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A Zero Waste Kitchen

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

After reading Zero Waste Living written by Stephanie J. Miller I was inspired! (Check out the previous post for more on that) I wanted to tackle the kitchen first because:

  1. This is the room that creates the most waste in our home.

  2. I'm not at all ready to think about the bathroom.

  3. I am ready to make healthier eating habits anyway and all of that starts in the kitchen.

I started with OUR TRASH. What was being thrown away the most?

There are two ways to go about this, dig through your trash before you take it out OR pay attention to what's going in it as you throw it in. I did the latter. We started recycling a few months ago which helped me pay more attention to sorting the trash and kept cardboard, plastic and cartons out of our trash. So what was in our trash?

  1. Food waste. Terrible I know. I wanted to start composting in the Spring but never found a system I was super comfortable with and got stuck in the research phase.

  2. Plastic. Plastic sandwich and snack baggies, plastic packaging from food and pantry items, potato chip bags, candy and snack wrappers etc.

  3. Broken or discarded toys. My boys love to destroy toys so we rarely have discarded toys in good enough shape to donate.

  4. Glass. We live in Akron Ohio, Summit County and cannot recycle glass in our curbside recycle program.

  5. Fast Food containers, wrappers and sauce packets. I cook most of our meals from scratch but we eat out at least once a week.

In the book Stephanie outlines her Magic Three things to do and then each chapter is dedicated to action steps. Read the book to get a better in depth understanding (No spoilers here on her tips and tricks) Check out our facebook group for more information as well!

Here's how we applied these steps to our kitchen:

The Magic Three - Steps to a Zero Waste Kitchen the 80/20 way (In no particular order)

Purge Plastic - 1 Action step, Pick One!

Stephanie is convinced that if you pick just one thing to focus on you will get addicted and keep adding to your list and I have to agree. It feels so good to get sustainable swaps and I think that it's fun too! My first thing was plastic sandwich and snack baggies simply because our box had ran out and I didn't want to buy more. Use up what you have already before making swaps unless you have a person to gift your half used box of sandwich bags to. Swaps can be expensive so that's another good reason to do one at at time. I found cloth sandwich and snack baggies at Aldi fairly inexpensively. They weren't the perfect sustainable choice for various reasons (MicroPlastics, Packaging, Sourcing etc.) but it was a good first step.

Recycle Right - 1 Action Step, Recycle Audit

Stephanie really does a good job of explaining things in depth in her book and I will not repeat that here ( Check out the book! ) Similarly to the trash audit, I paid attention to what was going in instead of digging through afterwards. I took some extra time to go to my city, Akron Ohio, site HERE and see how to properly recycle. Each local area will be different so know what your City or County does. A lot of the things we recycle could be avoided entirely by changing our shopping habits. I'll do another post later on why ultimately we want to reduce what goes in the recycling bin.

Focus on food - 8 Action Steps

  1. Compost. We have partnered with a local organization called Let's Grow Akron. They have a community composting program that starts at just $7 a month! Check out their site HERE but I will also be following up with a more indepth post on their program complete with an interview so check back for that. When we joined the program we received a 5gal bucket which I keep outside next to our trash and recycle bin. I purchased a small countertop compost bin for daily use. When that is full I dump it in the outside bin, rinse it out and place it back on the counter. When the outside bin is full I simply take it to a drop off location and dump it there. It took as about 1 week to fill our 5gal bin.

  2. Go part vegetarian. As a family we don't eat pork or care for fish. I don't eat or cook beef but Eric will cook himself a steak every once in awhile. However, I noticed that we still managed to eat chicken or turkey with every meal. Over the Summer I was dedicated to having one meatless meal every week. Stephanie suggests to reduce by 25%. For every family that will look different. I currently buy family packs of chicken thighs and chicken breasts, batch cook some and freeze then freeze the rest raw. My thinking is, if we really break it down how many chickens is my family eating a week? If we had to buy that chicken from a farm would it have to be a factory farm to meet our consumption? Currently yes. I'm considering buy one whole chicken a week and figuring out the rest from there. In this case though, I must remember to take baby steps. So for now, I'm adding one additional meatless meal a week and keeping the recipes my family likes bookmarked so when it's time to increase to three or four meals a week it isn't so hard or overwhelming.

  3. Prioritize diet based on carbon density of food. In the book there is a really handy reference chart. You can probably also google carbon density of food. I would say that even though beef is higher in carbon density one cow can feed my family for much longer then one chicken. This is where things can get tricky so do what is best for you. I'm considering adding humanely and ethically raised beef to my diet so that our family isn't eating so many chickens. Either way, we are working to get to know our local farmers so that we can be certain our meat is humanely and ethically raised.

  4. Food Planning. This is huge for me anyway because I cook most of our meals from scratch. I make a menu for the week and a grocery list based on the menu.

  5. Daily 3min fridge review. I loved this! She explained it well in the book and it's definitely helped me with wasting less prepped food. Scan your fridge everyday and the older items, move to the front. Something looking moldy? Compost or trash it.

  6. Use it up cooking. This is a tip that I heard before from one of my favorite youtubers Jordan Page ( Shout out to Freeb Nation!) She has a whole program called shelf cooking. Her program is not zero waste in anyway but the concepts can still be used if you get creative. Basically before I make my menu for the week I look in my freezer and pantry and make meals based on what I already have.

  7. Regular leftover night. I usually serve up leftovers the very next day as lunch because it makes packing lunches quick and easy. I do the grocery shopping on Mon or Tue so those days meals are a combination of leftovers and meals prioritized from produce that needs to be eaten before going bad.

  8. Make the freezer your ally. We actually got an extra freezer in the basement over the summer because I LOVE to batch cook and freeze. If I'm putting soup or chili in the crockpot I make a double batch and freeze. Making shredded chicken? I'll do a double batch and freeze. Also, berries looking sad? Freeze them and make smoothies! Veggies lost their crisp? Freeze them and use them to make veggie broth!

Focus on food has the most action steps because there's a lot that goes into preventing food waste. These are all things that take some time to develop so baby steps are important here. This is all a lot of information which is why we're breaking it down in our facebook group! Remember, this is a long game to real lifestyle change not a quick fix for a pinterest perfect zero waste kitchen. Have questions? Email me and I will be glad to chat more!

-Jamila Edwards

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