There’s been a lot of buzz on the “zero waste” movement lately. Reducing the amount of trash by choosing reusable, recyclable or compostable options is something our family has always been mindful of doing. We’ve recently started to up the ante on our #zerowaste efforts, because we care deeply about protecting the environment for future generations. There’s all sorts of things you can do reduce your household waste, but today I’m focusing on the kitchen and sharing with you what’s worked for us as a young family of four.
Healthy Habits is a blog series about making positive changes for health, happiness and environmental benefits.
My best tip for reducing waste from food packaging is to avoid the shops altogether! We have been getting a fruits and vegetables box delivered weekly to our house for the past few months, and it is almost completely waste free and a huge time saver. The fresh produce comes packed in a big styrofoam box without any plastic bags. We leave the box at our front door and it gets collected and reused for next time. We also get our milk and eggs included in the delivery, so we no longer need to go into a supermarket every week. Usually, Dave will pop into a store to buy non-perishables, and we try to buy our meat from a butcher to avoid the styrofoam trays.
Here in Wollongong, we use Illawarra Fruit Direct for our deliveries and have been very happy with the service and quality. When we lived in San Francisco, we tried deliveries from Full Circle, but because we lived in an apartment, our fruit box kept on being left on the street and quickly taken by the homeless. That’s SF for you!
On the rare occasion when we do need to buy any fruit or vegetables, we use our Onya produce bags, which are lightweight mesh drawstring bags. We received these bags as a Christmas gift from Dave’s sister, and we love them! I’m sure you can make your own too – I’ve seen people sew them out of mosquito nets. Of course, it’s a given that you should bring your own shopping bags to the store. Oh and there’s no need to bag your bananas! If you’re in the mood for some cute DIY, here’s my tutorial for making shopping bags out of vintage pillowcases.
I like to use the Onya bags to buy bulk dry goods like dried fruit and oats too. Bulk food stores are still rare in Australia, but my local Coles now has bulk bins in the fruits and vegetables aisle. The mesh bags weigh next to nothing, so I fill up on dried fruit, pop it on the scale and stick the pricing sticker on the drawstring. I have had odd looks from other shoppers and at the cash register, but you have to be brave sometimes to do the right thing for the environment. It’s funny, because back in San Francisco, no one would bat an eyelid if you brought your own containers to buy bulk foods. I do miss the liberal attitude of San Franciscans and all the amazing co-op food stores. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, make sure you go to Rainbow! Wollongong has a long way to go in terms of becoming a #zerowaste city, but I hear there’s a Bulk Sourcefoods opening soon so that’s one step in the right direction.
Check out this video from Zero Waste Home on how a Bay Area native shops for food without producing waste. Aaah it makes me really miss living in San Francisco…
Zero Waste Dish Washing
This is definitely still a work in progress. Right now, we are trialling the use of natural bar soap instead of dishwashing liquid for cleaning the dishes. The bar soaps doesn’t produce lots of bubbles like liquid soap, so that takes a bit of getting used to. The bar soap cuts through grease a lot better than liquid soap, and we’ve noticed a big difference in the “squeakiness” of plastic containers. We also love that you can buy bar soap in paper bags from local markets – so much prettier than plastic squeeze bottles from supermarkets!
Another new addition to our dish washing regime are dishcloths. I’m trying out different crochet patterns to figure out what works best for our household. We don’t have a dishwasher, so we need something robust. So far, we are really enjoying using my homemade dishcloths instead of disposable sponges. You can just pop them into the washing machine every few days and most importantly, they look much prettier than bright yellow synthetic sponges (because prettiness is crucial for boring tasks like dish washing!). If you have any suggestions for a dishcloth crochet pattern, please let me know and I will love to try it.
We wash a lot of jars and bottles in our house, so our bottle brush is an essential. Once this blue plastic one is worn out, I’d like to replace it with a wooden or stainless steel one. I recently bought a natural bristle brush for scrubbing veggies from Biome. They stock lots of natural brushes so that’s where I’ll be headed for my next brush purchase.
Weaning Off Plastic Wrap
It scares me that until recently, I never really thought about the wastefulness of plastic food wrap. That said, we’ve had the same roll for about four months, which is not too bad. We are just being more mindful and thinking about whether something really needs to be wrapped up in plastic.
We have started to use beeswax wraps for hard things like cheese. They also work really well over bowls for storing leftovers in the fridge. A really great find has been these Food Huggers. For those times you have half a tomato left from making yourself a sandwich, or just a bit of onion is needed in a salad, the Food Huggers are a great alternative to plastic wrap. I can even fit them over mugs and small bowls.
Small Steps Are Okay
It can be really overwhelming to acknowledge the amount of waste we produce day to day. As a family with two kids under two, we are slowly making manageable adjustments to our consumption. There are still times when we forget to bring our reusable bags, and we are continuing to learn about bulk buying resources in our area. There is no way we can go 100% waste free, but I’m confident that if everyone made a small change, it’s all going to add up to make a big difference. So, if you have any ideas and tips for reducing waste in the kitchen, please share them here!