth of food annually (from kitchens, restaurants, grocery stores, farms).
That is insane.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to reduce food waste as much as possible, by meal planning as well as following zero waste recipes as often as we can.
When in doubt, think back to your grandparents’ time, and try to learn how things were done in those days. Preservatives weren’t used as much (and were certainly not nearly as harmful), plastic wasn’t around, and the freshness of food was a given. And nothing was wasted! We can all pick up stories and tips from our own families, but if you want to delve more into traditional cooking styles and greater self-sufficiency in the kitchen, here are some book recommendations:
1 / Grand Dishes: Recipes and stories from grandmothers of the world
2 / In Nonna’s Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy’s Grandmothers
3 / Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies
4 / Cook More, Waste Less: Zero-Waste Recipes to Use Up Groceries, Tackle Food Scraps, and Transform Leftovers
5 / Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Terminology of the Zero Waste Kitchen
End-to-end ‘Zero Waste’ is Not Realistic
If you consider the life of any modern-day product, zero waste is the last thing it’s going to be. And, as users of modern-day products, it’s naïve to expect to be able to live a life of absolutely zero waste. Waste is produced not only while making the products we use, but also while disposing of them (and what happens in the landfill is out of your control as an individual). In the entire process in between, there’s packaging, transporting, storage, etc. Having said that, it’s a noble goal to pursue, albeit a bit stressful.
Avoid Definitive Statements
Secondly, I don’t know about you, but absolute statements like forever, always, zero cause a bit of a panic attack in me. I’ve realised this is because I tend to take words literally. Zero waste means zero waste, fullstop. So, if something doesn’t work out exactly as described (zero waste), I feel like it’s a failure. Or, that I’m unsuccessful. This is, of course, my problem, but it goes some way in explaining why attempting the zero waste lifestyle is so daunting to me. It’s not literally possible (not even by its staunchest advocates), but that is a matter of academic debate. I know it’s not possible (unless I live like our cave-ancestors did), and I want to ease the pressure on me by using a more ‘realistic’ terminology. This is still problematic; I can’t say 5 Weeks to setting up a more or less zero waste kitchen, or 5 Weeks to setting up a kitchen that can potentially become zero waste given sufficient technological advancement. And Low waste, Minimum waste and Less waste – all sound very boring.
This made me realise the power of the term Zero Waste. It has impact. It’s no-nonsense in its vision. And that is so compelling to everyone.
Plan Out Your Zero Waste Kitchen Strategy
If you consider the kitchen as a separate entity, it’s possible to minimize the waste products flowing in, and reduce to zero the waste flowing out. (Recycling still produces waste, but let’s set that aside for the moment.)
As an experiment of sorts, I decided to try to control the waste products flowing into my kitchen. I swapped paper for cloth, and refused to bring in any plastic. This, again, was not possible. A lot of products we use are packaged in plastic. Even in an organic store, the organic rice is packaged in plastic (sighhh). I can be all technical about it, and remove the rice from the plastic packet in the living room and bring it into the kitchen in its steel container and say voila! Zero Waste Kitchen, but who am I fooling?
It’s easy to say ‘use a cloth bag’, and we should use cloth bags (of course), but inside that cloth bag, everything I’ve bought is packaged in plastic. I miss the old kirana stores where rice and dal used to be wrapped up in old newspaper and tied tight with a piece of string. The last several years have made plastic packaging ubiquitous, even in the smallest of stores, and we will have to deal with that. There are numerous such challenges to achieving a Zero Waste Kitchen, but I persist.
Keep It Simple
For now, I’ve decided to go ahead and use the term Zero Waste, not because of its marketing value, but because it is what we should aim for. It’s the moonshot for the sustainable lifestyle advocates (although the moonshot was actually achieved, but that’s the point…).
And I’ve decided that a deliberate transitioning of a kitchen to a Zero Waste kitchen is something that takes a bit of time. Your mileage may vary, but not everyone can do it overnight. Don’t take five months to do it, though! It’s imperative that you get down to it ASAP. The planet, remember, doesn’t have time for our laziness. Five weeks is very achievable, and sits in well to set up habits for your kitchen that you should persist with.
Want to get a head-start and do it your own way? Check out these books (affiliate link):
Let’s Set Up a Zero Waste Kitchen in 5 Simple Steps
Follow these steps below – one big step at a time – and you’ll have rid your kitchen of the majority of waste products. You will also get insights into how you can do better for your own kitchen. Do share your tips with us, too!
The important thing is to be consistent. Don’t fall back into your old bad habits. Remember why you started, and why it’s so important.
So, after that lengthy yakking, let’s get started.
Step 1: Go Paperless
Step 2: Go Plastic-free
Step 3: Wormless Composting
Step 4: Waste Segregation
Step 5: Meal Planning
Advanced Zero Waste: Building Your Kitchen Herb Garden
THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE DETAILS.
NOTE: All brand photographs belong to the respective brands/businesses.
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