Friday, January 29, 2010

Kitchen Litter (by Kat)




Recycling is easy--rinse off and toss in the proper bin.

Reusing is near and dear to my heart. Every rubber band from the newspaper or the heads of broccoli we buy at the store goes into the drawer. Plastic liners from our cereal boxes are shaken free of crumbs and used again, allowing us to forgo using a new Ziploc bag. Plastic sour cream containers are our freezer containers, glass jars become vessels for popcorn kernels. Bits of string left over from crochet projects get tied into fluffs for the cats to play with.

Reducing waste, though, can be hard. We don't buy a lot of stuff, and our normal purchases are not the type that come with lots of plastic packaging (mainly because I can never get it open!). I don't buy new clothes with anything close to frequency. The sweats I'm wearing right now pre-date my daughter's birth nearly 13 years ago and my socks have holes. And (oh dear am I really admitting this???) the pony tail holder holding back my hair is one I found on the sidewalk a few weeks ago. Gross, huh? But it looked new, and I washed it, and...yeah. Moving on.

Reducing waste in most of the house seems dependent upon not buying extra. That I can do! But reducing waste in the kitchen is really hard. I take my own bags to the store, re-use vegetable sacks, and consciously choose products with the least packaging. I actually pay 10 cents more to buy the two gallons of milk without the accompanying cardboard box than I would have to pay if I bought the two gallons in the cardboard box. Only in America, I think, do you have to pay more to get less.

Looking in the kitchen trashcan, I'm perplexed about how to make less waste. Plastic wrappers from our blocks of cheese can't be recycled. The empty lye container can't be recycled. The styrofoam and plastic wrap from the chicken can't be recycled. Tissues, cracker wrappers, junk. Meat, dairy, chemicals. These seem to be the big contributors.

But the kitchen waste from tonight's dinner was a little bit different. Let me show you.

Here's how we get our lambchops from the butcher:

Open the box and...

a plastic bag.
Open the plastic bag and...

Pull out as many chops as you need...

and seal the bag back up.

This box holds about 24 chops, so that's twelve meals from one plastic bag (non-recyclable) and one cardboard box. I can feel okay about that, I guess.

But, combine that with mashed potatoes (maybe another 12 meals from one non-recyclable plastic bag?) and roasted carrots from our garden (no plastic, hooray!), and not only do you get a good meal, but there's minimal waste.

The peels from the carrots and potatoes went to the chickens, the newspaper was shredded and tossed into the compost.

So, this meal wasn't too bad as far as taste and waste, but tomorrow's meal involves ricotta cheese and several other packaged items that are going to keep me awake tonight.

How do you guys reduce kitchen waste? Is there something I'm missing?


  1. I am truly humbled by your vigilance in this area. I do recycle, but in our town you have to drive it to the recycling center yourself, and right now my bin is overflowing because I just haven't found the time to do that lately.

  2. I don't buy a lot of prepackaged stuff either but I do try and eat yogurt frequently. That's probably my biggest source of plastic. Even though it was easy to recycle, I don't buy a lot things that are in containers made of recycled materials. I finally splurged and bought a yogurt maker (basically a heated platform with a cover). Now I can make my own in canning jars that I already own!

  3. Kate~
    Bet and I met up once and attended a cheese-making class in Winlock, Wa. The instructor also talked about yogurt making. I've thought about trying it out--do you enjoy making it?