Zero-Waste Kitchen: Easy Tips, Swaps, and Resources to Get Started

Woman holding up an empty jar in zero waste kitchen

One of the leading issues impacting our environment today is the billions of tons of waste littering the world and releasing GHGs into the atmosphere. The zero-waste kitchen and zero-waste cooking trends are a natural response to this disaster – people want to make better choices for the planet and for themselves.

Although it may seem intimidating, going zero-waste in the kitchen only requires a small amount of learning and effort. Most problems only really need a quick and easy swap! Here’s what we’re going to help you with today to get you started:

Let’s start with the most basic question – what even is zero-waste cooking?


What is zero-waste cooking?

Food in reusable bags and glass containers

Zero-waste cooking means eliminating waste whenever possible in the kitchen, which can be achieved with these basic rules:

  1. Reduce: Cook with fewer unnecessary ingredients and make smaller portions.
  2. Reuse: Use food scraps, and store food in reusable containers.
  3. Recycle: Compost whatever you can't use.


Top 5 zero-waste kitchen tips to create a sustainable household

Reducing waste in your kitchen means changing up some habits and swapping in some more sustainable kitchen products. Here’s what we think are the 5 most impactful tips you can implement today:


1. Meal planning and prepping

Masons jars with food prepped

It’s really tempting to just plan our meals the day we eat them, and go grab whatever we like and whatever is on sale at the grocery store. It’s what’s easiest in the moment, but it does create more work, and more waste, in the long run. The first thing we’d suggest you start doing to improve your environmental habits, and honestly just make your life easier, is to start planning and preparing your meals.

Meal planning is good for two reasons. The first is that you won’t be wasting time during your every day trying to figure out what to eat for supper that night. The second reason is that when you know what you’re eating, you only need to buy the food you know you’ll be using. This will greatly reduce the amount of waste from food we buy and then never use.

Preparing your meals in advance isn’t necessarily as important, but it can help prevent food waste from perishable food items. If you’re cooking all (or most of) your food within a few days of buying it, you won’t have to worry about your produce going bad before you cook it.

PRO TIP: Preparing large batches of food generally takes the same amount of time and energy as preparing a single meal. Cook in large batches to save yourself time and energy throughout the week.


2. Eating what you have

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – you’re looking in your fridge for something to snack on when you find a container of blueberries shoved in the back that you’re pretty sure you put there a month ago and promptly forgot about it.

Using what we buy is important, otherwise, it just becomes waste. Sometimes that waste comes from buying too much, sometimes we accidentally wait too long to use it, and then sometimes we can’t find our food or even just forget about it. Trying your best to keep track of what you have is an important step in waste reduction, even if that means keeping a list of food on the fridge.

PRO TIP: Organize your fridge so that taller items are in the back and shorter items are in the front. That will make it much easier to see all the contents of your fridge without having to move everything around.


3. Compost your kitchen scraps

Lomi on counter surrounded by plants and food
Image Credit: Pela

Entirely eliminating the kitchen scraps we produce is a lot more work than many people have the time or energy for. However, it’s good to aim to reduce that scrap as much as we can, and then compost the remaining organic waste.

Composting is fantastic for a large number of reasons. Waste reduction, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and less dependence on landfills are just a few primary benefits of composting.

PRO TIP: Try an electric composter for quick and mess-free composting! Lomi can do turn your food scraps into nutrient-rich dirt that you can use to enrich your own plants or home garden!

Lomi by Pela

Lomi

★★★★★

Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


4. Shop in bulk

One of the biggest issues with filling up our kitchens is just how much food is wrapped and packaged in single-use plastics that are headed straight for a landfill. The only real way to solve that issue is to not buy pre-packaged foods. The easiest way to do that is to buy food in bulk using your own glass containers or reusable bags. For example, you can use cotton produce bags for produce, or mason jars for nuts.

Many grocery stores have bulk food sections you can use, but you may also want to look for bulk stores in specific. Bulk stores would have a wider variety of food available in bulk than your local grocery store might.

