Our (almost) Zero Waste Kitchen

Now that it’s been 6 months into our zero waste commitment I wanted to give you a long look into our kitchen and all of the great swaps that we’ve been able to make along the way. It has been challenging but enriching. Hopefully for those of your out there looking to make the change, can find some inspiration in our progress. We didn’t go out and buy all new things, just made some strategic replacements when the time came.

I’ll even give you some facts and figures to show you how Zero Waste impacts us economically. Some of it might surprise you. Some things are more expensive, but in other aspects we have a great amount of savings. I tried to make it as detailed as possible, so you’re in for a long read and a lot of pictures. Welcome to my kitchen!

Water

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Before: The main beverage in our home is definitely water. And I’ve been through quite a journey. First with a Brita water pitcher. Then back to 6×1 liter packs of bottled water. Then to 2 x 6 ltr bottles every 2 weekly. Yearly cost: 101,40€.

After: Now we have invested in a Brita On Tap filter and I couldn’t be happier. Initial cost: 40,42€. Yearly cost of filters: 55,68€.

Savings: 45,72€!

We fill up glass bottles flip-top bottles that I have acquired from purchasing beer, sparkling water, and vermouth. So there was no added expense here! But you can also buy them or find them in thrift shops. (Check these out: 1L Deep Blue Air Tight Bottle from Crate and Barrel & Bormioli Rocco Moresca Bottle from Cost Plus World Market)

Food storage (at home)

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Before → After

  • I used to purchase zipper bags from Ikea once a year and reuse them as much as possible for snack and household storage, but it still created a lot of plastic waste → We use reusable zipper bags from Russbe and cloth snack bags from Snack ‘n’ Go (Cost: 4,00€ for 30 bags→ 11,89€ for 4 reusable bags)
  • Aluminum foil was our go to for baking and left overs → We use a silicone baking mat and store items with durable silicone food covers and avocado huggers (Cost : 6,18€ / year → 13,72€ for life)
  • Plastic chip clips from Ikea → Metal chip clips (also from Ikea) and some small metals clips from old Hawaiian coffee bags (they do wonders for closing bags) (Cost: 2€ → 8,00€ – will have to check the durability of both)
  • Packaged foods → repurposed glass jars or all sizes, new mason jars and metal tins for bulk products and spices
  • For olive oils and spices, we have glass and ceramic dispensers, respectively.
  • Packaged teas → loose leaf teas in snap top containers and metal tins to keep them fresh longer (I’ll have to do a future price comparison here.)
  • Packaged coffee → bulk coffee in paper bags. We have great coffee tools to keep the bag with a tight seal and a little scoop to measure out the coffee for our Italian coffee maker. I like gadgets 🙂 (Cost: 2,50€ / box → 8,00€ /box)
  • Beverages in cartons and plastic bottles → We have swing top bottles for water and homemade juices and a large vacuum flask from Ikea for when we have guest and want to make a large amount of coffee
  • Not quite a swap, but we keep our fresh fruits in a basket on the counter, out of the sun with a banana hanger above. (Did you know that bananas make the other fruits go bad, so you need to separate them?) And we have another large wooden bowl for nuts. Note the nutcracker in its home.
  • We also have ceramic baskets for holding berries and small loose veggies and fruits that we buy without their plastic containers.

We store the paper bags from bulk goods and fruits to reuse. The big ones make great popcorn bags when we are going to the movies! And we even save the egg cartons when we shop at the market so that we can refill them or reuse them to plant seeds.

Food storage (on-the-go)

As you can see from the picture we have a lot of storage containers and bottles and we make them go quite far when we are out and about.

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Before → After

  • Plastic food storage containers → glass and bamboo food storage containers (We amplified our collection, no so much swapped, yet. We’ll use out all the plastic ones as long as possible.)
  • Lunch out with lots of plastic packaging → bringing lunch to go in cloth lunch bag (mine is a free shopping bag from Lululemon!)
  • Not a swap, but we’re being much more conscious of our beverages and using the reusable drinks containers that we have at home
    • I have my Dopper bottle (with cup) for the office and light training days
    • A plastic sport top bottle for biking and running that I got free
    • Alex’s and his son also have small sport top bottles for biking and running
    • I have a large metal bottle for cold drinks when hiking and picnicking
    • Alex and I each have a thermos that keep drinks hot for super long
    • I have a collapsible, ultra light weight Hydrapak bottle for climbing trips
    • Last, but not least, I have a bamboo coffee mug for if I go out for coffee on the way to the office (not pictured)
  • Lastly, I have my shopping bags (collected over the years) and produce bags for the weekly grocery trips to all our markets, shops, and bulk store.

