According to a recent report, a staggering 58% of all food produced in Canada – almost 35.5 million tonnes – is either lost or wasted. Second Harvest CEO Lori Nikkel told reporters that the amount of wasted food is enough to feed every Canadian for at least five months.
Wasted food, along with other types of trash, find their way into landfills, oceans and furnaces, where they decompose and generate methane – a potentially harmful greenhouse gas that’s about 25 times more destructive than carbon dioxide (CO2). In fact, landfills are the third biggest human-made source of methane emissions in America, causing significant climate change and environmental concerns.
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But as people become more eco-conscious, we can take initiatives towards a greener, more sustainable future.
8 Simple Steps to a Zero-Waste Kitchen
Zero waste living is one such trending movement, with a potentially positive effect on the environment. By abiding by the three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – this movement aims to generate the smallest amount of (or no) trash possible. For many of us, going zero waste calls for a major lifestyle change, and we recommend starting with the kitchen, where most of our household waste is produced.
Here are a few simple and practical ways to create a greener kitchen and reduce the waste we create.
- Buy Only What You Need
Do you buy groceries you don’t need? This can result in a painful waste of money and food. If you’re an impulse buyer or tend to overspend, online stores and shopping malls may not be the best places to visit. Even a casual outing can easily cause you to splurge on unnecessary items.
Instead, create a shopping list of only what you need and stick to it to save money and wasted food. Make it a habit to visit stores and shopping malls only when you need something and not because you’re bored.
- Devise a Meal Plan
Few people take the time and effort to carefully plan their meals. Once you do, you can prepare your grocery list, avoid unnecessary purchases and stick to buying only what you need.
After getting your essentials, it’s important to cook and consume them in an efficient way. Planning meals not only saves you from buying needless stuff but also helps with portion control (a good thing for fitness freaks). Instead of standing in front of your refrigerator or pantry deciding what to cook, you can have your food ready in minutes. When every meal is planned, you don’t need to worry about food waste.
And it can be fun to sit down with the family to make the weekly meal plan.
- Reuse Food Scraps
After peeling, chopping and prepping meals, there are usually leftover scraps that wind up in the garbage or compost. But there are lots of interesting things you can do with them.
Toss vegetable peels, trimmings and herb stems into soups and broths to increase the flavour and aroma. If you’ve made an apple pie or simply peeled your apple before eating, don’t throw away those peels. Instead, roast them, toss in some melted butter, sugar and cinnamon powder and voila! Sweet, crispy apple chips are ready to serve. Lemon, lime and orange peels can be added to poached chicken, stews or sauces to enhance flavours. They can be candied and used to garnish desserts.
- Say No to Processed Foods
Processed foods often come with non-recyclable plastic packaging. When you choose homemade food over fast food, you not only avoid plastic packaging but also stay away from harmful additives.
Although a lot of us love munching chips and other packaged snacks, it’s important to remember that packaging is a threat to the environment. Try carrying homemade meals and snacks to avoid (or at least reduce) our use of single-use plastics. When you have homecooked food, you don’t need to resort to packaged food at mealtimes.
- Choose Beeswax Wraps Instead of Plastic Wrap
Beeswax wrap is a piece of fine fabric, coated lightly in natural beeswax on both sides. It’s used to wrap foods and crockeries, just like plastic wraps, but is reusable. To clean after every use, gently rinse it in warm soapy water and hang on a towel rack to dry. Do not use hot water, as the high temperature can melt off the wax.
Beeswax wraps last about six months to a year (depending on how frequently you use them), until the wax wears off. Once the protective coating gets damaged, you can either compost the sheets or re-wax them. This is an essential component of zero-waste kitchens.
- Swap Regular Plastic Bags for Reusable Cotton Ones
Although plastic bag usage has reduced significantly over the last few years, a lot more can be done to reduce their harmful effects on the environment.
Instead of asking for plastic bags at grocery stores, consider carrying your own reusable ones (jute or cotton). Unlike plastic bags that are used only a few times and can eventually find their way into rivers, oceans and landfills, reusable bags can be washed, dried and used for many years. When it comes to zero-waste kitchens, sustainability is key.
- Buy in Bulk
Buying regular grocery items like spices, lentils, flour, sugar and coffee in bulk can reduce your use of plastic packaging. When you buy bulk items instead of packaged goods, you store them rather than having to buy every month. This means you waste less plastic packaging. Just make sure you carry your own container.
- Choose Green Furniture
Whether you obsess over kitchen furniture or hardly notice it, choosing eco-friendly furnishings for your home (and kitchen in particular) can positively impact your health and the environment.
Choosing kitchen cabinets, closets, countertops and wall units made from reclaimed materials and sustainably harvested hardwood is an excellent way to go green. You can also get vintage furniture locally as they have already passed the off-gassing phase.
The brunt of advancing technology is mostly being felt by the environment. From melting glaciers and rising sea levels to erratic weather, much of it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. When we cut down on our plastic usage and food waste, we’re one step closer to a greener and healthier planet.
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