Reducing food waste is huge, but it’s also important to reduce the waste you produce from simply preparing and eating your food as well. Many of these options below not only help reduce your impact on the environment when you eat, but will likely be saving you money in the long run and can even improve the overall aesthetic of your kitchen (reusable cloth napkins are way more chic than those paper ones you’re stockpiling).
For everywhere food has a place in your life, from groceries – shopping and storing them – to dining and clean-up, you can make moves to reduce waste, save money, all while simultaneously making these aspects of your life a little more stylish.
1. Reduce plastic waste by bringing your own shopping bags – stop hoarding that bag of bags under your kitchen sink. You know what I’m talking about. Are you really using them? No. Not only does using reusable cloth bags reduce plastic waste, it is also an opportunity express yourself. Maybe even elevate your grocery shopping experience, make it chic. I love my Bon Appetit bag in particular – the amount zeal I get from walking around with this bag, a french baguette or fresh leafy produce peaking out, is honestly embarrassing.
2. Bring your own produce bags – an easy one, but also easily overlooked. Plenty of people these days have upgraded to bringing reusable grocery bags, but end up stuffing them full of plastic bags as they shop the produce aisle. You can find an infinite variety of produce bags from Amazon, where I purchased mine. Or, believe it or not, there is even a market for some farmer’s-market-chic bags, like these ones from Anthropologie. You can finally make the fashion statement you’ve always wanted to with produce bags!
3. Shop in bulk where possible – buying items in bulk saves so much packaging material, money, and can really improve the organization and aesthetic of your kitchen (how beautiful is this zero-waste pantry?). When buying packaged food, you frequently are paying excess for the packaging material as well as for the brand. My go-to bulk items include rice, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and nuts. Generally, the unit price is going to be lower when you’re filling up your own containers rather than picking up a branded package. While glass air-tight containers are best, even opting for acrylic ones like these from Amazon if you’re tight on cash will still help reduce the overall amount of waste you produce from your weekly grocery shopping.
1. Indulge in cloth napkins – the idea of buying “fancy” cloth napkins might seem frivolous or like a waste of money, but in reality it will save you money in the long term. If you’re still using paper napkins at dinner (like I foolishly was until very recently), stop! Sure, they’re cheap, but over the course of a year you could be saving by investing just $20, or even less, in some cloth napkins. Simply launder them when they start to get soiled – you won’t need to do this as often as you think. While of course this reduces use of a variety of resources, it also elevates your dining experience at home. You can find a cute print to elevate your aesthetic or simply relish in feeling like a Real Adult™ with a legitimate cloth napkin to wipe that ice cream you had for dinner off your face.
2. Ditch plastic utensils – this is easy to do at home where you likely have a full set of flatware, but when you’re in the office, traveling, or elsewhere, considering getting an eco-friendly set of bamboo utensils that is lightweight and perfect for travel. Go a step further in reducing waste and saving money by simply bringing the cutlery you already have at home into the office or wherever you may be going.
3. Carry a reusable water bottle – this is so obvious and we all have one (or a dozen) by now, and yet I do still see people opting for plastic water bottles or – and this is blasphemous to me – even using plastic water bottles to fill their reusable one (!?). I love my Steepware glass bottle because I can also use it for steeping tea, or any hot beverage in addition to using it for water. Glass is dishwasher safe with no potential for leeching harmful chemicals and is as environmentally friendly a material as you can hope for.
STORAGE & CLEAN-UP
1. Replace paper towels with actual towels – you may be using dish towels for drying dishes already, but you can also be using towels to clean and wipe down counters. Another alternative is getting bamboo reusable towels that can be machine washed and last about 65x longer than paper. Again, this will save you money that you would otherwise be spending on countless rolls of paper towels while granting you an opportunity to add a touch of style or some flare to your kitchen decor – all in the name of reducing paper waste associated with your day to day eating and cooking routines.
2. Nix the plastic wrap, foil, and Ziploc bags – when it comes to storing perishable food, it may seem like your options are limited. However, there has been an increase in products such as Bees Wrap that allow you preserve produce or use as a cover to plates and pans with leftovers. Not to mention they have countless adorable designs and prints to choose from. If you are still using Ziploc bags though, don’t toss them! Wash them and reuse as long as possible before disposing.
3. Get into composting – my current living arrangement prevents me from composting myself, but if you can you must. Any organic material, say a banana peel or used coffee grounds, can be decomposed into compost that can be used as nutrient rich soil fertilizer. Maybe you also have your own backyard garden which you could apply your compost to, which is awesome – you can truly become your own little self-sustaining unit (and save money you might be spending on fertilizer elsewhere). Otherwise, there are services you can hire to regularly pick up your compost material for a small fee. A small price to pay to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As always, it’s great to know more about where the food you buy comes from and what goes into producing it. Shop locally to reduce emissions that result from shipping, and do your research on foods you eat that may be taking a massive toll on the environment (re: beef). Whatever you’re eating, reduce waste of the food itself by planning ahead and making a use of leftovers. Use what you have before you buy more. Here are some links with even more ideas and information to get you started:
- Food waste facts from Harvard University’s Nutrition Department
- The NRDC’s summary of climate change impacts from everyday food choices
- Harvard University’s The Nutrition Source on 5 beginner tips to start eating more sustainably
- 14 ways to break your plastic habit from Bon Appétit magazine
Have your own methods or tips for reducing waste when it comes to what your eat? Share them in the comments to spread better habits!