How sustainable is your kitchen?
Kitchen waste – is it possible to be zero-waste?
With so much talk and public outcry this year of ‘banning the plastic straw’ and ‘make take-away coffee cups recyclable’ – we can’t help but feel a little guilty – As a family, we’ve been refusing plastic straws (although that was a challenge this summer in Vietnam), and carrying our own re-usable cups in our backpacks for ages, so what more can we do? And can we do it a bit closer to home?
I’ve been concerned about the amount of kitchen waste we are ‘accidentally’ creating, and with our local council introducing new recycling measures to try to encourage our borough to get on board – it’s had us really ‘rethinking’ what we can do here.
I honestly think we will struggle to be truly ‘Zero-waste’ as a family of four (with two teenage brains who aren’t quite as mindful YET on this subject, at least, as I found out here, recycling a single 330ml aluminium fizzy pop can could save enough energy to power a Television for over 3 hours = Pop & TV – a teenagers’ match made in heaven).
I’ve listed below the not so pretty pile of ‘waste’ that is overflowing in our recycling bins – some of which are avoidable, yet some we just have to suck it up – and embrace that they are going to produce energy, or be re-purposed – so where to start?!
BREAKFAST – Let’s analyse the sustainability/ethical impact – (please keep reading!) We have a giant Hotbin in the back garden, this is where all of our food waste goes – so, you know, I’m happy** that my morning breakfast of porridge, fruit and seeds is a sustainable option – our apple cores and orange and banana peel go into the compost bin. (although this is a tad contentious – some people DON’T agree with putting orange peel and banana skins in the compost bin – what are your thoughts? Do let me know in the comments below …) – back to “I’m HAPPY”…
**Or am I?
Bananas – ok, I select Fairtrade in the supermarket, and, avoid those sold in plastic bags. Why do we need bananas, in bunches, in their own protective skins, to be sold in plastic bags? The supermarket Iceland says that 420,000,000 packs of bananas are sold in the UK each year and are one of the first supermarkets to ditch the “banana bags” and bear the Plastic Free Trust Mark, launched by campaign group A Plastic Planet.
Oranges – try to buy the boxes of little oranges if you can, and you think you’ll get through them – otherwise, disappointingly – you have to pop the little plastic ‘string bags’ into landfill – how annoying!
Apples – same as above – and eek, the little plastic labels?! Well my son actually collects these and sticks them in a little book his Grandma started him on this craze to try to get him to eat more fruit… We’ve been reading about a laser food labelling alternative to the plastic produce stickers – the fruit passes under a light beam, which makes a visible mark on the food, the cells retract, – and voila! (the video explains better than me)
Porridge oats, we’ve been enjoying Flahavan’s Irish organic oats – and even better, they are sold in a paper bag – no plastic in sight.
Nuts and Seeds – now that’s a struggle – not managed to find these in anything but plastic bags in the supermarket or health store, so I’m going to check out Riverford as people tell me that they sell unpackaged dried fruit and nuts – will give them a go!
And my morning (and mid morning, and early lunch) coffee(s)? We use a cafetiere and Fairtrade ground coffee so we’ve not been bothered with the ‘coffee capsule landfill nightmare’ my inlaws are creating, however, I’ve recently discovered that Percol make a plant-based capsule that biodegrades – how cool is that if coffee pods are your thing?
A really good reason to switch to the plunger, or invest in a reusable pod today!
This takes us to LUNCH – Avocados, on a bagel, with some yeast extract? Dream lunch when I’m working from home, but hey, emergency purchase of Avocados means that they come in a two pack, in yes, a biodegradable / recyclable cardboard – but AGAIN wrapped in a little plastic bag! The yeast extract is fortunately a glass jar, with a plastic lid – both of which can go into the recycling – but what about the bagel wrapper? Eek – full on plastic bag – now SOME councils do take these bags as part of their recyling policy, but I would also check with larger supermarkets as they also recycle these for you along with any carrier bags if they are marked with a ‘4’ plastic symbol.
So – how are you doing?? Feeling good so far – solutions are out there, ie, baking my own bread, instead of eating shop-bought bagels, ordering fruit and veg from a Veg box delivery scheme like Riverford or Abel and Cole. Get researching!
And what about other kitchen waste? The kids like a glass of milk when they get in from school – so we’ve been ordering organic milk, and orange juice, from our local milk home delivery service, we have a delivery every other week day – which seems sufficient for us and – oh they take the milk bottles back! The foil lids, we save and scrunch up into a ball when we have enough, and this goes into the recycling bin too. Oh we have a Zero Waste Facebook group to thank for that top-tip.
We inherited our kitchen when we moved in 16 years ago – and the ceiling spotlights – which, in this old house, tend to blow a little more than a modern kitchen (yep, we are working on that – see sponsor for details at the foot of this post!) So we SAVE these light bulbs, and the batteries from all of the kids’ toys, remote controls and the kitchen scales, and our local refuse centre fortunately takes these too – again though, do check with your local supermarket, even the small stores have battery bins for you to pop your old batteries.
I feel that we are heading in the right direction – some of the things we’ve been doing have come naturally, like composting, and recycling glass and cardboard – other kitchen waste is proving more challenging and has not always come second nature – so we are working on that – I think that although we may be a way off totally ZERO waste, we can certainly say that we are knocking it out of the park if we are talking LESS (and less) waste – Just laying these light bulbs and batteries out to photograph, my eldest son said ‘whoah Mum!’ so at least it may have got him thinking a little more too.
This post on striving for a sustainable kitchen has been written in conjunction with Howdens – although of course all thoughts and words and photographs are my own.
Howdens have put together this helpful guide with some simple ways that you can make more sustainable choices in your day-to-day life. With the kitchen at the heart of the home, they share top tips for creating an eco-friendly sustainable kitchen and to explore how even small changes can make a big difference. click HERE
Sign the petition to The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP to “Make coffee cups recyclable!” HERE
One of my favourite websites, 1millionwomen, write about a recycling coffee pod scheme that’s working in Australia HERE
The Guardian writes about a study which shows that in the next decade, reduced packaging and increased recyclability will become the main issues for consumers, HERE
WATCH on iPlayer The Secret Life of Landfill: A Rubbish History, Dr George McGavin and Dr Zoe Laughlin chronicle the history of rubbish and explore how what we throw away tells us about the way we live our lives. HERE
More on Howdens:
The journey towards a sustainable kitchen
Howdens are passionate about providing sustainable products and ecological ways of working, to help towards an eco-friendly environment. There is still a lot to do however here are some of the commitments that Howdens have made to being more sustainable:
• 100% of their internally manufactured timber products are made from FSC certifed materials (2017).
• 97% of manufacturing waste is recycled or reused (2017).
• 12,000 tonnes of sawdust was converted to energy at our Howden and Runcorn sites in 2017.
• Over 160,000 pallets repaired in 2017, making a total of 1.5 million since an employee-led energy efficiency initiative came up with the idea of repairing broken pallets instead of scrapping them.
• Their award winning transport fleet shows our knowledge within carbon reduction.
Sustainable living is about preserving the world’s resources to the best of our ability and there are many ways that this can be achieved. More here about Sustainable Kitchens too.