Like many other environmental buzz words (“green”, “sustainable”, “energy”), “zero-waste” has garnered attention from large corporations and institutions seeking to improve their environmental image. While achieving “zero-waste” status has become a designation fit for the corporation, its true purpose should be embraced by residential home-owners and renters as well. ‘The “zero waste” philosophy aims to minimize waste and resource consumption in order to conserve energy, mitigate climate change, reduce water usage, prevent toxic creation, and minimize ecosystem destruction’.
Achieving ‘zero-waste’ status in our homes may be a challenge so let’s start with the most wasteful room in the house: the kitchen. ‘Americans waste an astounding amount of food – an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study – and it [even] happens…in your very own kitchen’.
|Courtesy of The New York Times|
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We’ve all heard the mantra. Americans are recycling paper & plastics more than ever, but we are still sending millions of tons of food waste and other organic materials to landfills.
1. Make a grocery list before heading out to the grocery store and stick to it. Check your refrigerator and pantry to find out which items you are low on instead assuming. Plan your weekly meals ahead of time to avoid purchasing ingredients that will never be used.
2. Buy in Bulk. Purchase pantry items like beans, rice and snacks in large quantities. Take your own jars and containers to your local grocer to cut back on excess food packaging.
3. Cut down on portion sizes. Sometime our eyes our bigger than our stomachs. Refer to nutrition labels for serving sizes, trust me, they’re there for a reason. Make use of the USDA’s MyPlate website to help portion fruits and vegetables.
4. Canning. If you grow your own fruits & vegetables or find yourself buying more than you need, try preserving your food in jars for later use. Canning can extend shelf life for up to 5 years depending on the type! Check out the Food in Jars Blog for great tips.
5. Reuse Leftovers. Last night’s dinner can be transformed into lunch, a snack or even a new dinner meal. Never let unused food go to waste. Pick up a cookbook or surf the web for recipes to transform old meals into new ones.
6. Compost. Trade the trash can in for a compost bin. Banana peels, egg shells and paper napkins often end up in landfills but they can be reused for compost. Try a local compost service or try composting in your backyard if you have the space and resources to do so.
7. Donate. Organizations like Philabundance make it easy to donate canned goods and prepared food* to local pantries as well as the Philabundance warehouse.
Check out this great video from Sunset Magazine which highlights Beau Johnson, an eco-friendly, grocery shopper, who shows us the ropes on the “zero-waste” kitchen.
Also try these other tips to help make your kitchen ‘zero-waste’:
- If you have to use paper, plastic and other non-reusable containers, be sure to recycle them with your city’s single stream recycle program. Get involved with RecycleBank and other rewards programs to collect coupons to cut costs at the grocery store.
- Cut back on water-use and be sure to there are no leaky faucets in your kitchen.