The hardest part of this journey has been the kitchen. The room that produces the most garbage in our house is by far our kitchen. In fact, now that we have almost all of our toiletries switched over, it is now the only room in the house that has a trashcan that we actually use for trash.
One of the things we really looked forward to when we bought our house was the ability to compost in our backyard. You would be surprised how many items you can compost if you have the space and patience for it. The idea of composting started as a disposal option for our food scraps, like banana peels and pits from other fruit, but then we learned about everything else we could compost from our kitchen. You can compost parchment paper, the paper packaging that margarine comes in (as long as it is not lined with plastic), cardboard packaging and paper. We have a drawer that fits two standard garbage bins in our kitchen, so one of those is designated to compost waste, which we then transfer to our backyard pile. The other bin is for recycling, which we use for larger cardboard packaging, aluminum cans and glass jars.
You can technically compost paper towels as well, but it is almost impossible to purchase them without plastic packaging, so I splurged and bought a set of reusable cloth towels. They roll into one another like a roll of paper towels, but they are soft and machine washable. They also came in compostable cardboard packaging, which was a win! They have been working great for us so far as a substitute, so I am happy with them. I am still finishing a spray bottle of Lysol cleaner I have had for a while now, but once that is empty, I plan to switch to a zero waste option and use that bottle to refill.
When it comes to cleaning the kitchen, we also use dishrags and kitchen towels/rags to clean our dishes and counters. If you have an efficient dishwasher, it is the best way to clean as many dishes as possible, which is what we do. We just recently started buying bulk liquid detergent and it seems to work with our dishwasher. We bring our own container to Mom’s Organic Market and fill it with their unscented liquid detergent. No waste, clean dishes! For the items that have to be washed by hand, I use bar dish soaps. I have come to like No Tox Life soap. It is the best out of the ones I have tried so far because it lathers well and seems to get the grime off our tougher pans pretty well. I just wash them with an old dishrag and let them dry on the counter. We also keep a bar of hand soap in the kitchen for hand washing.
We also are trying to use all of each food product we purchase, by not over-buying groceries to avoid waste. My husband collects the crumbs from the bottom of our cereal boxes and uses it to make homemade granola. I stopped peeling a lot of our veggies to not have as much waste, which is just me being less picky now and eating the skin on my apples, cucumbers, and squashes. We also keep a container in our freezer that we put vegetable scraps in to save to make soup broths. These simple changes drastically decreases what we are putting into our compost, and allows us to balance it better in order for it to be more successful and efficient.
For food storage, we use our collection of containers, we save and reuse glass jars from applesauce, pickles, etc. and we have purchased reusable Ziploc bags for snacks. We used to order takeout a lot, but cut that down to only pizza and Chinese, as that is all that is available where we live now. We use pizza boxes as fire starters in the fire pit outside or in the fireplace. When we order Chinese takeout, the food comes in a plastic container with a lid that are microwave and dishwasher safe, so we save and reuse them. I like to use them to send guests home with leftovers from parties or gatherings we host, because they can keep them and keep using them without them becoming trash. I also am beginning to bring one with me in my purse when I go out to eat at a restaurant to bring my leftovers home in.
I will get into food packaging and food shopping in a separate post, but swapping out your soaps and detergents, cleaning products and rags to zero waste options drastically lowers your waste production in the kitchen. Composting is a learning process for us, and I will get more into that in a later post as well. For now, the takeaway is to try to reuse packaging and food storage, to swap out cleaning materials to avoid plastic, and to start composting the food scraps you have left that you cannot use. These changes make a huge difference, which I can definitely attest to in my experience so far!