After starting to try and go zero waste, lots of people have asked me for suggestions for what they can do too. I’ve found that once I’ve got into the mindset of eliminating waste, you see it everywhere and just keep finding things to get rid of. So look round your kitchen and think about everything that gets thrown away, not just obvious stuff but everything: what about cleaning sponges or foil to cook bacon or the squeezy ketchup bottle, how can you eliminate it? And when you’re shopping, what choices can you make that mean less waste?
Here’s some of the things I’m doing in the kitchen. I’m pretty busy and I know I’m not going to have time to make my own cat food or cleaning products so I’ve found things that actually save me time or are easy, as well as eliminating waste. Zero waste home and Going zero waste are great places to look for a comprehensive set of ideas.
A zero waste shop opening in my town made a huge difference to the plastic I’ve been able to avoid – pasta, rice, dried fruit, seeds, ground coffee, tea leaves etc. Lots of these shops have opened across the UK in the past year, here’s hoping there’s lots more coming!
I get milk and fruit juice delivered by a milk person from Milk & More. I do have a few problems with my organisation skills and getting the right amount delivered though, partly because we drink different amounts each week (I drink mostly oat milk, the rest of the house drink dairy milk and are inconsistent consumers!) and partly because I forget. My neighbours know when work is particularly busy – they get spare milk to drink because I’ve forgotten to cancel it!
Organic fruit and veg delivery companies are great because you get organic, packaging-free veg delivered to your door. I use Able & Cole but there are lots of options. You do have to be careful about packaging – they are an organic supplier, not a zero waste one so some things (which I now don’t buy from them) come in plastic packaging, like mushrooms.
I got a bread maker second hand on Freecycle and it’s really easy to make good bread in it, and you know what’s going in it, without all the preservatives in bought bread. I’m bad at planning in advance though (see the theme here?!) and haven’t figured out how to slice it well to put in the freezer or make the right amount so we don’t waste it. This one’s a bit of a work in progress!
I’ve also started making some simple things myself. I’m not a great cook so I focus on things that are mainly construction rather than actual cooking! Hummus, granola and crisp breads are easy to make and I can get all the ingredients without plastic packaging.
I’d love to have a compost heap but our garden is tiny and we’re lucky that our council collects food waste separately every week, which is great as organic matter in landfill is a big problem as it decomposes anaerobically producing methane. Storing fresh food properly too is important so it doesn’t go off fast, for example: putting avocados in the fridge is great and keeps them from going ripe but it makes bananas go brown. The freezer is great for making sure you don’t have food waste, and means you can get things like frozen herbs in a cardboard box and they don’t go off. Going zero waste has greats tips on reducing food waste.
Now…. the cat is a problem! Wet food is fine, she’ll eat Purina that comes in tin cans and a cardboard box. But dry food, blimey, I’ve tried 2 different types of expensive, organic, apparently very tasty dry food in compostable packaging (e.g. Lily’s kitchen) but she won’t eat it and I’ve had to give it to friends who have less fussy cats. Terracycle do a recycling scheme for pet food packaging but there’s no collection site near me so the dry food bags are landfill at the moment 😦
Re-useable coffee cup (I particularly like my ecoffee one as it’s bamboo and so biodegradable when it eventually dies), water bottle and tote bags are all a no brainer
I love beeswax wraps for wrapping anything, like sandwiches or covering pots of leftovers so completely getting rid of clingfilm. You can use them as firefighter on the campfire too when they’ve reached the end of their wrapping life (about a year). Personally, I avoid the rice husk versions of these because I find they aren’t very sticky so are harder to use but some people don’t like the smell of the beeswax so prefer them. I’ve recently also got silicon mats for the oven to avoid the need for foil and parchment paper. They are awesome! Not just for reducing waste but they are so easy to use and clean. I’m slightly worried about end of life though, they look indestructible and may become a family heirloom!
We have tons of Tupperware pots that I’m still using, although they do seem to be disappearing off to the shed or for other DIY purposes. I have lots of Kilner jars of various sizes and also love Zweck jars because they are stackable. Finished jam jars and spice jars are useful too.
I use Splosh for a lot of household cleaning products – washing up liquid, surface cleaner, toilet cleaner, window cleaner etc. They send concentrate refills in the post so you can reuse the bottle and dilute the concentrate in the bottle. This obviously isn’t complete plastic free but it’s where I’ve got to on the journey at the moment.
We have Jangneus washable, reusable, biodegradable dishcloths and a Safix pan scrubber made from coconut fibre that is also biodegradable. The pan scrubber is surprisingly effective and gentle enough on non-stick pans.
Ecover washing power is an easy option for washing clothes – in a cardboard box and is friendly on the water system.
Disclaimer: these are just products I use and I have no connection to any of them other than being a customer. There’s lots of other options out there.