These days it seems like we’re all looking for ways to live a little greener—both for our own health and the health of our planet. With that in mind and in an effort to reduce our own personal footprints, it is important to consider the waste we create in our kitchens.
Kitchen waste can come in many forms, from disposable plastic wrap to food scraps and the containers that we bring home from the grocery store. Completely eliminating waste from a functioning kitchen can seem like a full-time job, but with some small changes and techniques, we can make a big impact from our own homes.
- Studies show that Americans are dependent on the convenience of disposal towels, like paper towels, to the tune of more than $5 billion. That’s a lot of garbage.If you find yourself reaching for paper towels every time you have a spill, smudge, or puddle, consider alternatives like Swedish-style dishcloths. These cloths can be purchased in reusable rolls so they can be grabbed and used just like a paper towel. You can use one towel many times before washing. Look for the towels online or at some of your favorite home stores.
- We offer up this tip a lot, but it’s too good to forget. As far as we are concerned, there are very few food scraps that can’t be used for another purpose. Here are a just a few:- Fruit scraps, like strawberry tops, cucumber skin, and citrus peels are great for soaking in water for some spa-worthy hydration. When steeped in hot water, ginger peel, lemongrass ends, and mint stems make no waste teas.
– Vegetable trim, like carrot peels, tomato skins, potato peels, mushrooms stems, zucchini ends (and so on, and so on!) can all be frozen together in a zip-top bag. Build up those scraps and use them to make vegetable stock by simmering in water for about 30 minutes.
– The same goes for meat scraps! Bones from raw or cooked chicken, trim from a roast, or virtually anything leftover can be saved to make a meat broth. Pull onion peels, carrot peels, and leftover cloves of garlic from your veggie bag to use as aromatics in your meat broth!
- Speaking of scraps, use your freezer to the fullest of its abilities. It may be hard to believe that you’ll ever use that 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa, the dredges of a coconut milk can, or 1/2 cup leftover beans, but once you make your freezer-broth, you’ll need soup components! Use silicone cupcake pans or baking cups to store bits and bobs to use another day.Extra grains, leftover sautéed leeks, seasoned breadcrumbs, or even a few tablespoons of spaghetti sauce are great to mix into meatloaf, stuffed peppers or eggplant, and anything that can benefit from a little bulk or extra flavor.
- In lieu of zip-top bags, tinfoil, saran wrap, and parchment paper, look to silicone substitutes. Silicone lids come in a number of shapes and sizes and can be used to seal bowls and jars for storage. Silicone baking mats are just as efficient as a non-stick surface as parchment and tinfoil.
- Of course, whenever you can’t use reusable containers, jars, or other equipment, remember to recycle, reuse, or compost as much as you possibly can, just like we do here at the CIA. Every little bit counts!