Environmental footprint check-in: Kitchen, 2018

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Once a year or so I like to check in on my progress in minimizing my environmental footprint and reducing my use of plastic. The term “zero waste” has become very popular amongst Millenials, which I am very happy to see, but my environmentally-conscious practices date back quite a bit further than that to when I was in my early twenties.  As always when I do these check-ins, I focus on areas of the home.

I did a major declutter of my kitchen last summer; I do this twice a year in all my house, but this past summer was a particularly rigorous exercise. I had accumulated a lot of smaller appliances and gadgets that I rarely used. With most of my possessions, I use the simple criterion of “have I used this item in the past year?” If the answer is no, out it goes (donated or recycled responsibly). This applied as well to a number of pots and pans. I have only what I need. I use glass jars to store dried legumes, sugar, coffee, and so forth. I use glass jars as well to freeze food, vegetable broths, and so forth.  I have no plastic storage containers anymore. I rely mostly on reusing jam jars, pickle jars, and so forth. I have bought some larger jars to take with me to the Bulk Barn which, I am delighted to report, now allows me to bring my own reusable jars and bags.

I have been using Credo produce bags for several years to buy fruits and vegetables. I have sewn my own cloth bags to use in the Bulk Barn. I am using this wooden dish brush that comes with refillable brushes, and this bamboo and metal dish rack. I stopped making my own dish soap,  as I found I was generating more waste in buying the products and, further, that I had to use a lot of it to clean items properly. I have chosen the more efficient option of this multi-purpose concentrated cleaner to wash dishes, as well as the kitchen and bathroom counters and surfaces. The cleaner comes in a plastic bottle, but it lasts a very long time and generates less waste in the long run. I wash dishes in this tub (British style), as I find this saves a lot of water. I use old rags and flour sack towels to clean surfaces; I haven’t used paper kitchen towels in over 20 years.  I have tried a zero-waste charcoal filter for my tap water, but I wasn’t pleased with the results, so I have purchased this Brita Filter pitcher; the company takes back the filters and recycles them. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s better than plastic bottles. Our drinking water in Halifax is very good, but I do prefer the taste when I filter it. The new filters last a very long time.

Much as I would like to buy my coffee beans in bulk, I am very, very particular about my coffee. Coffee beans in bulk bins are often too stale for my liking. This is not an area in which I intend to compromise, so I do buy beans in sealed bags that contain some plastic. I use a burr grinder for the beans, a French Press (which generates no waste), and compost the grounds. I do like the occasional cup of herbal tea, which I buy in loose form from a local store that allows me to bring my own container.

I use only cloth napkins and tablecloths. I travel with a travel pouch that contains a cloth napkin, this foldable set of utensils, a metal straw, and this small Keep Cup. Although there are glass Keep Cups, I find them too heavy for my handbag and, besides, I’m rather too accident prone to be safe around them. I carry a stainless steel water bottle, as well. I don’t carry a metal lunchbox with me, as this would take too much space, but at least I can use reduce my waste consumption with the items in my travel bag.

I buy my fruits and vegetables seasonally from a local farmers’ market. I wish it were possible to avoid all foods in plastic, but some things are unavoidable. I cannot possibly eat bread without vegan margarine, which comes in a plastic tub. I buy my bread from a local baker (The Petite Baker), and exchange cloth bags with her every week. Staples such as tofu and vegan cheese come in plastic, but I do make sure to choose the ones with the least plastic. I prepare most of my meals from scratch, so this helps cut down on the purchase of a lot of prepared food products, and I cook all my legumes from their dried state. I purchase the following items from the bulk store in my own containers: Legumes, sugar, grains, pasta, coconut oil, cornstarch, flour, arrowroot, baking soda, soap nuts, bar soap, nuts, nutritional yeast, spices, and herbs.  Naturally,  all shopping is done with my own bags.

I would welcome any ideas for other things that I could do to reduce waste and the use of plastic.



3 thoughts on “Environmental footprint check-in: Kitchen, 2018”

  1. The day we brought in the organic recyling to Vancouver, was the day I realized that I was deluding myself on what happens in our kitchen – our food waste was ridiculous. I believe that this is the area that has the most significant impact on the environment, from the choice of soap products, to the need to buy every new gadget that comes into view. (We did a full decluttering process too) Here’s what we do – and it is a work in progress. 1) Only buy what we are going to eat, especially when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. 2) Eat at home – the variety of food that can be produced at home far surpasses what is available. 3) Be ever vigilant – we don’t need that new gadget! Never ever think that we have arrived. As an aside, as you know I am embarking on an archiving project to organize my father’s photos that date back to the early 1900’s. What was amazing to me was – there was very little indication of obesity through the years until the photos reach the 1970’s. Another excellent post, Louise! Thank you…

    1. Rebecca, I do much of the same. I’m vegan, which in itself cuts down very much on environmental pollution, as so much of it is caused by animal waste, not to mention the amount of water needed for farmed animals. I always pack my lunch to work in stainless steel or glass containers, and keep stainless steel cutlery and cloth napkins in the office. I will be doing a separate post on my office routine. Like you, I buy only what I intend to eat in a week, and I limit the types of vegetables per week to three to ensure that I eat them all, I prepare all my meals and rarely eat out. Gadgets are a weakness of mine, but I’ve become very vigilant about not buying them. I use my Vitamix almost daily, I use a stove top convection oven every day for toasting bread and cooking. No microwave. One small espresso machine, because I love espresso, and use it many times a week.

  2. Composting has been legally required in all households in Nova Scotia (including apartments) for nearly 20 years. I think we were the first province to make composting a requirement. The city picks up our green bins.

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