Let’s not beat around the bush.. beginning the transition towards a zero waste lifestyle can feel hella overwhelming. You’ve had it weighing on your conscience for a few months now, you’re seeing articles everywhere.. it feels like it’s time to bite the bullet and just do something about it.. but like, seriously where do you start?!
For me, I decided to transition one area of my life at a time starting with the areas that produced the most waste: my closet.. and the kitchen. I’m definitely no expert on the closet situation, it’s completely still a work in progress (as in, I’ve mostly just been on a perpetual no-buy for the last year while I research where I want to source my clothes from.. thank god for Sarah, amirite?!).
The kitchen, however, is where I spend SO much of my time and literally where almost all of the waste in my home is produced. It seems scary, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be! If you’re like me, you’ll be happy to have read the title of this blog post. 5 things! Just a simple list to get you started! That’s doable, right?
Before we dive in, let me quickly say.. don’t forget to be kind to yourself. This is a PROCESS and the more grace you have for yourself; the slower and more consistent you are with making changes, the more sustainable they’ll actually be!
Okay, now the tips!
This tip alone has had the most dramatic effect on the amount of waste that my kitchen produces. It sounds silly saying it now, but when our apartment building doled out the mandatory organics bins, within three days I realized that by simply disposing of organic matter separately, (and recycling, of course), we could go from taking the trash out every 2-3 days, to roughly every two WEEKS. Like I said.. dramatic. While this may not be the same for every household (because I practice somewhat of a minimalist lifestyle and am decently far along in my zero waste pursuit) aside from food scraps, recyclable food packaging and paper products… the only other waste that really exists around here is when I empty the vacuum cleaner. Likely a small exaggeration, but honestly.. there just isn’t much left!
Composting when you live in a large city apartment building is quite simple because it’s becoming mandatory almost everywhere in Canada and a lot of places give you a bin. The biodegradable bags aren’t super expensive, and the rest is history. You simply put organics in the bin instead of the trash, and throw the bag down the organics chute. EASY PEASY. No excuse not to.
If, however, you don’t have that luxury, you are likely either in the category of keeping the bin and finding a centre to dispose of organics (maybe your city gives you a specific bin).. OR you’re looking at starting a pile in your back yard. If the latter is your situation, I do recommend taking the time to research the proper steps to creating your own compost - covering it properly, if you need worms, etc. The benefits of composting are almost endless. When we allow matter to decompose as it was naturally intended to and then use that matter to nourish the soil in our surrounding areas, not only are we reducing waste but we’re actually contributing to the nutrient content of the soil where our food is grown, thus helping to repeat the cycle of allowing our bodies to consume plants that deeply nourish us, and on and on it goes.
#2 SAVE + REPURPOSE VEGGIE SCRAPS.
Going along with the first tip, before your veggie scraps hit the compost bin.. why not recycle? About a year back when I was looking at incorporating more plant-based meals into what I eat, one of the first things I started doing was swapping chicken broth in soups for vegetable broth. See, I realized that all veggie broth consists of is the extraction of the flavour from vegetables… aka boiled vegetables. duh. From then on I began to collect all my veggie scraps and freeze them in a container until I had enough volume and diversity to produce a tasty broth! Bell pepper, carrot and onion tops, pieces of garlic that remain after putting cloves through a garlic press, any tarnished piece of celery or cabbage - you name it. If it was washed and rejected, it went in the freezer box. The next step is to cover the veggies in a stock pot with filtered water and boil for as long as you see fit! Once you’re done boiling, dump it through a strainer into a bowl (veggies to compost after this), add salt and spices if you like and then store it in glass jars in the fridge or freezer!
This simple practice has allowed me to get an extra mile out of my produce, eliminate the expense of purchasing broth and, in doing so, eliminated another package entering my home. That’s an all around WIN.
#3 SWAP CONTAINERS + ACCESSOIRES.
