Welcome back! How are your challenges going? Feeling overwhelmed? Inspired? Intrigued? In love with the Earth? Tell me about your successful and not-so-successful moments. Use the form at the bottom of this page or email me.
This challenge, the No-Waste Kitchen Challenge, was simultaneously the most fun and the most frustrating. Fun because I learned so many ‘live-simple’ ideas, and frustrating because there are about a million more ideas that I don’t have time to try. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. Here’s a rule: remove the trash can from your kitchen sink and hide it outside. Game. Changer. I quickly realized how much extra food packaging I was tossing—most of it goes in the recycle bin anyway, but it’s still wasteful. Remember, we are working to reduce our waste at all levels, in order to cultivate a wiser and healthier relationship with the Earth’s resources. And with the Earth itself. Even the Bhagavad Gita advises us to do this:
“Touched in this way by God, the yogi sees unity and the True Self (Divinity) everywhere, in every creature, in all creation.” BG 5.29
So here you go:
Aparigraha April Challenge #4: No-Waste Kitchen.
- Hug your food. Stop buying Ziploc bags and disposable plastic wrap. If you have some in your cabinet still, remember that a Ziploc freezer bag can be used a few times. However, what’s even better? Use glass Pyrex dishes for food storage. These never need to be thrown away. The most exciting thing I found when taking this challenge: Food Huggers. Adorable, re-usable Food Huggers, silicone food savers that “hug” the half of any fruit or vegetable you want to save in the fridge. Seriously? Have you seen anything more adorable?
- Re-imagine your morning routine. Most of us love a warm morning beverage. Most of us create an entirely ridiculous amount of waste to satisfy this craving. At home, here’s your challenge to reduce your waste: avoid all single serving items.
- Loose-Leaf tea. (Have you ever thought about the extra waste from one TEA BAG? Why even have a paper tag on the string of each tea bag? Why have a string? Wait… why have a bag?) Buy a small tea filter and head to the local herb store to buy loose-leaf tea. Much more delicious, much more sustainable.
- French Press Coffee. (No coffee filters needed. No tiny one-time-use plastic cups for your coffee grounds. I’m sure you can guess how I feel about Keurig cups.)
- Add-ins that aren’t single servings. Even when you are at a coffee shop, opt for the pourable raw sugar instead of tearing open a sugar packet. Better yet, learn to sweeten your tea and coffee with honey. Local honey companies will refill your empty plastic or glass honey jar.
- Can Cans. Sure, aluminum cans are recyclable. But it takes in exorbitant amount of energy (often fossil fuels) to recycle. The goal here is to reduce ALL waste. An average American produced 4.6 lbs of garbage every day, and about 1/3 of that is recycled (Loux, Easy Green Living). Beans don’t grow in cans. Tomatoes don’t grow in cans. Stew certainly isn’t made in cans. Buy dry, buy fresh, buy ingredients and make your own. And do I even need to talk about soda cans? Really? Are you 12? There are about a million harmful substances in soda that do not need to go in your body, and about a million un-recycled aluminum soda cans on my street alone. (I hereby give any person standing at the bus stop on my corner to put their Cherry Coke cans in my recycle bin. Please stop leaving them on my sidewalk.) This is the MOST wasteful. Buy yourself a lemon and stick it in a glass of water. Trust me on this one.
- Chop it, Don’t Toss it. Food waste makes up about 13% of the total solid waste amount in the United States. Learn to use the ENTIRE vegetable for your cooking. From Root to Stalk. When chopping celery, broccoli and cauliflower, chop the stalks into small pieces, put them in your freezer, and throw them in a soup the next day. Challenge yourself to use the entire vegetable. Beet greens? Sautee them and top your curried quinoa. Carrot tops? Blend them in tomorrow’s smoothie. Stop buying fruit and veggie trays. You don’t need the extra plastic platter and you are telling grocery stores that you prefer they throw away perfectly good (and nutritious) vegetable parts. Take a look at Tara Duggan’s Root to Stalk Cooking which explains the Art of Using the Whole Vegetable. I think we throw food away because we don’t know how to eat it. Chop it, don’t toss it.
- Make friends with your own dishwashing soap. I used to buy the single-serving packets of dishwashing soap because they were adorable. Yea… the plastic that holds together these cute little packets is completely irrelevant and unnecessary. Just buy a giant box of dishwasher detergent (try Seventh Generation, because it’s been reviewed as one of the best “green dish detergents“). I tried a DIY recipe for dishwashing detergent found on Mama Wellness’ blog and found that it worked well. I understand if you don’t have time to make your own detergent (I only run my dishwasher once a week, so it wasn’t a big deal to make a big batch of detergent because it lasted about a month), but at least avoid unnecessary waste if possible.
Throughout my month-long experiment to reduce waste in my kitchen, I became increasingly aware how difficult it is to avoid food packaging. As a general health rule, I try not to buy food that needs a nutritional label on their package. This helps avoid sugar/sodium/processed death traps like crackers, cookies, and other goodies. But during my aparigraha challenge, I noticed just how many fresh food stuffs I buy that are “packaged.” Strawberries need their own plastic house? Cucumbers come wrapped in plastic? Even my health foods like soy milk, raw honey, olive oil, and cinnamon all came in their own disposable packaging. After much thought, I’ve decided on a list of Things I will not give up, even though they are inherently wasteful:
- Soy milk cartons. But I’ve cut down to one a month, which I think is pretty good. I’m not adventurous enough to make my own almond or soy milk…yet… if you are, I’d love to hear your tips!
- Chocolate bar wrappers. Because I’m not sure how to buy chocolate that isn’t in a wrapper. And we all know that chocolate cures everything. Last fall, this article on CNN.com sold me on chocolate for life.
- Trader Joe’s boxed soup varieties. I mean, all of them are delicious. I, of course, keep all my veggie scraps and crock-pot them with water to make my own stock if possible, but everyone needs to try TJ’s black bean soup. Oh my word.
- Aluminum foil. I hate scrubbing pans. Have you ever tried to scrape baked tofu from the bottom of your baking pan? It’s not easy. Aluminum foil I will keep. It can be wiped clean, re-used two or three times, and then put in the recycle bin. And of course, it’s my new re-usable dryer sheet!
Ok, for real, tell me how it’s going. Happy Kitchen Cleaning.