PRO TIP: Don’t be afraid to shop at your local farmer’s markets! That’s a great way to find fresh and locally produced food, and it’s somewhere you can easily avoid plastic packaging.


 

5. Grow your own food

A woman holding some root vegetables in the garden

No matter how ethical and sustainable you’re being in your own shopping, buying food from stores of any kind is going to indirectly create waste. Production, shipping, and then selling to you inevitably creates waste that you cannot control. The only way to entirely control your waste production is by growing your own food at home.

Of course, we understand that this is difficult, and many people have space restrictions from living in smaller homes or apartments. However, growing whatever you can fit in your home or yard will substantially affect your environmental impact. Not only that, but it will likely be the freshest food you’ve ever eaten, which is always a bonus!

PRO TIP: Composting your own food scraps goes hand-in-hand with growing your own food. You’ll be reducing your waste while improving your crops!


Try these 5 easy swaps for a waste-free kitchen

Woman swapping plastic for sustainable options in the kitchen

Many of the tips we just gave you focus on changing some habits to be more waste-conscious and eco-friendly. Habits take time to develop, and you shouldn’t be aiming for perfection right away. A quicker way to reduce your waste while working on those tips is to try some zero-waste kitchen swaps. Here are just some of the things in your kitchen you should consider swapping with more eco-friendly options:

  1. Go for wood rather than plastic cooking utensils – Plastic cooking utensils are cheap and accessible, but they’re also flimsy and, well, made of plastic. Alternatively, wood is the perfect resource for zero-waste kitchen utensils as it’s sturdy and will easily biodegrade at its end of life.
  2. Swap out your plastic containers for glass ones – Once again, plastic containers are cheap, but aren’t eco-friendly and don’t last very long. Glass is a much better decision for its durability and long lifespan.
  3. Replace paper towels with reusable towels – Although paper towels are compostable, the use and production of paper towels is detrimental to the world’s forests. Reusable towels saves on waste and tree cutting.
  4. Wrap your food with beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap – Plastic wrap is helpful because of its flexibility. However, beeswax wrap is just as flexible while also being reusable and made from sustainable resources.
  5. Embrace a sustainable coffee (or tea) setup – If you’re one of the very many people regularly drinking coffee or tea, you may want to consider how you do it. There are plenty of ways to cut down on waste here, such as using reusable coffee filters or a tea ball for loose leaf tea.

5 innovative zero-waste kitchen products every home needs

Creating a zero-waste home kitchen is rarely hard work and planning. A lot of the time it’s just getting the right products for the right jobs. This will do double-duty as it improves both your life and the environment. If you want to learn more about which products you should get, you can check out our article on the best zero-waste kitchen products. For now, here are our 5 top recommendations:


1. Lomi

Electric composter with food scraps on left and with dirt on the right

Lomi is an innovative and convenient countertop kitchen composter that will help you reuse and recycle your food waste. Any kitchen scraps you can’t use, Lomi can turn into nutrient-rich dirt ready to enrich houseplants and home gardens. If you have plants or a garden for the nutrient-rich dirt, I can toss it in your home compost, garbage, or green bins.

Price: $499.00

Category: Kitchen composter

Why you need it: Reuse your kitchen scraps by turning them into nutrient-rich dirt you can use to help grow more food. Or, recycle your food waste through Lomi, which reduces GHG emissions into the atmosphere by turning that waste into dirt.


2. CASA AGAVE dish brush

One light bristle and one dark bristle brush placed next to each other
Image Credit: No Tox Life

 

The CASA AGAVE dish brushes from No Tox Life are made from sustainably harvested bamboo and palmyra plant fibers, and are long-lasting with a lifespan of 3 months. This makes them a much better choice than conventional dish brushes and sponges made from plastic.

The plastic from the standard dish brushes and sponges rubs off during use, sending microplastics into the waterways and oceans. Harming marine life isn’t something you’ll need to worry about when using these bamboo dish brushes.

