How to Realistically Transition to a Zero Waste Kitchen
Phase 1: You are probably already on your way. Realize and recognize the changes you have already made and accomplished. Beginning a zero waste journey or even beginning a low waste journey can be very overwhelming and discouraging. There seems to be so many expectations for us to all magically have the time and money to commit to a perfect zero waste lifestyle. What we need to expect from each other isn’t perfection, we need to expect everyone to do a lot of great things imperfectly, and then select a few things to do “perfectly”. Whatever perfectly means haha.
“We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Anne-Marie Bonneau, @ZeroWasteChef, Feb 21, 2019"
Give yourself a pat on the back for the changes you have always had, or that you have recently made and even the ones that you are just in the process of thinking about changing. Your own triumphs should serve as your inspiration to take things further. We fully recognize everyone is on their own journey and that we all have different ways of reaching our unique end goals. This may even be the first time you have thought about making your kitchen more low waste, and that there is a really nice start. We believe everyone is capable of making an important difference in the world and that everyone has the capacity to incite fantastic change.
Phase 2: Change your mindset before you change your behaviour. If we try to buy a bunch of new gadgets and try to change too much too soon, we are more likely to forget or ditch the new habit or item. Once we switch our mindset so that we look for ways to change that suit our journey, then we are more likely to adopt these habits and then continue these habits. For example, if you buy a fancy compost bin for your kitchen but aren’t sure how to properly compost or what to do with the scraps, or even how to keep the bin fresh and clean, you are likely to not use the bin as much and let it sit mostly unused. This (I think) is a very common phenomenon that most of us experience at one point or another.
A great way to help switch your mindset, is to keep doing things as you are, but actively seek and monitor ways in which you could reasonably alter your routine. Watch your own behaviour and habits for a bit, maybe even write down what habits are easy or hard to change, or habits that you are hoping to change. Then you have a chance to see what would work best for you and in your life, at this point in time. Things will of course change but as you progress through your journey you will have the skills and previous knowledge to adapt to changes as they come. One of the biggest mindset changes that I encourage you to adopt is that you are capable. You are capable of great things, and you get to make your own rules. Believe in yourself, and that confidence will carry you through your journey, doubt is a dangerous pitfall.
Phase 3: Low Cost, Low Waste. One reason low waste and zero waste lifestyles have been so highly praised is that they can actually help you save money. Here are some ways you can go low waste without the high price.
- Try to swap out some animal protein (beef, lamb, pork, etc.) for some plant protein sources. Reducing your meat consumption is known to have positive impacts on emissions, agricultural production, water use, and other factors. Of course, make sure you are eating a balanced diet and reaching your daily recommended caloric intake, but slowly start trying new recipes. See how this change works for you and your household. We recommend trying out Fraiche Food Full Hearts.
- Try to buy food and produce without packaging. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, bulk stores and bins have closed and likely won’t be open for customers for a bit. However, some produce like potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, and others can come in pre-packaged bags. Buying the ‘bulk’ alternatives to these can prevent plastic waste and food waste. Or even, thinking about if you really need those little plastic bags for the bulk items. Many fruits and veggies can handle your grocery trip without a bag, for example I only use bags on leafy bunches, herbs, cherry tomatoes, brussels sprouts, and others that can get damaged easily. Mesh bags can be a great alternative to plastic produce bags as well.
- Reduce food waste. This can be very tricky, but there are a few ways to tackle this. One is to only buy what you need, and do not grocery shop hungry. This can often cause us to buy more than we need, and snacks and treats can distract us a bit too easily! Another trick is to properly store your food once you get it home. Proper storage can be possible without plastic bags and containers, but with bees wraps. Our Nature Bee Beeswax wraps are perfect for storing food because they keep your food fresher for longer. Less food waste means less work for our bees and more savings for your wallet.
Phase 4: Putting your money where your mind is. I strongly encourage you to finish using your current kitchen tools and things until they are no longer viable. Then, you can start to replace these items with low waste options. Some examples include;
- Replace your dishwashing soap to a dishwashing block, or to a biodegradable, eco friendly dishwashing liquid. Stay tuned to see what we have in the works.
- Replace your plastic sponge with a natural sponge or to one of our Swedish dishcloths that are natural and 100% compostable.
- Replace your plastic scrubber with a wooden or natural fibre scrub brush that can eventually breakdown and be composted. Stay tuned to see what we have in the works.
- Replace or reduce paper towel waste with tea towels or kitchen cloths, this can be even more fun as a project if you choose to knit, crochet, or sew your own.
- Replace or reduce your napkins by using washable cloth napkins. These will last a long time, save money, and look a lot fancier than paper napkins.
- Use compostable or reusable products for when you prepare coffee and tea. Many tea bags contain plastic and are not truly compostable, to prevent this you can use loose leaf tea or use plastic free tea bags. Using a coffee machine that doesn’t consume pods or non-biodegradable filters is a great start for coffee, for example a French press doesn’t need anything other than grounds and water. Or using a reusable coffee filter is another idea.
- Using metal cutlery and straws (or glass straws) is great since you can reuse and reuse these items, and they can be recycled after you are done with them.
- Shopping at zero waste stores and grocery stores. This can be very intimidating, overwhelming, and honestly scary. However, taking the time to see what products you can afford, and use can be very educational. Talking to others or salespeople can be helpful in hearing about how to make the most of these items. Seeing all the zero waste possibilities can be encouraging and can inspire you to take your next step. A few places in Victoria we suggest are Bulk Barn, Zero waste emporium, West Coast Refill. Check for a local refill store in your area!
Phase 5: Reflection. This is one of the best habits to have in life over all (I think!). Reflection is especially important for this journey. Thinking about what changes you liked, or didn’t like, and what changes are still hard, and what was easy. Asking yourself if you are able to sustain this new lifestyle and if there is more to do or if you will stay at this point for the next bit. There is so much to consider and think about, so make sure you take the time you need to reflect properly. Remember to be kind to yourself, and remember that you are learning and need to make mistakes along the way so you can learn better in the future.
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but this list is to help you situate yourself on your own journey. This list is here to help you think and consider some options to reduce your waste, while still maintaining your sanity and daily needs. Asking others what they are doing that they have really enjoyed is a great way to explore new options. Reading and researching this topic can be helpful, but may become confusing or overwhelming.
Thank you for reading this blog post, I hope it has inspired you to go forward in your low-waste journey. You can find our Beeswax Wraps here if you are looking to start making changes in your kitchen. Please send this to others you know that are trying to explore their low-waste journey, as this resource can help lots of people find their potential! I encourage you to find more resources like this that support you and help guide you through your journey.
We wish you all the best in your journey! 💚