Having a zero waste kitchen isn’t impossible, but it can be a little tricky. The kitchen is honestly one of the most wasteful areas in the home, along with the bathroom. I will admit there are still some single use items that sneak their way into my kitchen (mainly because I live with my folks and I cannot control what they buy). That being said, we’ve managed to cut down on so much waste in the kitchen that I can’t really get mad. And not just plastic waste either, food waste too. I’ve cut back on so much waste simply from composting my food scraps, or saving my veggie peels to make zero waste broth (yup, that’s a thing). You would not believe how many times I’ve saved food odds and ends from heading to the landfill in my house. Sometimes my dad will still throw egg shells into the trash and I will snatch them up and put them in the compost pail. Sorry, not sorry. I don’t want more methane in the atmosphere, thanks dad (I love him though, I promise). Now, without further ado, here are my favorite zero waste kitchen swaps.
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Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps
1. Beeswax wraps
This is definitely one of my favorite zero waste kitchen swaps. Beeswax wraps make everything better. They easily replace plastic wrap and aluminum foil on many occasions. I can use them to wrap up a half eaten apple, or cover a bowl of leftovers.
Sometimes I also use them to store a block of cheese I got package free from the farmers market. They’re just so versatile.
You can also make your own, if you’re feeling crafty. Green Indy Blog has a super simple tutorial for making your own beeswax wraps you should check out.
At the end of their life, you can compost these babies. Just cut them up and add them to your compost pile. So simple.
2. Compost pail
One of the best zero waste kitchen swaps ever to exist? A compost pail. Hands down.
I cannot tell you how life changing this bad boy has been. It sits on my counter and I just add food scraps to it as the day goes by. Then, at the end of the week, I dump all of them off at the farmers market. That’s it.
It makes composting a breeze, and let me tell you, it cuts back on so much waste. I never realized how much food scraps I was throwing out until I got this in my house.
And sure, you can definitely save your food scraps up in other ways too (like freezing them in a big container or something). When I first started saving my food scraps, I used an old, salvaged Chinese food container. I kept it in the back of my fridge.
But – yes, there is a but – it’s soooo annoying to go back and forth into the fridge or freezer to put away food scraps. Having a compost pail is much more convenient. There’s no smell, and no way for fruit flies to get in either. That’s because there’s a charcoal filter built into the pail that prevents odor.
It also comes with a cute little handle! It makes transporting this to the market so easy. Definitely one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
3. Zero waste all-purpose cleaner
Things can get dirty in the kitchen real quick. That’s why I love using this orange peel vinegar cleaner: It’s built to tackle any kind of mess you can imagine, making it all-purpose.
I specifically love using it to clean my counters and the stove top. You can also use it on the dining room table. It does an excellent job. Not to mention it smells like oranges and is so easy to make.
Legit, you’ll save so much money making a batch of this stuff. It’ll also last a while, because you have to dilute it with water. Just one batch has lasted me over a year!
You can use this all over your home too, of course. Not just in the kitchen. So seriously, what’s not to love?
These cloth bowl covers are so cute. I love the inspirational little sayings. You can also wash them with the rest of your laundry or hand wash them in the sink (using my DIY laundry detergent, of course).
They have an elasticized edges so they easily grip onto any bowl or plate. They’re great for covering leftovers and come in various different sizes ranging from small to large.
I also love all the different patterns and colors you can choose from. So colorful and unique. Totally knocks plain old (and ugly) plastic wrap out of the park, ey?
They’re also great for keeping food warm at a dinner party. Whenever my folks have guests over, we break these out to cover large servings of food in big bowls. They’re great conversation starters.
I hate sponges. They’re nasty and they hurt the environment. I’m so glad I switched to this compostable pot scrubber.
I use it to clean practically every dish – pot or not – you could imagine. Sure, it doesn’t reach into narrow openings, but I really don’t have many glass jars with narrow openings anyway.
Eventually I’d like to get a compostable bottle cleaner brush, but I’m holding off for now. It’s definitely next on my list though. For now, I’ll continue to clean bottles out by rinsing them with soap and water and shaking them up with the lid on top.
This pot scrubber is fantastic at getting grime off everything. It’s so good at scrubbing stuck on food away. Plus it’s really cute!
To use, I just pump some dish soap onto it and scrub away. Simple and efficient, just the way I like it. At the end of its life, it goes straight into my compost pail – but it honestly lasts months, so there’s no rush for that.
