If there’s one room that generates waste it’s the kitchen. From paper towels to wipe up spills, to food that finds its way to the trash before your stomach there are so many ways we waste unnecessarily in the kitchen. As climate change moves to the forefront as a global crisis, there is a stronger sense of urgency in sweeping legislation to reign in our carbon footprint. But there are small things you can do that will add up to make a big change that don’t involve Paris treaties or an agreement from Congress. Follow these simple steps to reduce waste in your kitchen today.
Energy Efficient Appliances
The biggest step you can take towards reducing waste in your kitchen is to upgrade appliances to Energy Star approved appliances. To give you an idea of just how much water you can save by making the switch, dishwashers made before 1994 used between 10 and 15 gallons of water on a normal cycle. And if you think that by taking less time to wash dishes by using the One-hour setting that you’re also using less water, think again. Because the time is condensed, but the outcome should be the same, the amount of water and pressure is doubled by using the shorter cycle. This will set you back a pretty penny. But you make up the cost over time and do good for the environment.
American homes throw away $144 Billion worth of food annually. That’s a lot of food. Most of it comes from rotted or expired foods. This is a result of poor meal planning and letting leftovers go bad. The good news is that natural foods will biodegrade in a landfill. (That biodegraded food can be put to better use, but that’s a fact for another topic.) But with proper meal planning and a commitment to eating every single thing you buy, you’re not only keeping your waste to a minimum and saving money, but you have the added benefit of improving your health. Make no mistake. This requires planning and effort, a creation of new habits. Luckily, there are meal subscriptions available nationwide. They create waste with their packaging, but used short term they can develop your skills and confidence in the kitchen so you can one day one day operate solo.
Tupperware and Food Storage
It seems like an odd topic. But keeping a hearty stock-pile of tupperware has its benefits. You’ll be able to store leftovers from both the meals you’ve prepared and the food you haven’t used yet that doesn’t have resealable packaging. Using tupperware keeps you from needing disposable baggies, foil and plastic wrap. Items that aren’t biodegradable that wind up in the trash. Storing non-perishables in air-tight containers such as mason jars for things like coffee beans, flour, rice, and nuts can keep them fresh and free of critters. Pack up leftovers before going to bed into individual portions and you’ve got a Grab-and-Go lunch for the next day or more. You can even prepare and store snacks in them so you can avoid single-packaged snacks by buying in bulk.
Bulk and Dispensers
Speaking of buying in bulk, it may be a necessity for larger families but it can also reduce the amount of packaging you waste. Things like oils, vinegars, and seasonings that you cook with frequently bought in their largest single package but stored in easy to use dispensers reduce waste from packaging. The same goes for supplies like dish soap, hand soap, and other cleaning products. One plastic bag of hand soap saves 3 regular sized bottles. An added bonus, these dispensers can be used to infuse a little flair in your kitchen with cute colors and design.
Those naturally biodegradable foods in the landfill we mentioned earlier? That better use? It’s called compost. Egg shells, coffee grounds, produce and grass clippings are most commonly used in at-home compost. That compost become fertilizer that can go right back into your lawn and garden. Compost has the benefits of creating nutrient dense, non-toxic fertilizer that keeps the water supply cleaner.
While compost is another more-involved change, recycling isn’t. Yet, so many people still recycle improperly. Food particles are considered contaminants to recyclable materials. Unfortunately, the cost to decontaminate an item is more expensive than processing an uncontaminated item and recycling plants aren’t willing to pay the extra cost, so they toss those items into the landfill. In fact, any public bin that has a contaminated item in it will result in the entire bin being thrown into the garbage. Wash your plastic completely free of food particles before tossing them in the bin.
Reusability is a common theme in this thread. Switching from disposable sponges, rags and paper towels to washable cloths and towels will save you money while reducing waste. Stock up so you can go without needing to wash too frequently. Dry everything from fruits and veggies to dishes and spill with a towel to eliminate paper towel usage. If you hand wash, or even pre-wash, use a sturdy cloth that can scrub even the most stubborn dried on food off a plate.
Some tasks are obviously easier than others. But start small and work your way up. Be mindful of what you use as well as what you waste. It’s time for everyone to do their part in minimizing the world’s carbon footprint and your kitchen is no exception. It’s the best place to start.