Okay, before we get started, is a zero waste kitchen even… possible?
Technically, as long as we are living and breathing, we can’t really produce zero waste. We will always in some way or another, waste *something.*
The key is effort. The effort we put in to create less waste, or minimal waste if you will.
Since I started making these zero waste kitchen swaps about two years ago, it has made a big huge in my house… waste-wise.
How can I tell? My trash bin.
I went from taking out the trash at least once-a-week (more like twice) to every other month. Sometimes it even takes three months before I have to take it out.
Now, it’s no “I-can-fit-all-my-trash-into-a-mason-jar” results, but let’s be honest- how truthful are those posts really?
I would say it’s not, and I have my reasons. But what’s most important, besides a zero waste witch hunt, is that it’s not realistic for the average person. If you are a single mother, if you are a mother with a partner, if you are nowhere near being a parent, you work, you study, you are in contact with other people- basically, if you are a normal human being living in a modern society, it’s hard. And the mason jar thing is crap. There. I said it.
That’s why when I say zero waste, I really mean “zero” waste.
Obviously, there’s always room for improvement and that’s what I love about this… way of life… I guess we can call it? We are always learning from each other, how we can waste less.
So no matter if you are a rookie or a seasoned zero waste professional- welcome! Mucho gusto!
And it goes without saying, if some of these swaps are not possible for you, because of finances, access, whatever it is, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just do the best you can.
But now if you *do* have the ability to spice up your kitchen with these zero waste swaps, please do! Small changes add up to big results.
Okay, so let’s get started…
*None of the links in the article are sponsored or affiliates.*
People’s biggest concern with stop using paper towels (I think) is that they worry that it’s not sanitary, convenient or effective enough. I can tell you right away that I haven’t bought paper towels in over two years and have never missed it once.
What you might worry about…
Effectiveness– the dish clothes have been great for everything from wiping up my spills (I spill a lot) to cleaning the kitchen counters, surfaces, etc. I use them for everything.
Convenience– I keep them close by. I always have one hanging over the sink to make sure it dries and airs so it’s always accessible and easy to grab.
Sanitary– if I use them for food or anything extra prone to bacteria, I microwave them right after use. The heat will kill any germs. If I have just wiped up water and nothing too serious, I just wait to microwave it until the end of the day. If I don’t have the option to use a microwave or if I have the extra time I will boil the cloth(s). Then, when I do my weekly laundry I just toss them in with the towels to get washed.
But in between uses, I just hang them over the faucet to air dry.
Again, I’ve done this for over two years and never had any problems. Remember, this is how people have always lived. Our day to day convenient “helper-products” are what’s new to this world. And they are not always necessary.
If you are still not convinced, at least switch to recycled paper towels.
So easy to just switch. Why use plastic when natural material does the job just as well? PLUS, you can toss them in the compost or pile of dirt after and it will become one with Mother Nature again.
I use my reusable napkins every.single.day.
I sort them into four piles. Don’t laugh.
One pile is for dishes.
One pile is for drying hands.
One pile is for napkins (like when eating.)
One pile is for to-go.
I bring this when I’m going to eat, doesn’t matter if it’s a park, a food truck or a restaurant that may not use reusable napkins.
You can buy new ones, you can find ones in the thrift store (my first and favorite option) OR you can make your own. I cut up old t-shirts and put them in a box for multipurpose use, especially when it comes to cleaning. This is a great swap where you can get creative!
Now, this depends on where you live and if you have any bulk shops nearby that offers a refill option. But if you don’t I’ve included a link to a dish block I’ve never tried before but I’ve heard people rave about.
But if you do go with the refill option, this is what I do…
I bring a glass bottle to a local bulk shop, they will weigh it then I fill it up. Then they deduct the weight of the bottle and only charge me for the weight of the soap.
When I get home, I transfer it to an old plastic dish bottle I still have from “before”. It’s easier to squirt it out than from the glass bottle. Plus, I am a little clumsy so add water and soap to that and we have a disaster waiting.
I am also waiting to find the perfect little soap dispenser at a thrift store that I can replace it with but my favorite motto is- work with what you already got!
The focus should always be to waste less. Zero waste doesn’t have to be fancy glass jars and containers.
Where to find: a dish block.
I think it’s been four years since I bought a plastic water bottle.
Since I switched over to this little filter that attaches to the faucet, I just refill my water bottle throughout the day. It’s not perfect. The best way would be to just drink the water directly from the tap but if you live somewhere where your health might be compromised if you do- don’t do it.
I replace the filter every 3-4 months and while it’s not ideal, it keeps me from having to buy plastic bottles and it makes a huge difference. When I have collected enough filters or random waste that can’t go to landfills or in the recycling bin, I bring it all to our local S.A.F.E. center.
Here’s a great resource to learn more about what you can put in each bin and what you do with your “randoms”. It will vary depending on where you live and your location, this is my resource for LA.
If you find one for your city/country, please share in the comments and we can start a little directory to help each other out!
I love this so much. The food doesn’t stick, it cleans easily and best of all, no waste. It’s made of silicone and does the job way better than parchment paper.
I roast nuts, potatoes, everything on it.
Where to find yours: reusable baking sheet.
So handy! I use these to wrap the tops of bowl and plates with leftovers, I wrap food and fruit in it. So much you can do with these!
You can buy them or make them yourself. Just do a quick google search “how to make my own beeswax wraps”.
Where to find yours: beeswax wraps.
These are great! You can boil them, freeze them, anything.
Made of silicone, they make a great replacement for plastic sandwich bags or freezer bags. I store food and fruit in them, even bring them with me out as a to-go compost. Or to carry snacks in. Anything!
Where to find yours: reusable silicone food bags
This might not be super easy. Well, actually it is once it becomes part of your routine and you get used to it. But in the beginning, it might seem tedious. Or overwhelming. But I got to tell you, this is where you will see the *biggest* reduction of waste in your “zero” waste kitchen.
When you start composting, you will see that most of the trash you accumulate and send to the landfill, should never have gone to the landfill in the first place. This not only takes up space in the landfills but it also creates toxic gases. Composting is a whole other topic that deserves an article on its own, and there are a ton of great ones out there you can find with a quick Google search. But here are some quick guidelines.
1. See if your city/neighborhood has a composting program. Many cities, like Los Angeles, have a yard bin where you can put green organic waste in. That’s what I currently do. I collect the compost in a bowl that I keep in one of the draws in my refrigerator so it doesn’t smell and when it fills up, I go outside and dump it in the green yard bin. Some fancy people use a compost pail, but again, I’m a “use what ya got” kind of girl, so random bowl it is.
Sidenote! Be aware that are some restrictions of what you can put in the yard bin, here’s some more info on that.
2. Create your own compost at home. I’m personally not a fan of the ones that go directly in the ground. I grew up with that and we always got a ton of rats and as much as I love all of Mother Natures creatures, I prefer if me and the rats kept a distant relationship with another.
Once I move to a bigger home, I’m looking to get an aboveground tumbler like this one. There are also more affordable tumblers, I just don’t know anyone who has tried them but you can just search on google to find so so many options.
3. Compost app! I just found out about this maybe six months ago when I was in Oregon and desperately asked people on social media where I could take the compost I’d been collecting during my road trip. One follower, sent from the angels, sent this app to me.
I love this, especially when I’m on the road, traveling, but you can use it for home as well. Maybe one of your neighbors have a compost and is happy to help, who knows!
Okay, that’s it!!
I hope this gave you some ideas on how to make your own kitchen a little bit more zero waste.
If you are sitting on some tips yourself- don’t hold back, share below!