As a semi eco-conscious gal, I do try to minimize my waste as much as possible, especially when it comes to the kitchen.
But, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Especially when it’s just me.
Believe it or not, shopping and cooking for one person can be more wasteful and more tedious than it is for a family of four. Especially when you’re actively trying to buy things that don’t come in plastic.
These days, most small servings are pre-packaged in single-use plastic.
So, needless to say, my kitchen is a sad excuse for green living.
Here’s my kitchen in its natural habitat…
As you can see, there are some areas where it’s obvious that I’m trying:
- Reusable sandwich and snack bags.
- Canvas grocery bags.
- Reusable mesh produce bags.
- Glass Ball jars for grains, flours, and beans.
- Reusable Keurig pod.
There are a few areas where I’m trying but failing:
- Reusable sponges (I hate them, they aren’t scrubby).
- I have a compost bin, but I rarely use it.
While the not-so-eco elements of my kitchen are quietly hidden away behind cupboard doors:
- Lots of my favorite foods are only available in single-use plastic packaging.
- I use all the normal mainstream cleaning products.
- I like frozen fruits for smoothies, but they come in plastic baggies.
- I like cauliflower rice, but the only way to get it affordably is in plastic freezer bags.
It’s pretty clear that I have some work to do. So, let’s outline my goals for the Mission: Zero Waste 2021 in order of importance:
Step 1: Make Reusable Shopping Bags a REAL HABIT
I’ll be honest, I have an assload of reusable grocery bags and produce bags, but I don’t always use them.
So far, I’ve proven that I have a bad habit of forgetting the bags in the car or forgetting to put the bags back in the car after I’ve used them.
Basically, all I have is a habit of canvas bags strewn about my home and car.
Considering this, the first order of business is to make USING those damn bags a HABIT.
Not just the bags either.
I also need to remember to use my Ball jars more often, especially since my preferred grocery store uses plastic baggies for bulk items. Yuck.
So, how do I make this a habit?
Well, studies say that it requires a minimum of 21 days to make something a habit.
Here’s the plan:
- Set up a whiteboard calendar for the next 3 months.
- Mark off each day that I used the reusables.
- Erase a day when I forget to use them.
- Keep doing that shit until it sticks.
We’ll see how it goes!
Step 2: Use the Compost Bin More
Also in need of a habit-forming process, my lonely little compost bin doesn’t get used enough.
I mean, it’s full AF. I used it a lot when I first got it, but I never used the good, black dirt for anything…so it’s just sitting there taking up space.
My neighbors have a big turning compost bin that I like to use in the summer and I’m pretty good about remembering to use it for veggie scraps.
In the winter though, I need to use my under-the-sink compost bucket.
The problem is; I eat a TON of veggies. So, there are a ton of scraps every time I go shopping and then prep. Most of these scraps are too much for my tiny bucket to handle because composting takes a long time and requires a precise mixture of dry to wet ingredients.
Lately, my bin is more wet than dry and it stinks like holy hell. Compost isn’t supposed to stink.
Fortunately, there’s an enterprising young man in my area who started his own compost-by-bicycle company, Carter’s Compost. I’m hoping that I can strike a deal with him to offload some of my scraps.
Here’s the plan:
- Dump the existing bucket contents. Yuck.
- Start a new compost base in the bucket.
- Contact Carter’s Compost for a bucket for excess.
- Split scraps 80/20 between Carter’s bucket and my own.
Step 3: Convert to Packaging-Free Foods
Unfortunately, these days, food options are primarily driven by convenience.
Even healthy options.
In fact, most of my favorite convenient vices are frozen foods that are only available in plastic packaging.
Despite the fact that I buy quite a bit of raw or dry ingredients, my freezer is full of plastic.
So, the best way to limit my plastic waste in the kitchen is to convert to completely package-free raw foods as much as possible. While I realize that isn’t going to be easy and some foods are only available in packages, my goal is to limit packaging to recyclable cardboard or reusable glass only.
I am already doing this a bit, but like my reusable grocery bags, I often forget to bring the jars to the store with me.
As you can see, I have a lot of room for green living improvement! But, I think it’s totally doable.
Here’s the plan:
- Make using reusable containers a habit.
- Focus on raw produce.
- Focus on dry pantry staples and spices.
- Take my own container to the butcher.
- Buy as often from farmer’s markets as possible.
- Reuse bought containers when possible.
Step 4: DIY Cleaning Products
Like most people, I use a lot of the mainstream cleaning products, like Windex, Clorox, and Dawn dish soap.
Not only are these harsh on our septic systems, they also come in plastic containers that are not always recyclable. So, I aim to transition to more DIY cleaning products that are not only gentler on the environment but also package-free.
Here’s the plan:
- Take inventory of all existing cleaning products.
- Save the best containers for reuse when products have been used.
- Make DIY dish soap.
- Make DIY disinfectant wipes with reusable cloths.
- Make DIY reusable ‘paper’ towels.
Luckily, I made handmade lye soap for a few years, so I’m very familiar with the ingredients and the chemistry involved. Although, most homemade cleaning supplies are made with pre-existing ingredients. We’ll see where this takes me.
Step 5: Be More Water Conscious
Recently, I realized that being water conscious means more than taking shorter showers or not letting the water run when you brush your teeth.
I happen to have an unfortunately designed apartment kitchen and am unable to fill the sinks to do dishes. So, I tend to let the water run while I wash and rinse.
While I don’t really see a way to remedy that waste yet, there are a couple of ways that I can save water:
Pet Water Bowls I have a particularly playful tabby who loves to spill his water bowl. But, when it isn’t covering the floor, it’s dirty from paws and requires a dump, rinse, and refill far more often than it should.
From now on, I’ll be dumping the dirty pet bowl water directly into my plants or my watering can.
Veggie Wash Water Like I mentioned, I eat a ton of vegetables. So, I end up wasting a ton of water washing the gunk off of them. Fortunately, my Salad Spinner makes saving the water pretty easy.
From now on, I’ll be dumping that water directly into my watering can.
It’s Going to Be a Long, Strange Trip from Here
Green living is difficult. But, I’m confident that I can make it happen!
I’m counting on you guys to keep me honest throughout this entire endeavor because I’m the kind of person that will pick something up, drop it halfway through, and let it sit there and collect dust, unfinished.
I don’t want to do that.
I want to reduce my waste and start living a truly green lifestyle and I need your help.
Subscribe to the blog or join the Facebook community to keep tabs on my progress, find out what is working for me, and share your best green living ideas to help me in my mission to go green.