Kitchen Hacks: 12 Ways to Reduce Waste in your Kitchen
At this point, we’re all painfully aware of how dire the environmental situation is; humans and their extreme output of waste are (not so) slowly killing the natural environment. The circumstances are dire and it’s time for every single one of us to do everything we can to reduce our environmental impact.
Although it’s almost impossible to reduce all human waste, there are some easy yet important areas in our lives that, if improved upon, can make a significant difference. Even small and simple steps are big steps towards reducing the waste we are pumping into our landfills and oceans.
The idea of reducing your waste can be daunting — where do you even start? It can be less overwhelming if you break it down room by room, so below is a list of some helpful hacks to reduce waste in your kitchen.
*I recognize that some of these hacks are less accessible for people depending on demographic, income, and geography — and that’s okay. Do what you can and do what you can afford, because once again: no one is perfect, and even the tiniest steps are big steps. *
Reusable Water Bottles & Water Filters
Starting with the easiest and most obvious, more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans every year — meaning that plastic water bottles have got to go. Like, yesterday. Water filters to keep in your kitchen are inexpensive and eventually pay for themselves over time. Reusable water bottles are now one of the most popular items on the market and there are countless brands, sizes, and aesthetically pleasing designs to choose from. There’s really no excuse anymore.
In the same vein, plastic straws are doing their own specific damage to the environment — especially to marine wildlife. (We’ve all seen the video of the sea turtle with the plastic straw stuck in its nose. It’s horrible.) Reusable straws are now just as easy to find as the water bottles. They come in a plethora of sustainable materials like silicone, metal, bamboo, and glass.
Coffee Pot & French Press
Plastic K-Cups are an absolute menace to the environment — it’s estimated that the number of K-Cups that have been thrown away could wrap around the Earth11 times. Throwing away a single-use piece of plastic for every single cup of coffee you have is incredibly wasteful. Thankfully, they make things like reusable K-Cups so you can add your own coffee and still enjoy only a single cup at a time. Alternatively, you can find small, single-person coffee pots that don’t require a cup insert, or you can go for the (aesthetically pleasing) French Press, which requires no electricity besides boiling water.
Mason Jars & Glass Tupperware
Plastic food containers do get reused to an extent, but it still eventually makes its way to the garbage after it gets old, used, and stained. Glass food containers with silicone lids are a more sustainable option (and also easier to clean). Some glass containers can be pricy and a bit inaccessible, so mason jars do the same exact job for a lot cheaper, and they’re available pretty much everywhere.
Reusable Shopping Bags
With a lot of states now banning plastic shopping bags, its time to get yourself a nice little collection of reusable shopping bags. Canvas totes can be found at most grocery stores or in shops online, coming in many different fun and interesting designs. They even make reusable produce bags and large insulated bags so your frozen food doesn’t melt on the way home!
Making homemade veggie stock is not only one of the easiest things you can do to prevent excess food waste, but it will also save you money. Saving your normally trashed vegetable scraps and turning them into a broth you can use for soups, gravies, and sauces is a wonderful alternative to just throwing them away and buying prepackaged vegetable stock from the store.
An alternative to making veggie stocks, you can use your kitchen scraps to make compost. Composting is a fantastic way to give your old or unused food scraps a new life as an incredibly nutritious soil for your garden or plants.
Buy Naked Veggies
There’s nothing more infuriating than seeing fruits and vegetables that have skin already designed by nature to protect their vulnerable and edible parts, wrapped and packaged in excessive amounts of plastic. (Seriously, distributors, why are you doing this? Who asked for this?) If you’re able to, opt to get your hands on produce that is sold naked instead.
Start a Garden
Starting a garden is a wonderful way for you to bring fruits, vegetables, and herbs into your kitchen without creating any unnecessary waste by buying them at the grocery store. There’s always waste involved when packing, processing, shipping, and packaging produce that ends up at the market, so making your own is a wonderful way for you to save waste (and money).
Use Fruit Peels in Boiling Water
One of my favorite hacks, if you have leftover citrus peels like orange, grapefruit, clementine, lemon, lime, or even ginger, add them to a small pot of boiling water and within minutes your entire home will smell of juicy, fresh, and delicious citrus fruit. They can be used for up to a few days before they really start to break down and lose their scent.
Buy in Bulk
If you’re able to, buy some of your food in bulk. Rice, grains, legumes, and spices can be found in bulk at a lot of health food stores. They will also allow you to bring your own containers, so you can completely eliminate all waste associated with the transaction.
Make Your Own Salad Dressing
Another one of my favorite hacks is to make your own salad dressing. Most salad dressing in stores comes in a non-recyclable plastic container, but if you make your own at home with products you probably already have, you can once again save unnecessary packaging and money. An easy base for any salad dressing is some type of oil (olive, avocado, sunflower) vinegar (white, balsamic, apple cider) and any desired spices. Most of those ingredients come in glass containers and can yield significantly more servings than you would get in one plastic bottle of store-bought dressing.