“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Anne-Marie Bonneau
In the UK, it is estimated that approximately 9.5 million tonnes of food is wasted every year. The average UK household throws away around £700 worth of food annually, which is equivalent to 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. The hospitality and food service sector in the UK generates around 920,000 tonnes of food waste each year.
Globally, it is estimated that about one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that the total value of global food waste amounts to around $1 trillion annually.
Seeing the magnitude of a problem makes you think – what can you do to reduce it. There are endless ways, big and small, to reduce your waste — and we’re sharing a collection of 21 easy zero waste tips to get you started. No pressure, no judgment. Just try a few and see what works for you.
And remember: the world needs millions of people doing zero-waste imperfectly, not a handful doing it perfectly.
The 5 R’s of Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle
We’ve organised this list based on five straightforward principles of zero waste living, inspired by Bea Johnson’s teachings in her book, Zero Waste Home. However, many of these tips can fit into multiple categories (for instance, you can refuse single-use plastic and opt for reuse instead).
- Refuse what you don’t need: Say no to unnecessary items and packaging, especially those that are disposable or single-use. Take a moment to assess if you truly need something before accepting it into your life.
- Reduce what you do need: Reduce the quantity of things you require by carefully considering how much stuff you actually need. Rethink your consumption habits and strive to live with less, prioritising quality over quantity.
- Repurpose and reuse: Give items a second life by repurposing them for different uses. Embrace the art of creativity and find new purposes for objects that would otherwise be discarded. Invest in reusable alternatives, like metal straws or cloth shopping bags, to replace disposable items.
- Recycle: When you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse certain items, make sure to recycle them properly. Sort and dispose of materials in accordance with local recycling guidelines to minimise the environmental impact of waste.
- Rot and nourish the earth: Transform organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, into nutrient-rich compost. By composting, you not only reduce waste but also contribute to the health of the soil and support sustainable gardening practices.
Low-waste Kitchen and Grocery Ideas
It’s one thing to read these rules and another to understand them in practice. Through examples, we hope to give you that practical understanding on how to most effortlessly implement these zero waste changes in your life. Today, we bring you a rollicking guide to low-waste ideas that will make your inner foodie jump with joy and your rubbish bin weep with loneliness. So grab your apron, put on your thinking chef’s hat, and let’s embark on this hilarious and eco-friendly adventure!
Get Creative with Scraps
You know those vegetable scraps that often end up in the bin? Well, think again, my friend! Transform those overlooked food soldiers into flavour-packed stocks and broths. Simmer those carrot tops, onion peels, and herb stems in water, and voila! You’ve got the base for a sensational soup or sauce. Waste not, want lots!
Be a (Carb) Collector
Bread enthusiasts, rejoice! Transform stale bread into croutons, breadcrumbs, or even a comforting bread pudding. And hey, if all else fails, you can always use it as a makeshift weapon in the event of a food fight—nothing like a good ol’ baguette slap to put your opponents in their place!
Embrace Wonky Veggies
In a world obsessed with perfect-looking produce, it’s time to champion the oddballs. Those slightly misshapen carrots and potatoes still taste just as delicious, so embrace their uniqueness and give them a loving home in your next culinary masterpiece. Imperfection is the secret ingredient!
Tired of your veggies losing their superpowers in the dark corners of your fridge? Fear not! Store them in reusable containers or wrap them in beeswax wraps to keep them fresh for longer. It’s like giving your veggies their very own phone booth, transforming them from wilting sidekicks into vibrant superheroes!
When you’re grocery shopping, channel your inner superhero and head straight to the bulk aisle. Purchase dry goods like grains, nuts, and seeds in bulk to reduce unnecessary packaging waste. Plus, you’ll feel like a medieval knight gathering supplies for your next epic feast!
Bag the Plastic
Ditch those flimsy plastic bags at the grocery store and bring your own reusable bags instead. Trust us, the planet will thank you, and you’ll look infinitely cooler with a tote bag covered in obscure food-related puns. It’s the perfect accessory for the discerning eco-warrior!
Unleash Your Inner Master Chef
Challenge yourself to use ingredients creatively before they spoil. Whip up a kitchen masterpiece by turning wilted greens into a zesty pesto or bruised fruits into a mouthwatering jam. Your taste buds will be dancing, and your wallet will be doing the happy samba!
Can’t finish that gigantic pot of chilli you made? Freeze it! Invest in some freezer-safe containers and pop those leftovers in the icy wonderland of your freezer. Not only will it save you from dinner monotony, but it will also rescue you from the clutches of frozen pizza desperation.
Mindful Meal Planning
Plan your meals in advance to avoid unnecessary food waste. Take inventory of what’s in your fridge and pantry, and build your meal plans around those ingredients. It’s like playing a game of Kitchen Tetris, where every delicious piece finds its rightful place.
Preserve the Magic
Preserving fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to extend their lifespan and reduce waste. Get your jam on by making homemade preserves or channel your inner pickle connoisseur and ferment your veggies. Who knows, you might just become the proud owner of a “Pickled Perfection” shop!
Love Your Leftovers
Leftovers are like little food treasures waiting to be rediscovered. Embrace the art of reinvention by transforming last night’s roast chicken into a scrumptious chicken salad or turning that half-eaten pasta into a delightful frittata. Leftovers are the kitchen’s secret treasure chest!
Composting is the ultimate act of love for Mother Earth. Start a compost bin in your garden or join a local composting program. Not only will you be diverting waste from landfills, but you’ll also be creating nutrient-rich soil to nourish your future vegetable patch. It’s like giving back to the food circle of life!
Take a leaf out of the olden days and make your own kitchen essentials. Whip up your own sauces, dressings, and condiments instead of buying them in single-use packaging. You’ll impress your friends and family with your culinary prowess, and they’ll wonder why they ever settled for store-bought mediocrity.
Mind the Portions
In a world of “super-sized” everything, it’s time to recalibrate our portion sizes. Cook and serve just the right amount of food to prevent excess waste. Plus, you’ll get extra points for embracing the “less is more” philosophy and showing off your elegant plating skills.
Spread the Word
Share your low-waste journey with others. Spread the word about your tips and tricks, host cooking classes to teach others how to reduce waste in the kitchen, or simply regale your friends with funny anecdotes about your newfound culinary adventures. Together, we can create a low-waste revolution!
As we reach the end of our low-waste culinary expedition, remember that even the smallest efforts can make a big impact. With a dash of British humour, a sprinkle of creativity, and a pinch of eco-consciousness, you can transform your kitchen into a low-waste haven. So sharpen those knives, ignite the stovetop flames, and let’s cut down on waste while elevating our culinary game. Oishya is here to support you every step of the way on your sustainable cooking journey. Happy cooking, and may your kitchen always be filled with delicious adventures and minimal waste!
Note: This article is a humorous take on low-waste ideas and does not aim to undermine the seriousness of the issue. Reducing waste is a critical step towards environmental sustainability, and we encourage everyone to adopt these practices in their daily lives.