Hello and welcome back to my blog. ( Freedom Yoga )
We are more than 100 days into lock down (I stopped counting at 100) and while each day is different I think we can all atest to the fact that life as we used to know it is a distant memory.
As we all adapt to change, living differently and spending more time at home, I can’t think of a more optimal time to also change our living habits when it comes to trying to reduce our waste and living more sustainably. So as we watch this year march on by without concern of whether we can keep up with it – let’s choose to use this time to effect change by focusing on improving the things we can control – our selves, our habits and the way we live.
Apart from living through what could be seen as a medical-horror take on The Matrix, this year has also been the start of my zero-waste journey. I’ve decided to take this on in a step wise approach to make it easier on both me and my pocket and July was the month of zero wasting my kitchen.
Zero wasting your kitchen is perhaps one of the most challenging but also most rewarding parts of becoming zero-waste, purely because most of our waste comes from our consumption of food. So, to avoid this transition becoming intimidating let me guide you through how I’ve chosen to change my kitchen into being zero-waste.
SHOPPING FOR FOOD
The hardest part of zero wasting your kitchen is changing your buying habits when it comes to food. Most of us have a routine when it comes to grocery shopping and even a favorite grocery store – and when it comes to choosing where we shop I don’t think many of us consider plastic packaging as a variable to help us decide where to go.
With this in mind when trying to buy food zero waste, I generally divide my shopping into fresh produce vs dry produce/non perishables. This not only makes things easier from a zero-waste perspective but also assists with creating a practical shopping schedule where fresh produce is bought in smaller quantities to ensure less wastage, while dry produce is bought in bulk which helps reduce the cost.
I generally buy my fruit and veggies in three ways:
-Through a zero waste veggie box scheme
-Buying at a super market where fruit and veggies are sold nude or
-Buying at a farmer’s market
BOX SCHEME SHOPPING:
Fruit and veggie boxes are a great way to reduce your plastic waste when buying seasonal fresh produce. Make sure to ask suppliers if their boxes are plastic free and where their produce comes from, and treat your first order as a trial run for you to assess the quantity and quality of the produce you receive.
I personally prefer boxes where you can choose exactly what you get as this helps with meal planning and the buying of other groceries and generally I find that ordering a box weekly is the best way to ensure that you always have what you need when you need it.
The veggie box scheme I use is through The Nest Space.
We collaborated with fellow black female owned zero-waste business Abundance Wholesome Foods who source organic produce from small black owned farms across the province and provide weekly veggie boxes available for purchase online.
Supporting smaller farms, buying seasonal and local produce and knowing exactly where your food is coming from is a big plus of buying your produce this way however box schemes do have a reputation of being a little unreliable because of the fact that they are often reliant on one or two farmers. So be prepared to take your time to find one that works for you and know that one bad box scheme experience, doesn’t mean they will all be that way.
NUDE FOODS AT SUPERMARKETS
While a lot of supermarkets sell their fresh produce in plastic packaging there are definitely still some where you can pick, choose and weigh your fruit and veg, and while most of these shops have plastic bags available for you to put your produce in, my personal experience is that almost all of them will allow you to bring your own bag provided that you ask beforehand.
I use my different bags from Fresh Bags to do this. Their fresh produce bags are super lightweight and can be easily stored in your handbag or car so that you don’t forget them at home. They also look super cute meaning that you can also store your produce in them at home and they make me feel like I’m living the rustic farm life even when shopping and living in the city.
I’ve shopped at a number of Pick n Pays, Woolies and Checkers stores who have allowed this (albeit while looking at me like I’m crazy), but my favorite spot for buying fresh produce is definitely Impala Fruit and Veg in Northcliff. Impala is similar to Fruit and Veg City and actually have brown paper bags available for shoppers to use instead of the usual plastic option which I always give them props for.
I’ve come to realize that when it comes to shopping at bigger retail chains it’s really up to you as the consumer to be the catalyst for change. Expect to be the first person to bring their own bags to weigh stuff in, swallow any embarrassment and know that you are being an agent of change in doing so.
