10 STEP RECIPE FOR A PERFECT ZERO WASTE KITCHEN

Zero-Waste-Kitchen-sustainable-jungle

We started our zero waste journey a while ago now.  

Since then, we’ve gathered momentum, motivation and learned a ton.

We’ve already covered zero waste bathroom, zero waste beauty, zero waste deodorant, zero waste sunscreen to name a few!

But now we figured it was time to write down our secret family recipe for a zero waste kitchen.

ZERO WASTE LIVING

First, as a reminder, zero waste is a lifestyle that seeks to use products that can be reused or composed instead of just thrown away.

We know the term zero waste can sound a bit intimidating.

It gets used a lot, but it’s important to remember that it really is a term best not taken *entirely* literally. 

Going zero waste doesn’t necessarily mean you will generate literally no waste at all. Our environmental footprint is a lot more complex than that.

Just know that zero waste is really nothing more magical than simply trying to live less wastefully, one small step at a time.

That’s why we believe zero waste is for everyone!

So let’s get cooking and plate up 10 delicious zero waste kitchen swops to make your kitchen a less wasteful space.

1. BUY IN BULK TO CREATE A ZERO WASTE PANTRY

Zero-Waste-Home-Bulk-Finder-Map-sustainable-jungle
Bulk Finder Map from Zero Waste Home

About Zero Waste Pantries

This is an important one, and in fact is probably the easiest way to reduce the bulk of your kitchen waste.  

As far as dry goods go, you can find anything and everything in bulk, like spices, coffee, granola, dried fruit, nuts, baking supplies, and so much more.

How does bulk work?

Bulk food is simply food that is not sold in plastic bags (but don’t be tempted by the little plastic baggies hanging next to the bulk canisters; that would defeat the point!).

Instead bring your own jar or other zero waste container, fill it up, write down the number of the product, and check out as normal.

You’ll be charged by weight of the product. Just make sure you’ve weighed your container so the cashier can deduct the weight from the total.

Most large grocery store chains now include some sort of a bulk section, ranging from pitiful to plentiful. Luckily, more (and better!) bulk stores, like Whole Foods, are popping up worldwide.

You can also use this fantastic Bulk Finder resource from Zero Waste Home, available online or as an app! If you live in Melbourne, our friends at Reusable Nation have a thorough localized map.

Reusable Produce and Grocery Bags

Produce can be tricky because even if you bring your own reusable produce bags, they’ll often be either wrapped in plastic or contain rubber bands and stickers.

The best way to go truly zero waste (and typically organic, too) about produce is to buy from farmers markets or market gardens.

We either get our groceries from the farmers market or from local producers via an online service (delivered in boxes) to ensure it’s plastic free!

For any shopping adventure, of course, don’t forgot to bring along your reusable grocery bags!

2. STORE FOOD IN ZERO WASTE CONTAINERS

About Zero Waste Containers

Start collecting jars (lots and lots of jars!) or really any sort of glass or metal container (tin coffee cans work well, too).

Soon you’ll be putting anything and everything in them.

For instance, maybe you have a nice sentimental bottle of wine from your wedding; give it a use as an olive oil container or maybe a pasata bottle! Use your imagination.

Zero waste food containers can be pretty much anything!

You can use these to not only buy and store bulk goodies, but to store prepped food and leftovers.

3. PREP TO-GO MEALS LIKE A PRO

About Prepping Like a Pro

As with food storage, there are tons of zero waste containers to take your food in the go.

We love our stainless steel containers, and there are tons of glass options out there too.

Again, even just jars (have you checked out how many delicious mason jar recipes are out there?!) will do the trick.

For slimmer packing, some other really great zero waste swops you can make are:

That said, don’t just trash your Tupperware.

We still use plenty of our old Tupperware since we believe the best way to reduce waste is to always use what you have (whatever it may be) before buying something new.

When you’re ready to retire old pieces, check whether they’re recyclable and where you can, replace with non-plastic.

4. FIND A SECOND USE FOR YOUR FOOD SCRAPS

About Food Scraps

Food scraps account for a huge percentage of national landfill waste.

According to the 2015 EPA Study on Municipal Solid Waste, about 16.5% of ALL waste in landfills is just food.

