Of all the rooms in your house the kitchen is probably the place where most of your household waste is created. In our modern-day culture we tend to throw out all sorts of things from food packaging and wrapping to the finished food product itself. However, it hasn’t always been like that. When food was more of a scarcity and waste disposal wasn’t even a thing nothing was wasted. Food didn’t come in shiny plastic packets and nothing was nonchalantly thrown in the bin.
Whilst food isn’t so scarce anymore, food waste and waste associated with the packaging of food is a massive problem. Food waste generates 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases and uses 28% of the world’s agricultural area. The plastic wrapping our food is also a huge cause for concern with images of the Pacific Ocean garbage patch often appearing on the News and social media.
So how can we reduce the amount of waste we produce in the kitchen? Below I’ve outlined 15 easy habits to implement in your home.
- Buy loose fruit and vegetables – whether this is from your supermarket or better, your local farmers market or farm shop.
- Buy less meat and fish – due to health and safety concerns meat and fish is rarely available in a plastic-free option. Some supermarkets and butchers do offer to take your personal containers but ideally we should all be looking to transition to a fully plant-based diet to halt and reverse climate change.
- Buy foods packaged in jars, tins or paper/cardboard – glass, aluminium and paper are 100% recyclable as opposed to plastic.
- Shop at your local bulk-buy store – here in Chichester there is a great place called Refilled that stocks dry food stuffs in bulk. You fill your own container and pay for the food by weight making it cheaper and better for the environment.
- Keep your glass jars – these can used to store leftovers or filled up at your local bulk-buy store. Heating food in jars in the microwave (minus the metal lid) is also much better for you than heating them in plastic Tupperware pots.
- Plan your meals – this takes a matter of minutes and means that you only buy the food that you need rather than impulse buying food that you fancy.
- Portion control your meals – this will stop you over-eating or cooking too much food and wasting it.
- Ditch the cling-film and grease-proof paper – Neither of these are recyclable. Instead heat food in a bowl with a plate over the top in the microwave. Store food in jars or Tupperware. Properly grease your baking trays and food won’t stick. Use tin-foil, clean after use, roll into a ball, keep adding to it and when it’s the size of a tennis ball, recycle it. Easy!
- Stop throwing away leftovers – it’s very easy to throw away your leftover food, but it’s also easy to pop it into a Tupperware or glass jar for tomorrow. Get creative with your leftovers and create whole new meals from them.
- Compost your vegetable scraps – a composter is a lifetime investment and will create a use for your vegetable scraps. If you don’t have a composter, find a friend who does and store your scraps in the fridge until you can hand them over.
- Contact your local farmer – See if they are willing to take your food scraps to feed to their livestock. This is something widely used in New Zealand and the UN estimates that if farmers globally fed their livestock on food waste enough grain would be liberated to feed an extra 3 billion people, more than the expected population by 2050.
- Make vegetable-scrap stock – collect all your scraps when cutting your veg and store in the freezer. Once you have a good amount boil the frozen veg in enough water to cover them. Pass the mixture through sieve, compost the scraps and enjoy the free vegetable stock! You can use any scraps you want, but avoid things like fruit peels. Perfect candidates for stock are the ends of onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, peppers and much more.
- Get creative and do some research – Chef Tom Hunt from the Guardian newspaper creates lots of recipes from little used ingredients that are often thrown away like carrot leaves and spent coffee grounds (see the picture below of the spent-coffee ground brownies I made the other day). Check out his website for more inspiration (theguardian.com/profile/tom-hunt).
- Use those spent coffee grounds in the garden – spent coffee grounds are a great compost and provide plenty of essential nutrients to your plants.
- Transition to a plant-based diet – this is something the planet needs all of us to do to halt the devastating effects of the meat and dairy industry on the environment. You will also find all of your food waste is totally compostable and a plastic-free lifestyle is much easier to follow.
Finding a use for your leftover food and food scraps means that your bins should have very little food in it and may only have the odd bit of food packaging. If you wash your packaging before binning it your bin should never have any funky smells and should all be dry. This will then negate the need to use a fresh bin bag for each bin-full of waste, thus reducing another stream of plastic waste. Your dry waste can simply be decanted bag-free into your main general waste wheelie-bin.
Implementing these changes in your kitchen is simple to do and can have a massive positive impact on the environment. You will find that you waste a lot less food and your shopping bill reduces. It’s a win-win for you and the planet