According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, each year roughly one-third of food produced globally for human consumption is either lost or wasted. It finds its way into landfills, oceans, and incinerators, creating a negative impact on the ecosystem. In fact, globally, landfills are the third largest source of methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is 30 times more potent than heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
Adopting zero-waste strategies are extremely beneficial to the environment, diverting organic waste away from landfills and incinerators, significantly reducing GHG emissions.
If you are looking at minimizing waste in your household, the kitchen is a great place to begin. Here are five undemanding and valuable tips that can help you create a zero-waste kitchen:
Ditch the disposables such as paper towels and plastic cling wraps and replace them with reusable items. For instance, use old cotton garments to make rags for cleaning spills in your kitchen. Similarly, instead of using plastic cling wrap to cover food, simply use a plate, homemade cloth napkins, or reusable beeswax food wraps (or vegan food wraps).
Plastic food-and-beverage storing containers are not only wasteful but also unhealthy. Research shows that plastic made of toxic materials can disrupt and damage the human body at a cellular level, causing health concerns such as obesity, cancer, and infertility.
For food storage use empty jam and pickle glass bottles that are environment-friendly and can be used for several years (and can be recycled). Avoid carrying plastic bags for shopping. Instead use stylish reusable cloth bags that are stronger, versatile, and environment-friendly.
Swapping disposables with reusable items can help you minimize household waste destined for landfills.
The over-ripe fruits and the rinds and stems of fruits and vegetables that you tend to discard can actually be very useful in adding flavour to your meals. A few of them can also be used as insect repellents and for aromatherapy.
For instance, coffee grounds can keep ants and bugs at bay. Similarly, lemon and orange rinds can add a pleasant fragrance to your home when added to potpourri. The zest of citrus peels can also be used in yoghurts or for baking delish scones and cookies.
Spring onions, coriander, and leek roots regrow when placed in a container with water, making them a great addition to your kitchen garden.
Leftover herbs can be sundried and ground to be used in soups and pasta. You can also freeze a mixture of herbs and extra-virgin olive oil in ice-cube trays to prepare frozen herb cubes that can be used for seasoning at a later stage.
Overripe fruits are perfect for baking and preparing salad dressings and sweet syrups. For instance, mushy peaches can be roasted and blended with sweet chilli sauce, roasted onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs such as basil or cilantro to prepare peach glaze dressing. The dressing can be used along with smoked or baked fish or chicken, sautéed vegetables, or salad to add a flavour to your meal.
Almost about everything you may perceive as waste is salvageable. Consider the above-mentioned tips to creatively use food waste in your daily living.
Composting is one of the most eco-friendly ways to recycle your food waste. You can ‘recycle’ organic yard scrap, fruit and vegetable leftovers, tea bags, newspaper shreds, dead flowers, and egg shells.
You can use old garbage bins or wooden boxes to create a composting system. The green waste such as leaves, peels, and stalks are a rich source of nitrogen. Though each compost pile requires green waste, avoid adding too much of it as it may turn the pile into a mucky and reeking mess. The brown ingredients, namely the fall leaves, the twigs, and the dried straw supply the pile with carbon for energy and heat. However, avoid adding too much of it the compost pile as it may take a long time to crumble.
Once you have added the above-mentioned ingredients to the compost pile facilitate the decomposition process by regularly turning the mixture (for oxygen supply) and sprinkling a little water (to keep the pile moist).
Making your own compost will convert the food scraps into the fertile garden soil, enabling you to create a zero-waste kitchen. Composting also reduces the amount of garbage diverted to landfills, reducing the methane and other greenhouse gas emissions.
If you live in a small home or apartment and don’t have space, don’t fret, there’s also the Bokashi Composting System which will pack nicely into a tiny kitchen.
Food packaging is primarily made of paper, plastic, aluminium, or fibreboard and a large chunk of this material is dumped into landfills and oceans or is burnt, contributing to global warming.
The food packaging material, namely wrappers, electronics packaging, and food containers can be sent to recycling firms in order to produce useful paper products, namely corrugated cardboards, egg trays, and other customized packaging products. These firms procure waste packaging material from recycling companies, supermarkets, departmental stores, restaurants, and households.
For instance, pulp moulding machine recycles waste paper, cartons, and the paper bags, converting them into paper pulp that can be shaped into moulded fibre products such as paper-pulp furniture, egg-storing trays, vegetable-and-fruit trays, biodegradable plant holders, and wine shippers.
Some items can be reused, such as glass jars, which are great for storing seeds, nuts and other dried goods. Aluminium tin cans can be used as planters for herbs and other plants.
Cardboard makes great mulch for gardens. Use it as a first layer and then heap on the grass clippings, bark or hay.
It’s important to note that soft plastics such as chip packets, plastic bags, candy wrappers and bread bags can also be recycled. This post provides further information on soft plastics recycling.
When you engage in bulk buying and bring your own containers, you significantly trim down the product to packaging ratio, reducing the amount of packaging waste and carry bags that will be sent to the dump.
Food items such as dry beans, grains, nuts, flours, seeds, cereals, dry pasta, and dried fruits can be purchased from the bulk bins in departmental stores and supermarkets, reducing the need for individual packaging and labelling and generating less waste. Moreover, less packaging implies more products can be shipped in the same amount of space, reducing fuel consumption and the carbon footprint.
Once you are done with your bulk purchase, you can refill the glass storage containers. For liquid commodities such as oils, maple syrup, and dish-washing soap it is wise to carry mason jars and bottles to the store. However, remember to tare the containers before you fill them, enabling the cashier to deduct the weight of the jar at the time of billing.
A zero-waste kitchen can protect community health by keeping waste away from landfills and incinerators, reducing GHG emissions and the effects of climate change. If you want to contribute positively to the environment and reap the benefits of a waste-free lifestyle, make sure to follow the tips above and enjoy a zero-waste kitchen.
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