The one place our family really needs to focus more is on ways to reduce waste in the kitchen. According to the EPA, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash in 2013. On average, a single person generates about 4.40 pounds per year, recycling only 1.51 pounds of that amount. That is not nearly enough to eliminate the waste piling up in landfills. We need to put into practice the three methods of conservation: source reduction, recycling, and composting.
Source reduction is the design of products that helpr educe the amount of waste that would need to be thrown away. It also makes the resulting waste less toxic.
Recycling is the reusing of materials from the trash to make into new products. Materials such as glass, plastic, paper, and metal are all good products to recycle.
Composting is collecting organic waste like food and yard trimmings and storing it in a way to break it down naturally. This doesn’t have to be a difficult habit to start. It’s a mindset shift. Instead of looking at your food scraps as garbage, think of it as rich nutrients for your soil.
Using these three methods of conservation, we’ve begun to reduce the waste in our kitchen by starting these 10 habits.
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1) Grocery Plan to Avoid Packaged Foods
It can be extremely difficult, especially when feeding children, to avoid buying packaged foods. The convenience of grocery stores has brought with it a large amount of cardboard and plastic waste. With careful planning, a family can eliminate the amount of waste in their kitchen by purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. Purchasing bulk items such as cereal, flour, rice, barley, potatoes, and sugar can also cut down on waste.
2) Bring Your Own Reusable Containers and Grocery Bags to the Store
Bring your own resuable grocery bags to the store to pack your groceries in. When our family goes grocery shopping, we buy a LOT, so I like these larger, sturdier grocery bags to keep in the car.
Instead of using the plastic bags provided, use these reusable produce bags for your fresh fruits and vegetables.
For bulk dry food items, use these reusable bulk food bags to pour your food into at the store. This will be very helpful to avoid all those packaged foods!
3) Avoid Plastic Baggies and Plastic Food Containers
Leftovers can be placed in glass storage containers that have much longer durability (and are safer!) than plastic containers. Avoid using plastic bags for school lunches and snacks. Instead, these resuable sandwich and snack bags are a more eco-friendly option. Plus, your kids are sure to love the fun and cute prints these bags come in!
4) Buy Concentrated Cleaning Products
This is an important part of source reduction, especially where cleaning products are concerned. The large plastic containers/spray bottles that most cleaners come in are a “use once and throw away” item. This creates a large amount of plastic and chemical waste in homes, as most of these cleaners are very toxic. Instead, purchase your cleaning products from a toxin-free company that provides highly concentrated products. It’s important to reuse any kind of container as to reduce that unnecessary waste in your kitchen.
5) Don’t Buy Bottled Water
This is seriously a battle I have with my beloved husband! He loves his water bottles – he likes the convenience they provide so he can mix his drinks in them. Unfortunately, it creates a huge amount of plastic waste! While we do recycle our plastic, it’s just not a necessary purchase that we need to make when we’re consciously trying to reduce our waste (I just had this chat with him; he knows it’s a habit to break!).
Invest in a good water filter pitcher to keep water in your fridge. I like this 10-cup Brita pitcher – we need a large one for our family of water-drinkers!
6) Meal Plan To Avoid Throwing Food Away
This is definitely a habit we are working at improving on. Meal planning is so important to know how much food to make. Any leftovers can be used to make creative dishes for the next day. Knowing your weekly meal plans will also help you with steps 1-3 mentioned above.
7) Use A Pressure Cooker To Cut Your Cooking Time Down
It’s amazing what the InstaPot can do in your kitchen. Not only are you saving energy and conserving by using less oven time, but you are also saving on dishes with the amazing meals you can make in it! It’s also easy to use your leftovers or extra food in the fridge to make those creative dishes. Whether it’s burrito bowls, applebutter, or just using your basic cupboard basics, you can easily whip something healthy up quickly and conservatively!
8) Start Basic Food Composting
This may seem overwhelming to you, but composting in the kitchen can be done simply. There is alot of information out on the internet about this subject, and I thought this was a good place to start. Just start collecting your family’s food scraps and return it back to the ground. As you get more comfortable with composting, you can get a bit more complex with bins – our family isn’t quite there yet!
9) Look At Expiration Dates More As Guidelines
As you begin your efforts to reduce the waste in your kitchen, you might have a number of shelf products to use up. If you are a stock piler like me, some of those products might even be past their expiration date. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad, though. Those dates are typically “sell-by” dates, not actual consumption dates. Go ahead and open them up, and use something that very rarely lets you down – your nose! If it smells all right, it most likely is just fine!
10) Leave Your Oven Open For Extra Heat
Those times that you do use the oven, go ahead and leave that door cracked open during the winter months. It will help heat up your kitchen!!
Reduce That Kitchen Waste!
The hardest things about making changes is just getting started! It can seem overwhelming to look at a list and try to do everything at once. Take one habit at a time and work to implement it into your kitchen life. Before long, you will have drastically reduced the waste in your kitchen!
What are your tips for helping conserve our environment? We’d love to hear from you!