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Creating a zero waste kitchen is probably the part of the house I have been struggling with most. It seems more difficult with bigger changes (more effort) and is definitely more expensive as there are so many different things to cover as well as the fact we are used to using so many different cleaning products for different things – but, actually, with a little research, you can replace most cleaning products with combined all-purpose solutions so all is not lost! Our relationship with food is a big area of waste for most households; packaging, plastic bags and vegetable peel along with items that have just gone out of date. Keep this in mind when grocery shopping, choose things that will last well if you’re not planning on eating them right away and avoid using the plastic carrier bags and produce bags on offer at the supermarket. You can also use zero waste bulk buy stores for a lot of your basics; cereals, rice, pasta, nuts and even spices – then store them in your kitchen in glass jars for a stylish bonus. We have a great place in Southampton called Rice Up where you just take your own containers (cotton produce bags are great for this) and can even purchase shampoo, washing up liquid and detergent etc. If you’re looking to save money, a quick google will show up lots of ideas of how to make your own cleaning solutions – I’d love to hear ideas if you have them, I saved some cleaning spray bottles that I want to re-fill myself but haven’t got around to it yet. If you don’t know where Zero Waste stores in your local area are, you can take a look at that here.
Aside from bulk buying, paying attention to the packaging used for the items you buy pre-packaged in store is a key compromise. Avoiding plastics and choosing glass or metal containers is always a win, as those materials can be recycled repeatedly without degrading in quality. Some plastics are recyclable, but they are unfortunately ‘down-cycled’ which means they lose quality over time, being used for low quality disposable items that are eventually going to find their way to landfill anyway, so say no to plastics! (easier said than done, but a good habit to pick up and utilise when you can)
There’s also a movement you might not have heard of, championing ‘compleating’. This means eating the entire food item rather than creating waste; simple ideas like not peeling your carrots and potatoes and making sure you eat the ends of your bread loaf! If you’re cooking a curry with cauliflower, chuck the leaves in as well. Not only will you create less waste and have to take the bin out less (yay!) but you’re also going to be cashing in on all the goodness you’ve been missing from those vital parts of so many vegetables. Head to Love Food, Hate Waste to find out more. For this post, I’m going to be concentrating on some of the simple single-use kitchen items that can be replaced with reusable versions so here are my top five starter items:
1 – Un-Paper towels
Who said the zero waste movement has to be boring? I absolutely love everything Marleys Monsters bring out, but their ‘un-paper towel’ and holder is the dream kitchen item. It’s so cute! You can buy it in endless custom fabric choices, mixed, single, prints, solid or even choose to be surprised. They are 100% cotton flannel and, rolled up, they stay on the holder all by themselves – absolute magic! Perfect for anything; wiping faces, the sides, the cupboards (the curry Simon gets all over the kettle when he’s cooking…) and cleaning up the various tea stains around the house. I desperately want one of these fancy contraptions! They are pretty expensive but the idea is that after this expense you won’t have to buy kitchen towels ever again and have a stylish new kitchen accessory to show off to all yours mates (Instagram…) so if you can spare the money up front, it’s worth it and will be a saving in the end. You can save some money buying them without the holder and by simply buying less of them, which you could then just stuff into a glass jar and keep on the side. Marley’s Monsters are a US company so the shipping is a little steep, so if these aren’t affordable for you then there are loads of cheaper options that are quite similar on Etsy but most use little poppers to stay put, rather than the magic of Marleys! The Zero Waste Maker has a great budget option for reusable cloths at only £15.
2 – Dish Sponge
Marley’s Monsters make loads of awesome things but another one of my faves is their sponge, they just look great. Totally customisable with the same prints as the towels are and completely washable, to you can stop using those disposable ones that shed green fluffy bits all over the sink and your kitchenware – I hate those stringy weird bits that come off. They have a soft terry cloth on one side and then a textured material for things that need a little more scrubbing on the reverse! Again, if you’re based in the UK and wanting to avoid shipping costs then do check their stockists as there are a couple in London and I think one in Bristol. Alternatively, if you’re not a slave to style and you are happy to buy your sponge from anywhere then there are plenty of makers creating similar things in the UK for affordable prices and using recyclable materials like The Zero Waste Maker.
3 – Cleaning Brushes
Now, eco-friendly brushes are much easier to find! So if you’re a brush person, rather than a sponge or dishcloth person then you are in luck. I have a couple bottle brushes but I need to get something smaller that I can use more up close a personal with the dirty dishes! Eco Green Revolution stock a variety of brush sizes, including this dish brush and a great scrubby little handheld tawashi kitchen brush which are both made from coconut fibres so they’re completely biodegradable unlike standard scouring pads. You can even get these little scrub pads that are only £2, so there are plenty of affordable options that are easily accessible. If you want something more solid and long lasting, there’s also a wooden dish brush that has a replaceable head so that, once at the end of its useful life, you can reuse the handle and only need to bin to brush head – which is biodegradable and will last much longer than its cheap plastic enemies regardless! Keep your eyes peeled in your local eco-stores for a solid bad of soap like this one to pair with these cleaning items.
4 – Wax Wraps
Eco-Kiddles are here to save you from struggling with tangled cling film – a wasteful, single-use plastic product that just ends up binned! The chemicals and resins used to make it stretchy mean that cling film takes forever to decompose, but these soya food wraps are compostable as well as a vegan alternative to beeswax wraps. The warmth from your hands will make the wrap more maleable so that it fits snug to the food item you’re wrapping up or even over the top of a bowl of leftovers you want to save for later on. Once used, wash with cool water and let dry before you put them away ready to be reused and repeat for as long as the wrap allows you, usually around a year. Once at the end of it’s life, you can just pop the wrap in a compost bin. Plus, they look nicer than scraggly cling-film anyway.
5 – Yuggen Storage Bags
These Yuggen food bags are perfect for keeping leftovers in the fridge or freezer, you can even put them in the microwave or oven to reheat unlike some other containers, plus, it’s really handy that they’re not rigid in shape if you’ve got a packed fridge, as you can just squish them into different gaps! They’re made from food grade silicone so very long lasting and are completely leak-proof so they can even be used to store liquids like smoothies – or water as shown in the photo above, if for some reason you really wanted to store some water in a bag…
As well as fitting in the fridge around whatever’s already in there, they’re also super easy to store in your kitchen drawer without rummaging around for tupperware lids that have always somehow fallen down the back of the cupboard. These are great to just grab and go, plus they have measurements on them which is really useful if you’re bagging stock, sauces or any food volume that you want to keep track of. To get 10% off your order, use my code: GemmaEdwards10 when checking out!
As I mentioned at the start, I’m pretty new to this and no expert by any means so I’d love to hear your ideas and recommendations – especially the easy starting points! Forming good habits has been a big part of my year already and, whilst we can do little about what we already own, it’s something that’s now often in the forefront of my mind during the few times I do need to go shopping for new products.