So much unnecessary waste for something so easily compostable and put to far better use than methane production.

Using Food Scraps

Many food scraps can actually serve another purpose.

For instance, place the scrap end of onions, leeks, spring onions and bulbs in a tray of shallow water to regrow them (or replant the scrap ends into the garden!).

So many vegetable scraps can be used up to make vegetable stock (here’s a great recipe).

Keep old fruit and orange peels for soaking in vinegar and making into your own citrus scented cleaning agent or dry them to make potpourri.

The possibilities are endless!

5. COMPOST ANY LEFTOVER SCRAPS

Indoor compost bin Sustainable Jungle
Image by Gardeners.com

About Composting

Anything you can’t use, compost!

Composting is an excellent way to reduce your home’s footprint.

With the vast number of compact composters out there, you don’t even need large living space or a backyard to do it!

There are all sorts of kitchen and indoor composters, with different price tags and levels of maintenance.  You can choose from Bokashi binsvermicompostershigh tech composters, and more.

Check out our indoor composter article for some in-depth reviews of the various compositing options out there.

If you have your own outdoor compost bin or access to community composting, you can just collect food scraps in any spare container you have lying around.

Compost Collectors

Compost collections are a handy go-between for collecting food waste and then tossing it in the composter in one go. 

If you want to get fancy, something like this stainless steel collector bin which blocks odors while food starts to break down but doesn’t actually compost it is a great option.

We usually just use a large old plastic container and throw it in the dishwasher for cleaning but if you really feel the need to use bin liners, make sure you use liners that are compostable in home composting systems as so many “biodegradable” and “compostable” bags out there only break down in industrial facilities.

A good option is Unni’s plant starch bags which are certified as home compostable.

6. SUSTAINABLY SATISFY YOUR COFFEE FIX

About Zero Waste Coffee

For you over caffeinated coffee addicts out there, time to toss the coffee pods!

Turn that vice into a virtue by making zero waste coffee.

Start by buying your coffee in bulk.  You can typically either grind right there at the store (we tried 3 stores before we found one with a grinder so it may take a bit of perseverance) or do it yourself at home for an ultra-fresh brew – guaranteed maximum deliciousness!

To make the coffee itself, you can either use a glass / stainless steel french press, or an Italian Bialetti stovetop espresso maker like us.

We personally LOVE the Bialetti, we’ve been using for years and love the routine of making it on the stove, is a special little morning routine!

Once you’re finished, just toss the grounds into your compost bin or even directly in soilas a pH neutral fertilizer and natural pesticide. Worms love coffee grounds too!

Zero Waste Coffee Cups

For those mornings when you’ve hit the snooze on your alarm one too many times, prep your coffee at home then take it to go in a reusable coffee cup.

We alternative between a small Hydroflask, which is a great option for outdoors and indoors, a very robust reusable and a Frank Green Stainless Steel Flask and Keep Cup.

P.S. Frank Green is actually a great sustainable company that is making reusables cool, reusing their own waste to make other products and building sustainability into their operations (e.g. they use green energy and our favorite Who Gives A Crap recycled toilet paper).

We recently interviewed their founder Ben Young on our podcast to learn more about their company – listen to the full episode here.

7. ZERO WASTE TEA

About Zero Waste Tea Time

If you prefer a good ol’ cuppa tea to a morning brew, many of the same rules above apply.

Buy your loose leaf tea in bulk (they’ve usually got ton of herb and flavor combos) and store it a simple jar.

When tea time rolls around, boil your water with a stainless steel stovetop kettle.

It’ll last you forever, looks way sleeker than most electric kettles, eliminates any concern about plastic leakage into your water and of course, there’s no e-waste at the end of the kettle’s life.

We wish we knew all this before we bought our current electric kettle – once it dies, we will be replacing it with a stainless steel one!

Then just steep the tea in a classic stainless steel infuser (we use this one) and, again, compost the tea leaves once you’re done!

8. ZERO WASTE KITCHEN CLEANING

About Zero Waste Cleaning

Just because you’ve gone zero waste and avoid plastic bottles with chemical based household cleaners, doesn’t mean you can’t keep your kitchen sparkly clean.

