Low Waste and DIY in the kitchen

Going zero- or low-waste seems rather easy when it’s just about cosmetics. In the end, you just have to get a set of washable make-up remover pads and some solid cosmetics, like shampoos and conditioners.

Doing the same thing in the kitchen and in every day life sounds instead incredibly complicated and time-consuming. I’ve heard many people saying “If I could, I would do it, but then with my job, my partner, my kid, my dog…”

I used to think that it was tough, too. But then I decided to give it a try. I must confess that I made this decision in a moment when I was not working, so I indeed had more time than the average adult to organise my house and plan this kind of things. But it’s not like I had to work on it for weeks.

So let’s see how one could start without getting scared.

  1. Take a look at what is in your kitchen. Try to identify all the products you own and that have a plastic packaging and ask yourself what would be the alternative – if there is any.
    • For many (surprisingly many!) items, the alternative is at the supermarket, right next to the product you’re holding on your hands. In fact, many products are available at the supermarket in a glass jar instead of a plastic packaging. The same is true for fruits and vegetables: 90% of the time there is a non-packed option available at the supermarket.
    • For other products, the solution can be found in a packaging-free supermarket. If you live in a big city, most probably there is one in your town.
    • And for some products, the solution is making it yourself starting from the ground ingredients.
  2. Think about getting glass jars. If you don’t have any, you can:
    • Plan your next groceries such that you start to buy your usual stuff in the glass jar option. Just some examples: yogurt, milk, jam, orange juice, olives, beans. You can find all of them in glass jars at the normal supermarket. Once you will have eaten all of them, you can wash and keep the jars.
    • If you really want specific or very fancy glass jars or bottles, you can also buy them. You can find them directly at the packaging-free supermarket or online. If you live in Germany, I recommend Gläser und Flaschen. But I suggest not to exaggerate with the glass jar groceries: once you will start doing your normal groceries “in glass”, it won’t take long before you start accumulating jars. So, keep the “buying glass jars” as a last option or for particularly fancy stuff.
  3. Once you have accumulated some jars – possibly some big ones (500 ml or so) and some medium (200 ml) ones, plan a weekend or a day when you’re at home and that you can organise and tidy up your kitchen.
  4. On that day, I suggest you to do something that at first will sound very hypocrite: transfer all the products that you use the most from their original packaging to one of your glass jars. I KNOW, you will throw away some plastic packaging by doing so. Your kitchen will not become plastic-free on that day, because you will throw away all the original (plastic) package you have. This operation will help you getting used to have your stuff organised in jars and get an idea of the volume you need for that stuff. As soon as you empty one, you will fill it at the packaging-free shop.
  5. Step by step, you will slowly accumulate jars and be able to organise all your kitchen products in them. You will get used to have them like this and to fill the jars at the shop when you need them.

This is how my pantry looked like on that day:

From then on, every time I emptied one of those jars, I filled them with their un-packed version.

As mentioned, sometimes the only solution is making food on your own. I believe this is the part that scares people the most, because making food means time.

However, I can assure you it’s not so bad, because:

  • There are not so many products you cannot find without plastic neither at the supermarket nor anywhere else. Right now, the only ones I can think of are: some kinds of vegan milk and fresh pasta like Spätzle, Schupfnudeln, tortellini and similar things, and müsli if you don’t want to buy them at the packaging-free supermarket.
  • Making the products mentioned above is really not that time consuming, also because you can prepare them once and then freeze them. Oat/almond/coconut milk is super quick; spätzle and schupfnudeln are relatively quick and can be frozen; tortellini… well, they’re not quick but I tell you that if you live anywhere else than Reggio Emilia/Modena/Bologna, there’s no need for you to buy them: because THOSE are not the real ones 😀 And if you live in one of those three cities, most probably you have your grandma making them at home or you know where to buy them handmade.
  • Preparing your own food at home should not be seen as a waste of time. You’re doing something good: forget about the plastic thing for a moment, you’re doing something good for yourself! And maybe it’s a nice way to spend time with your family at home while doing something creative and fun.
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