6. Dish soap
I make my own homemade dish soap. It’s so simple to whip up it’ll take you a minute, not even. It’s also very low cost.
I store it in a mason jar dispenser. It’s so cute. I just push down and it pumps out the soap. Yay for simplicity! I’ve had this dispenser for years too, and I’m not getting rid of it any time soon.
If you have a dishwasher, or just prefer using the dishwasher, I’ve got you covered. Here’s my recipe for zero waste dishwasher detergent. You’re welcome – that stuff will make your dishes sparkle, without any nasty chemicals.
This goes without saying, but rags are a must in any zero waste kitchen. How else would you clean up messes? You can cut up an old shirt or towel and use that as your designated rags.
My mom kind of just bought a pack of rags at a store near us one day. So we have a slew of them. I’m pretty sure they’re made from cotton too (which means we can compost them at the end of their life, so yay).
We typically use rags around the kitchen to clean off the counters, the sink, the dining room table and the stove top. They’re quite handy, so I highly recommend using them.
You can dedicate a whole drawer in your kitchen to rags, or keep them in a cabinet. Totally up to you. We always keep a clean rag handy around the kitchen, regardless.
When the rag gets too dirty to use, we just plop it into our laundry pile. So simple.
8. Organic dish towel
Okay, so I’ll be honest – my parents still buy paper towels and paper napkins. Yeah, I know, not zero waste.
But, to give them credit, they do compost them (since, you know, it’s paper). So it’s not a complete waste like throwing them straight in the trash.
There’s also another waste reducer on our side – organic dish towels. We always have a clean one lying around the kitchen for use. I grab it to dry dishes, wipe my hands, or clean a small mess up. Having one handy really helps reduce the paper towel usage of everyone in my apartment.
I got the one pictured at Trader Joes. They’re organic cotton and really nice – we got the blue ones but they came in an assortment of colors (maybe next time I’ll grab the pink ones).
We only have five at the moment, so we try to make them last as long as possible before adding them to the laundry pile. Typically, one lasts about a week before needing to be washed.
I really want to get more so that way, we feel comfortable enough phasing out paper towels altogether and just using the organic dish towels to clean up messes. But when you only have so many, it can be hard.
Still, it’s a goal of mine. Another goal of mine is to make us some nice cloth napkins (I’ll totally let you guys know when I do that – if they come out nice enough, I’ll even do a DIY tutorial too). One step at a time, right?
For now, we do have some nice cloth napkins on our table which we’re slowly getting used to using. There is a slight learning curve there. I think the real problem is we don’t want to soil them – they’re just so pretty. But if I make some that are pretty plain looking, I don’t think that’ll be as much of an issue.
9. Sink cleaner
The sink gets dirty fast in my apartment. My mom used to use this stuff called Comet. It’s loaded with chemicals, and I did not enjoy watching them flow down the sink to pollute our waterways.
So, to solve the problem, I whipped up some zero waste tub and sink cleaner. Yes, it also works on tubs. But since this is an article about zero waste kitchen swaps, I’ll stick to talking about the sink.
All you need to do is dip a rag or a cleaning brush into the sink cleaner, then scrub away. It’ll leave your sink so nice and shiny you might not recognize it.
Not to mention the ingredients are super simple: Just baking soda, Castile soap, water and essential oil. Yup, you’re going to love it.
However, if you’re extra lazy? Just sprinkle some baking soda into your sink and rinse with good old fashioned water. It works and will make your sink cleaner than it was before.
Got a huge amount of leftovers? Glassware to the rescue! Seriously, this has you covered.
Instead of using Tupperware, my family made the swap to glassware about a year ago. Such a good decision too. My mom loves the set I got her. We use it all the time to not only store our leftovers, but store our lunches. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put a salad into my trusty glassware containers.
Ours has snap on lids which make them leak-proof. You can also freeze food in them, or heat food up in them (just as long as you remove the lid first). Heck, it’s even oven safe (again, with the lid off). How much better does it get?
You can also use mason jars, or any empty glass containers you have lying around the house. I love saving emptied out sauce and pickle jars for storing food. These can also come in handy when you go bulk food shopping and need a place to store all your dried goods.
These are my favorite zero waste kitchen swaps. What are yours?
For more zero waste swaps, be sure to check out my favorite zero waste bathroom swaps.
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