Farmer’s markets are the pre-COVID gold standard of buying fresh organic produce zero waste. The food comes straight from the soil to the market and because these usually happen weekly you can get into the fun routine of popping out to the market every weekend for both a social outing and a shop. In this scenario to ensure your shopping is zero waste take some produce bags or brown paper bags along with you and if you do come across a stall selling their produce in plastic, gently inquire as to why and use the moment to inform them of how they could be more zero-waste. Here’s to never taking farmer’s markets for granted ever again post COVID19.
Dry produce is a little bit more challenging to by zero waste due to the fact that this is usually packaged by the wholesale supplier before being delivered to the retail shops. This is where zero-waste shops become invaluable. I buy 90% of my dry produce from The Nest Space and choose to only buy things that are generally not sold in plastic like flour, sugar, oats etc from supermarkets if I’m desperate.
I have found that having good quality and long lasting cotton bags for buying and storing produce is a game changer when aiming to become zero-waste. Most zero waste stores have different options like this available for shoppers to buy and use while they are shopping and while I don’t mind using brown paper bags, it just makes more sense for me to invest in something like the produce bags from Fresh Bags which can be reused every time you go for a shop and are affordable, long lasting, beautiful and reusable. Win, win.
ZERO-WASTE KITCHEN STORAGE
Now that you have done your zero-waste shopping, the next question is how to store your food at home. Often when buying zero-waste, the container or bag you use to shop is lightweight and easy to carry, but not necessarily the best to store your food in long term.
CONTAINERS FOR DISPLAY
When it comes to kitchen storage the zero-waste way, I’m happy to tell you that there are loads of beautiful options and when it comes to selecting containers that will be on display, I say glass is the best way.
Due to the fact that glass is made from sand and can be reused over and over again without releasing any harmful chemicals into your food, it is a great biodegradable and eco-friendly storage option. You can buy a variety of glass containers from wholesalers such as Consol Glass, but I personally prefer to go thrifting for interesting and different glass containers. Here is a list of some important factors to consider when shopping for glass containers:
Know what you want to store before buying.
This is a biggy. Have a rough idea of what you want to store before you go container shopping or risk getting overwhelmed by the sheer variety of what is on offer. Knowing this will guide you as to the size and shape of the container you need. This sounds like a no-brainer but trust me, I’ve fallen into this trap before and have only realized that I bought the completely wrong container when I got home (face palm).
Make sure its airtight
Always make sure that your container has a lid that seals correctly. This is super important for ensuring that your food stays fresher for longer.
Check the container opening
Don’t forget that you will be needing to put food in and take food out of your container. To make this a hassle free process ensure that your container has a big enough opening for you to either put your hand or a scoop into or alternatively for you to pour the food out of. To ensure that I can re-use my containers for different things, I always look for containers with wide openings when I go thrifting.
CONTAINERS FOR THE FRIDGE/FREEZING
There are instances when glass containers aren’t suitable and this is mainly for fresh produce or produce that needs to be frozen. Some veggies and herbs such as carrots, celery and mint do well being stored in water filled glass containers in the fridge however for leafy greens and other produce like mushrooms etc, I generally use mesh storage bags like the ones from Fresh Bag for this purpose.
I also recently stumbled upon the use of Silicone storage bags for fresh produce storage and have found that its a great alternative to plastic containers.
Stasher is a women-owned company who make silicon storage bags that can be used in the fridge and freezer as well as for when you need a container on the go. While silicone isn’t bio-degradable it is a great alternative to non single-use plastic containers in that it releases no harmful micro-plastic when used or disposed.
Silicone is made from sand (silica) and carbon which give silicon products like Stasher bags the purity of glass and functionality of plastic while being recyclable and and super long lasting.
Stasher’s bags can even be used in the microwave and oven meaning they are great for reheating and de-frosting food without having to worry about harmful chemicals and de-canting your food into a container that’s microwave and oven safe. They have a selection of differently sized bags including those for storing meal prep or snacks and have a range of different colours. I absolutely love the convenience and practicality of these bags and would recommend them to everybody.
STORAGE FOR ENTERTAINING AND LEFT OVERS
The last aspect of zero-waste storage is the topic of how to store food when entertaining or as left overs. So many of us are used to using cling wrap or foil for these purposes when actually the zero-waste alternative is so much more practical and beautiful!
Zero-waste dish-covers have been one of my most favorite finds on this zero-waste journey. These are re-usable fabric sewn dish-covers which easily fit on variously sized dishes that can be used when entertaining (to prevent flies landing on food etc), and when storing left overs in the fridge to ensure that the freshness of the food is maintained.
