| Environmental Columns

Zero waste in the kitchen

When we talk about reducing at the source or transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle, the goal may seem unattainable. One way to move towards it is to implement one solution at a time in your home.

With the families participating in the Zero-Waste Challenge discovering various tips for packing zero-waste lunch boxes and making their own housecleaning products, the kitchen seems like a good place to start. Again, the goal is not to put all of the solutions into action at the same time, but rather to choose those that make the most sense for you, and then move forward gradually.

Small steps, big impact

To reduce the quantity of waste that ends up in landfill, a first simple step is to use the organic waste collection service. On average, organic waste represents about 50% of all residential waste. By putting your table scraps in the green bin, you will quickly shrink the volume of your garbage bags. See the Waste Collection Guide or the organic waste collection page on the City’s website for more details.

Buy in bulk or in large quantities

Zero waste is often depicted as glass jars filled with food bought in bulk. This solution is indeed very effective in reducing the quantity of food packaging. While the network of zero-waste grocery stores is expanding everywhere, it is still not the norm. This said, some small and large  stores do offer a few bulk items, such as laundry detergent, nuts, grain products and coffee. Buying in bulk reduces overpackaging. More and more places now allow you to bring your own containers, which helps to reduce the purchase of items that sometimes come in two or three layers of packaging.

Most grocery stores offer fruits and vegetables that are not packaged. You may also want to consider ordering fruit and vegetable baskets from family farm associations in Québec. Not only will you be reducing the amount of packaging, but locally produced food travels shorter distances from the field to your table! There are also purchasing groups that enable consumers to buy large quantities based on their needs and then pick up their purchases a few times a year. This solution is also more economical because of the lower prices associated with purchasing in greater volumes.

If the option of bulk or package-free buying is not available for a product you want, buying larger quantities in which the content is not divided into individual portions is also a way to reduce packaging.

Fight food waste in the fridge and the pantry

Do you meticulously sort your waste and seek ways to reduce it even more? Another great way to do this is to reduce food waste, a very common reality, as explained in this environmental column.

Dish detergent and surface cleaning products

In terms of kitchen products, dish detergent, dishwasher pods, hand soap and multi-surface cleaners can be bought in bulk. Alternatively, those who like homemade goods can easily make many of these products themselves. This also enables you to better control the ingredients used and eliminate the ones that are harmful to your health and to the environment, which can be found in the detergents and cosmetics sold in supermarkets.

Replace paper napkins and disposable paper towels

In daily life, it is easy to use washable cloth napkins during meals, and dishtowels to clean up messes. This will considerably reduce or even eliminate the use of paper napkins and disposable paper towels, which, although compostable (if they are not made with chemicals) require considerable natural resources for their production (wood cellulose and water, in particular). Putting your compost bin on a diet is also a great way to reduce your impact on the environment!

Always use washable and reusable dishes

The same goes for disposable dishes. At home, it is easy to opt for washable utensils, such as chopsticks. Plastic straws can also be replaced by steel or bamboo straws or simply eliminated by changing habits. If a straw is essential, a few reusable straws and an accessory to effectively clean them will allow you to eliminate single-use straws. Buying large-size bottles of juice instead of juice boxes also eliminates the non-recyclable small plastic straws that come with these boxes. During outings or at school, you can simply pour juice into a small water bottle, with or without a washable straw.

Reduce packaging and containers for prepared meals

Take-out or delivered meals come with many challenges, particularly during the pandemic. In contrast to delivered meals, take-out meals create less waste since, in many cases, you can bring your own containers and bags. For deliveries, you can specify that you do not need the disposable knives and forks or chopsticks, small sauce containers and paper napkins.

One step at time, find solutions that work for you, and remember that reducing waste at the source is a gradual process!