The Kitchen

camylla-battani-794111-unsplash.jpgThe kitchen is a plastic avoider’s nightmare!

Here a few of my tips for reducing plastic waste – and making the plastic you have work harder:

  1. Cook from scratch, ready meals are often packaged in plastic films and trays that go straight to landfill.
  2. Buy fresh food loose, you can re-use old plastic bags, buy net bags or make drawstring bags out of old sheets to carry fruit and veg. Many deli counters and butchers won’t bat an eyelid now if you turn up with your own clean tubs, (although many are wary of glass).
  3. Grow your own. Herbs such as basil, parsley and mint grow quite happily on my kitchen window ledge. Many vegetables can be grown it pots or window boxes. There are lots of blogs and websites that offer advice. Gardener’s Question Time on Radio 4 often covers this topic and Gardener’s World on TV offers lots of inspiration for container growing or small space gardening. When I was a student I grew peppers, chillis and tomatoes on the window ledge of my student digs. They loved the sunny, south facing windows. Now we have a fantastic garden with veg beds and plenty of space to plant a wider variety. I love being able to step outside and pick kale, leeks and onions all through the winter.
  4. Buy food in jars, cardboard packets or glass rather than plastic. Buy bulk where you can. I tend to hoard glass jars and bottles for home made jams, chutneys and flavoured gin – if I gift you a bottle of damson gin at Christmas, don’t be surprised if it’s in a tomato ketchup bottle! Doorstep milk deliveries are making a come back and it’s easy to search online and find your local delivery company.
  5. Buy wood or metal  utensils rather than plastic. They last longer and can be repaired (wooden utensils at the end of their useful life often find their way to the kindling box here!)
  6. Ditch the disposable sponge and microfibre “eco” cloths. Anything with the words “polyester, microfibre or acrylic” in it’s name is made of plastic. It can’t be recycled and it leaches microfibres into out waterways. Choose wooden scrubbing brushes and cotton cloths and treat them well. If you find that you can’t shift stubborn, baked on food from your pans try rubbing with coarse sea salt or adding a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda to the pan, covering the dried on / stained areas with water and bring to the boil on your stove, we find this deals with most stubborn food remnants.
  7. Audit your cleaning products. Trigger sprays are hard to recycle, so if you must use them, look for refill bottles or refill them yourself from bulk containers (you can buy 5l bottles of eco friendly cleaning products  online – even from some supermarkets). Try making your own cleaners and fresheners. There are some great books available now. Check out the Moral Fibres blog for more ideas.
  8. Get creative with plastic bags, kitchen foil and yoghurt pots. These can all be washed a re used several times. Larger pots are ideal for freezing portions of soups and stews, smaller ones can be used as plant pots. Ice cream tubs make sturdy lunch boxes. Plastic bags can be washed and re used. We also use them instead of cling film, cover a dish with a plastic bag and seal with a rubber band. If you really can’t bear to throw them away once they’re no longer useful, keep torn ones to use as packaging when posting parcels instead of buying bubble wrap.
  9. Get creative. Do you really need to buy cling wrap? We haven’t bought this since the last century! I find that a plate can be used to cover food in the fridge, greaseproof paper is ideal for wrapping cheese or meat and a damp tea towel is ideal for covering a mixing bowl of proving bread dough. You can buy or make beeswax wraps, but I’ve never felt the need to invest in them. If you find greaseproof paper too stiff, try scrunching it up, then smoothing it out, this makes it much more pliable for fitting into cake tins or wrapping cheese.
  10. If you buy fizzy water, try a soda stream. I love mine and the gas canisters last for ages. You can mix the fizzy water with fruit juice or cordial to replace supermarket fizzy drinks and it cuts down on plastic waste. Look out for special offers. Or, consider switching to glass bottles. Yes, I know lots of people think sparkling water is the ultimatewaste of time and money, but I don’t drink alcohol and I like a glass of sparkling water at the end of a long day
  11. Make your own choices and set your own low plastic goals. Don’t be swayed by those glorious photos  posted on Instagram accounts of the “zero wasters”, choose strategies that fit with your own lifestyle and budget. Be pragmatic, be honest with yourself about how much you can do and how much your family are prepared to buy in to your low plastic goals.
  12. Finally, life is a journey and we have all chosen a different path. Please don’t judge others who you think aren’t doing enough to cut their waste and don’t beat yourself up when you feel as if you’ve failed to make a difference. Even when your faced with the post Christmas carnage of waste as I am today, don’t be disheartened, next year will be better … I hope!

Photo Credit: Camylla Battani 

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