You can start making simple changes straight away. Sometimes it is as simple as not running the tap whilst peeling veges. Or requires a bit more planning, like stop buying plastic food wrap, but have alternative options ready, like beeswax food wraps. You might need to work, or save, towards the big changes and expenses like buying eco-friendly cookware or appliances!
START WITH SMALL STEPS
My advice is not to try and make all the changes at once! You can easily become overwhelmed trying to do it all, you may just set yourself up for failure, and give up altogether. Write a list of all the changes you want to make (and any purchases or materials you’ll need to acquire). Then choose your top three priorities, and set the list aside until you have done those three.
Start with achievable goals. Once you accomplish some easy changes, you’ll be motivated and eager to keep going. Things on your list that seem hard (or impossible, even) now, may be a lot easier to successfully change in a few months time. The ‘one day’ dreams can eventually make it to the top three spots on your list!
You may also need to find ‘better than’ solutions, whilst you are researching and trying to source the ‘best’ option, or waiting to have the money available. Sometimes you might need to take it in ‘good, better, best’ stages. This means something like re-using the plastic bags you got when shopping, because you aren’t sure which reusable bags will be best to buy, or are still sewing your own. Or buy the ‘eco’ friendly cleaning spray, whilst you research DIY recipes or reusable cleaning systems.
Declutter your kitchen and pantry. Declutter your life whilst at it. This isn’t about becoming a white walls, minimalist family! It’s about making it so much easier to make changes (and afford them) when you aren’t drowning in stuff, when you aren’t succumbing to ‘retail therapy’ and when you can find what you need, when you need it.
In my own decluttering journey, I realised that all the stuff I had kept which might be ‘useful’ one day, isn’t useful if you can’t find it, forget you have it, or can’t get to it because of everything else in the way!
Make a plan and allocate a budget for what you want to change. Plan with your family, or those you live with. Getting their input and involving them in the process will make it better for everyone.
Don’t go cold turkey, and then be stuck without an item, only to end up annoyed and find yourself saying ‘stuff it’ and buying the same old toxic/ plastic/ single use items again! For example, use up the last of the plastic wrap whilst waiting for your beeswax wraps to arrive. If you want to stop using bin liners in your kitchen scrap bin, start stocking up on newspaper if you plan to line with that instead. If you want to change out your dishcloths for homemade crochet ones but you don’t know how to crochet yet, then look for an online seller or some at the local markets!
Having a positive attitude towards change can make a big difference to how well you stick to your changes and turn them into habits. Embrace your inner resilience, be resourceful and if something doesn’t work, keep trying to figure it out. You may need a different process or solution.
Here are some ways to reduce the amount of waste going into the rubbish bin, but also make the most of all the time and effort that we put into growing and raising our own, or sourcing and buying local produce.
HOW DO I SHOP & COOK IN A WAY THAT CREATES LESS WASTE?
- By meal planning, and buying only what you need to make those meals for the week or fortnight – some people even plan their breakfast and lunches too!
- On your meal plan, allow for one or two ‘easy’ dinners a week, which include eating meals you have frozen, or making a meal from items in your garden, fridge, freezer and pantry that need using up!
- Using an adaptable meal plan system that considers what you are harvesting, and what seasonal abundances you have
- Freeze or preserve uncooked foods, if you cannot use them up in time
- If you have an abundance of homegrown produce, consider giving away, swapping or even selling your excess produce
How do I use up leftovers, or store uneaten foods?
Always keep food safety guidelines in mind.
- Get creative with foods that need to be used up, by transforming them into another meal, or freezing in portions to become lunch (or dinner) on another day. Cook Once, Serve Twice recipes here.
- Check your fridge, or freezer, to see what you have that needs eating, or freezing, soon.
- Get creative… use sour cream or dips in risotto, use pasta sauce or relish on pizza, use pumpkin soup to make cheesy mac!
- Take leftovers for lunch, or freeze them for another meal or lunch
- Check out the Love Food, Hate Waste or Foodwise websites
WHAT CAN I DO WITH KITCHEN scraps?
- Save vege ends, and bones, to add to stock/ broth (make a pot of broth on the day you do your meal prepping, and add the vege ends and peels to it as you go). Or try keeping the vegetable ends, or bones, to make stock too, by freezing them in a container you can keep adding to until you have enough to make stock.
- Give them to you chickens, worm farm or compost them (or perhaps save your scraps for someone who has chickens/ worms/ compost, like a colleague or neighbour). Make sure they are appropriate for chooks or worms.
- If you don’t have room for a couple of compost bins, try a patio/ small area solution, like bokashi bin or worm farm, and use the end product on a container garden, or donate it to local community garden/ neighbour
- Use citrus peels as a cleaner, by steeping them in white vinegar for a week or two, then straining and decanting into spray bottles
- Use leftover coffee grounds in beauty or bath products
- Use dried and ground eggshells in the garden
Energy and water waste
- Don’t run the tap continuously whilst peeling veges!