Definitely the prettiest, most fun tip on my list today.. switching out your single-use and plastic containers for glass/stainless/REUSABLE containers. I was seriously a stupid amount of excited when this sustainable practice started to become trendy!
Now, quick disclaimer.. PLEASE don’t hear me say “go throw out all your ziplock containers asap! Nooo no no! The entire essence of the zero waste movement is thrown out the window with your plastic bags, even if you have the best intentions! I know it’s not glamourous.. but if you have those babies.. RE-USE THEM UNTIL THEY DIE.
Wash your ziplock bags, re-use your grocery bags, use those Tupperwares to hold food and craft supplies and whatever else you can think of so that they don’t go to the landfill or recycling centre until they truly owe you nothing. Then and only then (unless you’re in need of expanding, etc), switch over to another material! I find glass mason jars to be fabulous for almost anything, and they’re so cheap! From storing cut up veggies and pre-made work lunches to filling with homemade nut butters, trail mixes and dishwasher cubes.. those suckers hold EVERYTHING. Also, thanks to the trendy movements, everything from stainless takeaway containers, collapsable reusable straws, to-go cups and produce grocery bags are accessible in SO many places! If you’re looking to swap, the zero waste online store is a fabulous resource, but of course check around and see if there’s a local business you can support!
#4 SHOP IN BULK.
Self explanatory. Bulk stores save lives. Not only do they encourage you to bring your own containers (hello glass jar + canvas bag collection of my dreams), but often purchasing things in bulk will significantly reduce your grocery bill.
My favourite perk of bulk shopping is that it gives me control over the amount I’m purchasing!
Occasionally I like to splurge on an organic raw seed or powder of some sort and even though it’s still expensive, instead of having to buy the whole plastic bag, I can fill up my container with ONLY the amount of the product I’m actually going to use. Brilliant! This goes for things like salt to clean my cast iron pan, or flaxseed… (who actually gets through a whole package of that stuff before it’s gone off??) By only purchasing in bulk what I’m going to consume while it’s fresh, I reduce the amount of waste all while forgoing the usual packaging as well as *bonus* lowering the likelihood of items gathering dust in the back of my pantry! Like I said, self explanatory.
#5 PLAN AHEAD.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if I had a dime for every time I heard a sentence come out of someone’s mouth about convenience getting the best of them I could fund someone’s college education, no joke. Here’s the deal: there is zero shame in being realistic about life. Whether it’s good for us or not, we are busy humans. We skip breakfast and pick up lunch on the way to meetings and forget to feed ourselves as we’re busting our asses accomplishing all the things. If your life is so full that you find yourself constantly reaching for plastic-wrapped to-go foods or forgetting your reusable grocery bags for the thousandth time because you just don’t have room for another thing in your brain, that doesn’t make you a terrible person. It makes you HUMAN. However, if you’re still reading this post, I’m going to put money on the fact that part of you wants to put effort towards making some changes and here is going to the be simplest and yet potentially most important one you could make: plan ahead.
The saying “fail to plan, plan to fail”, while somewhat harsh, usually rings absolutely true.
Taking fifteen minutes once-a-week to plan your grocery haul, your meals, your snacks; to schedule out time to set yourself up for success - that choice alone will 110% change your life.
Notice that I used the word choice. Planning is a practice, a habit that you choose to cultivate that, while definitely inconvenient at the beginning, eventually creates a second-nature type structure that can actually bring so much freedom and ease to your life, it’s unbelievable.
“But Jaedyn, how do we plan??” Well I’m very glad you asked.. find what works for you, because everyone is truly so different. Are you a lists person? A google calendar or apple reminders gal? Whatever actually aids you and doesn’t cause more stress and take more time away from you, start there. As for the dirty details of planning.. you’ll have to stay tuned for a later post..
I hope that this was somewhat helpful, and if you made it through my 5 not-so-quick tips - you’re the real MVP.
Leave a comment and let me know 1. Which tip you’re going to test drive this week AND 2. What your tips are for lowering your kitchen waste!