After learning about zero-waste dish-covers online, I found a beautiful local and womxn owned business called Halo who produce stunning, hand-designed and proudly South African zero-waste dish covers. There are quite a few small businesses making dish covers, but Halo stuck out to me because of their emphasis on the artists who make their beautiful designs. They have a number of collections designed by different South African artists and use there brand as a platform and dish covers as the canvas to showcase these artists’ beautiful work.
The covers I chose from Halo are designed by Miro van der Vloed who “drew inspiration from the beautiful coral found along the South African coast” when designing the dish covers. The dish covers from this collection are all about highlighting the plight the ocean is facing due to plastic pollution, global warming and over fishing and there’s just something about knowing that I’m supporting a local artist while highlighting the plight of our oceans while also reducing my plastic usage and living zero-waste that makes the eco-warrior in me feel like I’m really and truly making a difference!
These covers are a great conversation starter, they look incredible and they are super useful (see a list of different uses here) and while things like dish covers are often forgotten when zero-wasting your kitchen, I think they are part and parcel of the journey.
KITCHEN WASTE MANAGEMENT
The last but definitely not least part of zero-wasting your kitchen is all about, you guessed it, WASTE. Even if you have taken on everything I’ve mentioned in this blog, managing your kitchen waste is the final step and while waste management is definitely not the sexiest part of zero-waste living, it will change the way you see everything you consume drastically.
Kitchen waste management is focused around two practices:
RECYCLING AND REUSING
For some reason nowadays, the word recycling brings to mind super complex processes and behaviors when actually this is as simple as separating your waste. The simple act of having separate bins for organic waste, plastic, glass and “other” is 90% of the work done and the last 10% is taking some time to google recycling drop off points in your area. You don’t even need fancy bins for this process, when starting off even just labelled cardboard boxes will do.
Organic waste can be used in your own garden to improve the well-being of your plants, and even if you don’t have a garden, things like banana peals and egg-shells are awesome to use as “home-made” fertilizer and pest repellents for indoor plants or patio pot plants. You can also add paper and cardboard waste to your organic waste to improve the quality of your compost. Some small farms like those involved in veggie box schemes use organic waste from their customers as compost, which provides yet another option for making use of your organic kitchen waste.
While plastic and glass can be recycled, I actually enjoy trying to find fun ways to reuse them and once you start buying zero-waste you’ll begin to notice that you don’t have as many plastic bottles or containers filling up your trash as you did before.
I use polystyrene trays as painting pallets and often reuse grass jars for storage. To resuse plastic and glass simply soak your jars or containers in hot soapy water for a few hours. This will help with removing the label so that you are left with an unbranded glass jar and also assist with deodorizing. If there is a really stubborn smell left lingering, you can soak some old banana peels in the container for a couple of days which will help take the smell away and afterwards you can use the peels for your plants!
While plastic bottles are definitely reusable, I generally stay away from re-using them for food storage purposes. Most of the plastics we have aren’t BPA free and gradually release micro-plastic and harmful chemicals as they age. However, when using them for storing things like household cleaners etc, they are perfect.
While the link isn’t direct- I think COVID19 has been a huge wake up call for all of us as humans to look at how we are living and to remember that every unconscious action we make has serious consequences. This is something you would think that we all knew, but because of our society’s ugly habit of hiding inconvenient truths – it’s something most of us have only truly been forced to confront this year.
So as we spend the remainder of this year mostly at home, perhaps now is the time to challenge yourself to make your home an eco-friendly sanctuary by gradually becoming more zero-waste and environment conscious.
Zero-waste and sustainable living isn’t a chore, its an opportunity to cut down on unnecessary costs, beautify your home and surroundings, and simultaneously join a movement to take care of our wonderful planet.
If I can do it…so can you!
ZERO-WASTE KITCHEN SHOP DIRECTORY (ALL BUSINESSES ARE LOCAL AND FEMALE OWNED):
Zero Waste Veggie Box Scheme: The Nest Space
Dry and Fresh Produce Bags: Fresh Bags (available at The Nest Space)
Silicone Storage Bags: Stasher
Zero-waste Dish Covers: Halo