In my town, you have to pay for your garbage service (did you hear that ninja?). By default, the City will give you a 96 gallon container for your garbage, and will collect it weekly. After a few months of putting out a mostly empty garbage container or putting out a kinda full garbage container after forgetting to put out the garbage container a few weeks in a row, I called the City about getting a smaller trash container. They gave me a smaller container (64 gallons) and began charging me less money per month. I was excited about that, but still after further investigation, I think we can go about 3 weeks with out putting our garbage container out on the street for collection. Disclosure: the city also provides us a container for yard waste (which they take and compost and sell back to you) and a container for recycling.
After some monitoring of our garbage situation, I realized that the majority of our garbage was coming from the kitchen. While this isn’t that much garbage in the grand scheme of things, I thought it would be fun to try to lower this as much as possible (plus I don’t like taking out the trash). So lately, I’ve spent some time trying to figure out how you can reduce waste in your kitchen. I’ve come up with a few tips that start at your local grocer and end in the backyard.
- Don’t Buy it if you cant eat it in time – This applies mostly to perishable foods (and meats). I know that you’ll feel better about yourself if you buy that bag of fruits/vegetables, but if you’re not going to eat it before it goes bad, you may as well just throw the Washington’s right into the trash pail. Buy based on what you can eat, not what you hope to eat.
- Watch the packaging – Some stores (like mine) often have meats such as fish in Styrofoam containers as well as selling it behind the counter. I’ve been told on multiple occasions at multiple stores that you’re getting the same product, so why not go with the one that uses less packaging? (Also, you can burn the paper packaging (if you need to) that the store wraps your proteins in, Styrofoam is toxic to burn due to production of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.)
- Decide how far to go with packaging- Yes much of the packaging of your milk/bottled water can be recycled, but does it absolutely need to be purchased in the first place? I personally think bottled water is a gigantic waste of money, energy, resources and basically everything else that you can waste, so I don’t buy it at all. This is much harder with milk. I know some places are moving back to glass bottles, but they are not easy to find. The stuff I drank as a kid was brought once a week in a re-usable plastic container, but I think that is also rare.
- Have a plan – Everyone has heard this and it still cant be stressed enough. When you hit the store, go with a list. If you don’t, you run the risk of over-buying and throwing things out because of mold, rot, etc. If you know exactly what you’re going to eat that week, you’ll know how much you’ll need and wont run the risk of buying too much of something.
- Reuse it – The best part about the kitchen is that most of the things that you bring in there can be reused in some way. If you’re eating foods that were alive once (like vegtables, fruits, etc) you can compost the leftovers of those. This is the most comprehensive list of things you can compost I’ve found so far. You’ll have to add grass clippings and worms, but in about 3 months (probably less) you’ll have rich soil for your garden! You can also reuse plastic containers that deli meats come in, and if you need to, reuse the milk gallons for things. (I use an old milk jug to store all the things from my meal that I’ll take to the compost pile after dinner. I keep it by the counter, so it’s always easily accessible)
- Use your freezer – You can freeze bread, cheese, fruits, nuts, potatoes and rice if you’ve over cooked or bought a great deal due to an awesome sale
- Rethink Storage – Tired of rock hard brown sugar? You can keep it in the fridge, along with flour (which some of you may have stopped eating), rice and white sugar.
- Buy a few multiple use items – How many of you have a beer bottle opener and a fancy wine bottle opener? You don’t need both, you can get buy with a $3 waiters key that does both. It takes up much less room as well. All those different size knives? Skip them – Spend what you would have spent on a mediocre knife set on 1 chef’s knife (and keep it sharp!) and you’ll be glad you did. You can repeat this for many different kitchen utensils. If you need a pan, buy a good quality dutch oven, then thank me later.
- Know what you’ve got – Knowing what foods you have at home in unopened or leftover form will prevent you from buying more at the store, lowering the probablility that you’ll end up throwing some away.
There are some tips to help you reduce waste the kitchen. Are you currently doing any of these, or do you have some other ones to add? Leave them in the comments!
Also if you’re curious, mint has (another) awesome infographic on trash.
A bit of yakezie love