To wash dishes, ditch the plastic bottle and switch to zero waste bulk soap. Liquid dish soap can be bought in bulk at many bulk stores.

Pair this with a plastic free sponge that’s compostable and washable.

For stubborn, stuck-on food grab a reusable bamboo pot scrubber brush (that can be broken down when it does finally start getting gross) or just a simple course loofah.

Fun fact: Loofahs are actually a vegetable and thus 100% natural and compostable (just check that you’re buying a 100% loofah instead of something with plastic added).

Zero Waste Cleaning With a Dishwasher

If you have a dishwasher, you can actually get dishwashing powders or even dishwashing tabs from bulk stores!

Sometimes they leave something to be desired (along with bits of crusted food…); we learned this when we experimented with the dishwashing tabs from our local bulk store. Not the best, but worth a shot.

So instead, we switched to the next best thing: Ecostore dishwasher tabs. Not only are they high on our list as far as ethical brands go, these Environmental Choice-approved tabs break down food through biodegradable enzymes, meaning they dissolve entirely, including the packaging.

They also come in a cardboard box which can be composted or recycled easily.

Lastly, to keep countertops clean and bacteria free with a simple, all-purpose zero waste cleaner you can make out of just vinegar diluted with water.  

Vinegar can be tough to find in bulk so if not, consider just using another bulk all-purpose cleaner found at your bulk store.

9. ADD A PINCH OF RECYCLING TO YOUR RECIPE

About Recycling

Recycling statistics are extremely grim, we know. 

While zero waste living strives to go beyond basic recycling, sometimes it’s inevitable. This is especially true in the kitchen considering it’s nearly impossible to buy only food that’s purely zero waste.

Just do the best you can and be responsible about the rest. Rather recycle than not.

Be sure to check your local council guidelines about proper recycling procedure for your area. Learn what things can and can’t be recycled, sort it properly, and cleanse food out the recycled container (food contamination ruins whole recycling batches!).

You will be so surprised about what can actually be recycled – for example, we can recycle soft plastics at our local supermarket and our council has a recycling facility where we can take polystyrene, batteries, lightbulbs, electronic waste and metals (like old cooking pots).

So before you chuck it in the trash, be sure to check if there is a path that avoids landfill first!

10. KEEP YOUR ZERO WASTE KITCHEN DESIGN MINIMAL

About Minimalist Kitchens

We know, we know: Bed, Bath, and Beyond (and similar stores) are so much fun.

Yet most of their nifty kitchen gadgets are completely unnecessary.

They’re engineered to make super specific tasks only slightly easier! Don’t fall for the gimmick and buy things you don’t need. 

Seriously: you do really need a dipper for your cookies?!

Use what you have instead and wait until it really dies before replacing it. We highly recommend adopting a minimalist mentality. 

We call this the slow tech philosophy, which basically boils down to the simple rule of thumb: if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. If you do buy it, make it worth it and make it last.

Plus, nothing makes a kitchen look more cookworthy than a clean, minimalist appearance.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON YOUR ZERO WASTE KITCHEN

You may have noticed many of things on this list are also found in our zero waste kit and that’s no coincidence. 

Creating a zero waste kitchen is a pretty seamless integration with basic zero waste tips, tricks and hacks. Kitchen’s are after all the center of waste within most households!

Now we’re not saying this is the perfect recipe to a zero waste kitchen, but we think it tastes pretty darn good.

So channel your inner Chef Gordon Ramsay and tell waste to “P*?# off out of my kitchen”. You’re the master chef of your own zero waste journey, after all.

We hope this guide will help get you one bite closer to that sustainability soufflé you’ve been dreaming of. Let us know if this is useful or if you have an amazing tip to share that we should add to this list!

We love to hear your comments, questions, tips, recipes, whatever! Drop us a comment or message us.

Zero Waste Kitchen - Tea
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2 thoughts on “10 STEP RECIPE FOR A PERFECT ZERO WASTE KITCHEN”

    • Thank so much Izzy, so happy you found it helpful! We have the same issue with Zero Waste Stores, luckily they are all on the same street but it does make it just a little less convenient so buying in bulk is absolutely key and yes, saves money if you put the planning in 😉

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