Reuse Is The Best Use: Kitchen Edition
Of all the rooms in the household, the kitchen probably uses the most energy and generates the most waste.
Food alone accounts for 14.6% of the total waste created by Americans. That is an atrocious, staggeringly huge amount of waste. That is 37,084,000 TONS of wasted food–74.2 BILLION pounds! Does that shock you?
But food scraps and food waste is only part of the kitchen waste problem. What about paper waste? Plastic waste? According to the EPA, paper waste accounts for 27% of the total waste generated in the US, plastics account for 12.8%, metals 9.1%, and glass 4.5%. While of course not all of these waste items come from kitchens exclusively, food storage, prep, and cleanup all involve the use of paper, plastics, metal, and glass and so contribute significantly to the overall numbers.
But don’t worry! There are a number of things you can do to minimize your household’s waste, beginning with food.
Did you know that certain vegetables can be regrown from their stems/stalks, including
- green onions
- garlic chives
Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has a blog post detailing 10 foods that regrow in water alone, and a long list of more foods that can be started in water, then repotted into dirt and grown to maturity. Reusing food by regrowing it is smart economically, and much better for the environment than being bagged and sent to the landfill.
Lemon peels can be reused in a number of creative ways. Make a foot scrub, use it to clean, deodorize and disinfect, make homemade lemon zest or lemon pepper, make lemon-infused olive oil–there are so many good options, here. Robin at Thank Your Body has compiled a list of her 31 favorite things to do with leftover lemon peels.
Like lemon peels, coffee grounds are sometimes overlooked for reuse. But reusing coffee grounds is good for your wallet and the environment. With them, you can fertilize plants, make a cleansing scrub, keep cats out of your garden, and more (7 more ideas for reusing coffee grounds on Frugal Living Mom)
Most other food scraps can be composted. Some items like dairy and meats should not be composted. Some food waste is inevitable but with a little forethought, much of what we waste can be significantly reduced.
Paper, Plastic, and Glass Waste
The food we buy comes packaged in cardboard or plastic. We store our food in plastic or glass containers. We use paper towels or disposable disinfecting wipes to clean up. None of these things is bad, per se, but taken together and multiplied across a nation of more than 300 million people, and the waste literally piles up.
What if, instead of baggies, you stored your food in a reusable container?
What if, instead of wiping up with a paper towel, you use a washable cloth? Ehow has a simple tutorial for making reusable wipes that will help cut down on the number of paper towels you use.
What if, instead of bagging your groceries in plastic–or even paper–bags, you bring your own reusable bags?
What if you try buying in bulk to avoid excess packaging?
Kitchen textiles are not often talked about, but they account for some of the waste calculated and tracked by the EPA. Kitchen textiles (bulk linens such as hand towels, dishcloths, floor mats, and tablecloths) take a beating. They clean up the biggest, worst messes. When it’s time to get rid of them, what do you do? Do you simple throw them away? Do you donate them? Do you look for ways to repurpose them?
Above all else, remember that reuse is the best use! If you can find a way to reuse or repurpose an item, it will benefit your family, your wallet and the environment.