Price: $6.98

Category: Sponge

Why you need it: Scrubbing your dishes is easy with these high-quality dish brushes, but they’re useful for more than just that. Try these out on your vegetables and for general cleaning in the bathroom as well.


3. Dish soap block

Dish soap block standing on counter showing product label
Image Credit: No Tox Life

 

With most dish soaps coming in a plastic bottle, just cleaning your dishes can create substantial waste. Instead, you can get a plastic-free dishwashing solution from No Tox Life by getting their vegan dish soap block.

Price: $8.98

Category: Cleaner

Why you need it: This block of soap is completely biodegradable and comes in compostable packaging. This dish soap can also be used for more than just your dishes – try it on your sinks and stove as well


4. Swedish dishcloths

Arm using a Swedish dishcloth to clean a spill on a stove
Image Credit: Three Bluebirds

 

As we mentioned before, swapping paper towels for reusable towels will effectively reduce your waste. One zero-waste towel option are the Swedish dishcloths from Three Bluebirds. Each dishcloth has a beautiful design, and can replace up to 17 paper towel rolls.

Price: $6.95

Category: Towel

Why you need it: These high-quality dishcloths are made from compostable organic cotton. To make the decision even better, Three Bluebirds contributes to Earth’s water restoration with each purchase!


5. Beeswax food wrap

Table of food partially wrapped in beeswax wrap
Image Credit: Beeswrap

 

Zero-waste food storage is made easy with this beeswax food wrap from Beeswrap. These beeswax wraps are made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, beeswax, plant oil, and tree resin.

Being flexible yet strong, beeswax wraps do a fantastic job of storing food in a variety of containers, and keeping that food fresh for long.

Price: $5.99

Category: Storage

Why you need it: These wraps contain all the benefits of plastic wrap without the downside of containing plastic. With some of these you can easily eliminate the need for single-use plastic.


7 great resources you should check out for more zero waste kitchen ideas

While we’ve given you plenty of great information on creating your waste-free home kitchen, there’s always more to learn. If you want to create a lasting impact with your zero-waste lifestyle, we would highly suggest checking out any of these excellent resources:

  1. Zero Waste Chef The Zero-Waste Chef began eliminating waste in her kitchen back in 2011 when she went plastic-free. Since then, her blog has been full of helpful tips, ideas, and guides on how to become your own zero-waste chef.
  2. Zero Waste Home Zero Waste Home is a website and blog run by waste-free lifestyle advocate Bea Johnson. You can find her book, plenty of helpful blog posts, and even a bulk food store finder app on her site.
  3. My Zero-Waste Kitchen: Easy Ways to Eat Waste Free Kate Turner’s zero-waste kitchen book focuses on reducing, reusing, and recycling to help you learn to eliminate your waste. She also provides 15 zero food waste recipes to get you started.
  4. Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money by Wasting Less Food Dana Gunder’s handbook helps you solidify a waste-free lifestyle by providing you with the tools necessary to develop sustainable habits. You’ll also find some more great recipes, tips, and helpful facts in this one!
  5. Zero Waste Store The Zero Waste Store is the perfect place to get all your zero-waste kitchen essentials, and any other zero-waste household products you’re looking for. Check out their kitchen section for towels, sponges, brushes, utensils, and more.
  6. Litterless Litterless is a website devoted to helping you find out where to buy your groceries in bulk, and where you can compost your organic waste. That is, if you don’t have a kitchen composter of your own.
  7. Zero-waste communities A community of like-minded people is always a great resource for learning and acting on your values. This post highlights zero-waste communities both online and all across the globe, so you can find the communities that best meet your needs.


Creating a zero-waste kitchen can seem like a lot at first, but it will get easier over time. You’re not trying to become perfect overnight, just aim for small and manageable changes and victories over time. Remember that buying the right waste-free kitchen products can really help you out, including your own kitchen composter. We hope you’ll think about what changes you can make in your kitchen to eliminate your waste!

 

Written by: Sereana Simpson