- Use a bucket in the sink, or a water jug, to collect ‘warm up water’ to use on your potted plants or in your water filter
- Install energy and water efficient appliances when replacing your old appliances
- If you have the oven on for baking or cooking dinner, make a batch of cookies or muffins at the same time
Whilst growing your own food, buying at farmers markets (or bartering/ foraging) means you will have far less packaging, sometimes you cannot avoid it. Items that you buy in bulk, or that you buy at the supermarket, will mostly come in packaging (even the organic produce, argh!) Here are some ways to reduce the impact:
THE THREE R’s
- Reduce means only buying things we need, and choosing items with less or no packaging (or none); buying good quality and looking after it/ repairing it
- Reuse means making the most of things we have instead of throwing out
- Recycle means to put paper, glass, aluminium in the right bins to be recycled into other products
- Look for items with less packaging, or no packaging!
- Avoid the extra plastic of individual packets, by buying in bulk, and decant into reusable containers.
- Use reusable shopping bags, such as Envirosax or make your own. Keep them in your handbag, car or bicycle basket… and after the shopping, fold them up and put them back there, so you have them on hand for next time!
- If you do buy or get plastic bags, you can reuse them next time you go shopping. Just fold them up and take them with you!
- Use produce bags (instead of plastic), such as Fresh Mesh bags or Onya produce bags, and look for bakery bags too.
- Some delis and butchers will also use your own containers if you ask!
DRY GOODS STORAGE
- Consider buying in bulk (rice, legumes, flours, sugars and baking products) and storing in your own airtight containers. You may have a local bulk buy shop where you can bring your own containers to fill.
- Use large jars as storage containers, that you can buy, reclaim (keep from other items you’ve bought) or source in op shops. We have a bunch of swing top lidded glass jars, from the coconut oil brand we used to buy. We also use our preserving jars for storage.
- Reuse containers you have. We have a bunch of large plastic buckets from our bulk coconut oil and honey purchases.
- If you do use plastic ziplock bags, look for degradable ones, and you can often wash them out and re-use them
- You can buy clips to reseal large bulk bags, until you have enough bulk storage containers
FRESH & FREEZER FOOD STORAGE
- Invest in a set of good quality glass (or safe plastic) containers with lids. I prefer glass, and we never reheat or cook in plastic in the microwave.
- Consider using your preserving jars, which you can get in larger sizes, and buy plastic snap on or screw on lids which are handier for taking lunch to work, or for freezing things in them. They are great for Soup in Jar, and Salad in a Jar.
- Use reusable food covers, like these beeswax covers, or make your own!
- Instead of plastic food wrap over plates and bowls, turn another plate upside down, cover with a tea towel, use shower caps, or place cut vegetables/ fruit on plates, with the flesh side down.
- We use very sturdy Pyrex glass containers with lids for leftover lunches. They last for years! You can buy them in different sizes (the 750ml rectangle ones are good for one meal and they stack well). You can write the name of the meal in chalk pen on the lid or glass before freezing too. Look for sales when you can get them at a more affordable price.
BAKING + COOKING
- Look for lower tox, eco-friendly baking paper, muffin liners and baking good options, including silicone products
- Invest in cast iron, glass, ceramic or enamel frying pans and baking dishes, avoiding toxic non-stick options
- Look for eco-friendly dishcloths, like those crocheted from organic cotton (that you wash and eventually they can be composted) or at least those that can be washed, dried in the sun and reused several times.
- You can get more eco-friendly scrubbing brushes, made from recycled plastic or wood, or you can find scrub pads made from coconut fibre. Or if you have a garden, try growing your own loofas!
- Make your own low tox cleaning supplies, using citrus infused vinegar (allow lemon, orange or mandarin peels to steep in white vinegar for a week or two) and bicarb, or use liquid castile soap and essential oils. Invest in good quality spray bottles that last, not the cheap ones which need replacing pretty quickly. Or make up a soap solution using soap nuts. Or look for eco-friendly, fragrance free products.
- Look for paper towel alternatives, or buy recycled or low-tox eco-friendly paper towel. We use Who Gives a Crap paper towel (and their toilet paper and tissues!)
RE PURPOSE PACKAGING
- Use plastic containers, like ice cream containers, cut them into seedling labels
- Boxes can be box craft for the kids
- Poke holes in the lids of plastic barrel containers to use as a bicarb shaker for cleaning
- Turn milk cartons or large vinegar bottles into watering cans and scoops
- Reuse glass jars for storage, and preserving, where appropriate
- Turn the mesh produce bags, that come on oranges etc, into scrubbers, or exclusion covers to reduce pests nibbling your garden
EATING OUT & ABOUT
- Take your own reusable coffee cups
- We always take our own drink bottles for water everywhere
- Invest in, or make, sandwich and snack wraps/ containers
Our modern food systems mean many people have to come to expect a variety of food to be available whenever we like, without giving much thought to the consequences of where our food came from, how it was produced, and how it got to us. There are negative impacts to our environment from the toxins and carbon emissions from freight, distribution, packaging and storage of this ‘global food’. Check out this list of books about locavore eating to learn more.
Eating locally is about sourcing food which has been grown and produced closer to where you live. It is about learning how to cook delicious and nutritious meals that suit your lifestyle, using local and seasonal ingredients. This may be a combination of:
- home grown and home produced food your own backyard (or your neighbours, or a community garden)
- seasonal boxes direct from the farmer/ CSA
- produce from local urban farms, suppliers and producers within your region
- foraged wild food (learn how to safely forage wild foods, and identify edible weeds – invest in a good guide book, or find a course in your area)
The benefits of eating food which has come from a local source may include:
- knowing more about your food, as well as a lower impact (from not requiring as much freight, distribution and storage)
- You can support local farmers and producers, and help to build a resilient local food system for the future.
- Eating ‘in season’ produce when it is at its peak, and it hasn’t travelled long distances, may mean your food tastes better, may be more nutritious, and more readily available.
- If you grow your own food, you may not be able to produce everything you need for a balanced, nutritious diet. You may also need to rely on local food sources, during ‘lean times’, when the garden or your chooks are not producing as much, or when an issue has reduced your harvests.
How can I afford to eat locally, sustainably and organically?
Organic, sustainable, local and ethically produced food can cost more. Growing your own food is a way to access it without it costing you as much (there will usually be some initial outlay when setting up your garden, chook run etc.) Some ideas to make the most of the local food you do buy are:
- reduce waste with adaptable meal plans, and using up or storing leftovers
- being creative with seasonal produce
- use more vegetables, and less meat/ dairy
- making more of your meals and snacks ‘from scratch’
- preserving food when it is in season or abundance, and usually cheaper
- eating the parts you might normally throw away, such as leafy young tops off radishes, turnips, beetroot or swedes, as well the root
- form a small co-op with family, friends and neighbours, to buy in bulk and make it better value, and to coordinate pick ups
Look for a local Food Map, or Regional Food Guide, to help you find places where you can buy local food in your region, such as Local Harvest or Australian Farmers’ Markets Association. It may show you local farmers markets, farmers or producers that sell direct, CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) or co-op’s and stores that sell local food.
You can also research places you can forage for wild food, or cafes and restaurants that support local suppliers, or even places where you can swap or barter with your home grown produce.
- A good way to start is buying your fresh produce (vegetables, fruit, herbs, eggs, meat) from a local source.
- Learn how to cook with seasonal produce, which means you eat produce during the period when it is being harvested in your region. Look for cook books or websites that cater to seasonal cooking, or adapt your favourite recipes. You can substitute similar amounts of seasonal, local produce in many recipes
- Talk to the stallholders at the markets or ask your green grocer, where and how the produce was grown. Look for a labelling system, with explanations on a sign, brochure, or website
- Look for convenient options to suit your lifestyle, such as having seasonal boxes delivered, or consider cooking in bulk or in advance. Find the balance that suits you!
- Adaptable meal planning means you can set certain kinds of meals for certain days of the week or fortnight, but use the produce you pick from the garden or buy from the farmers market.
How do I shop at Farmers Markets?
- Get there early (alternatively, you can get bargains later on, but you may miss out on some things too!)
- Check if they have a website for a map, or the lay out of the stallholders is listed, as well as where the car park is (if driving) and other facilities, like toilets or cafes
- Go to your favourite, or the most popular stalls first, before they sell out
- Take enough cash (smaller notes and change is handy, but not necessary) or find out if there is an ATM on site
- Take shopping bags & produce bags, but a bag-trolley or backpack is really useful (you may also want to have some frozen bottles of water in an insulated bag in the boot of your car, if buying meat or dairy)
- Go with an adaptable meal plan, but be ready to buy bargains, or be wooed by seasonal produce
- If you take your kids, try to have a second pair of hands and eyes with you, as farmers markets can get busy and loud
- Ask – don’t be afraid to ask the stallholders, even if they are busy. What is the price per kg? Can I get a bulk discount? Where is your farm? Is this organic or chemical-free?
- Enjoy the experience! Make it an enjoyable weekly outing. Stop for a coffee or snack if you can, and sit down and watch the excitement of the farmers markets
How do I shop at the farm door?
- Look for an online directory of local farmers and producers in your areas, or ask at the local farmers market
- Contact the farmers to ask if they sell direct, such as seasonal boxes, or sell bulk meat, via an online shop or other method
- Ask if they offer a delivery service, or are willing to, if you pay a fee
- You will often be buying in bulk, so be prepared to handle larger amounts of produce, by cooking, processing and preserving what you buy
- You might also be able to form a small co-op with family, friends and neighbours, to buy in bulk and make it better value, and to coordinate pick ups
- Alexx from Low Tox Life has loads of great information on greening your kitchen (and life!)
- Sustainable Table are ‘working to build an engaged community of people who want to learn about sustainable food production and how they can support a food system that restores and nurtures the natural systems it relies upon’.
- Clever and lovely Tricia from Little Eco Footprints has great advice and stories
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