Laundry

In Spain laundry is automatically a bit more ecofriendly than in other countries because hardly anyone has a dryer. Clothes are washed then line or rack dried. We do about 3 loads of laundry per week with a small machine and family of 2,5.

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Before: Ariel capsules in plastic box. 24 caps for 7,80 – 8,79€. Last about 2 months. Yearly cost: 50€ on average because of price fluctuations and discounts.

After: Powdered bulk detergent in a large mason jar with wooden scoop (fit about 3 months worth of detergent). Yearly cost: 20€

Savings: 30€!

Future swaps:

  • We would like to get a Guppyfriend washing bag to reduce the microfibers released into the water from our washes
  • When we have our own place, we’ll purchase all wooden clothes pins (right now we use the plastic / wood combo from our landlord’s collection)

Trash & Recycling

In Barcelona, we have to separate the trash into 5 bins: plastic, glass, paper, organic, and everything else. So we have quite a variety of containers at home.

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Before: We had a plastic system with two trash cans installed under our sink. But it was blocking our drain and needed to be upgraded. We were use generic plastic trash bags. Yearly cost: 8,00€

After: Today we purchase two new metal trash cans for around 40€ that work beautifully. They still have a plastic bucket inside. But it makes it easier to clean and we will have these for a long time to come. We also switched to compostable trash bags from Veritas. They’re not quite as sturdy as I would like, so we are exploring other options. Yearly cost: 18,20€

Also, I reuse paper bags to toss any paper recycling we have, giving them a second life and making sure no plastic goes into the wrong bin.

Yearly increase: +10,20€ – As you can see, compostable bags are not more economical, but in the long run we appreciate it.

Baking

Our house is full of healthy pizza and pastry lovers. And we make everything from scratch using fresh ingredients and are always trying different flours (Side note: walnut flower is not excellent for pizzas). So the oven is very important for us. So far we only needed to make one simple swap to make our baking more sustainable because we already have very good items that we won’t be replacing very soon. And I already made many swaps years ago (they are listed). But I’ve given some notes here on future swaps that I’d love to make when we have our own place.

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Silicone baking mats

Before → After

  • Aluminum foil and baking paper liners → silicone baking mat (Cost: 6,18€ / year → 5,50€ / life)
  • Paper or aluminum baking cups → silicone baking cups (I bought them more than 10 years ago)

Future swaps

  • Plastic measuring cups and spoons → metal or ceramic measuring cups and spoons

Cooking and food prep

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We live in a fully furnished apartment, so the majority of the kitchen tools that we are using are not ours. Those that are our own and any new purchases we make are only wooden, metal, or silicone to void plastics and packaging as much as possible. When we get our own place, we will be making some more swaps.

Before → After

  • Plastic cooking utensils → Metal and wooden cooking utensils
  • Silicone spoon rest
  • Non-stick pans → copper and stoneware cookware
  • Plastic cutting board → wooden countertop chopping block

Future swaps

  • Plastic hand juicer → glass hand juicer
  • Plastic colander → metal colander
  • Plastic funnel → metal funnel
  • Plastic reusable ice cubes → metal whisky rocks

Utensils and tools

Unfortunately we have a lot more work to go inside of our draws. This will be a project for when we move. But we do have some nice metal items. We save our birthday candles to reuse again and some old takeaway sauce containers hold miscellaneous items like food ties, rubber bands, and our metal and silicone tea infusers.

Microwave

We don’t use the microwave very often but there is one change that we will have to make in the near future. And this is to change our plastic microwave cover for a glass one, like this one from Amazon.

Dish Washing

We were using your typical Scotch Brite sponges, steel wool, paper towels, cleaning cloths, and liquid soap to wash our dishes. It wasn’t a big expense, but the sponges themselves create plastic waste. We also had a disposable drying pad under our drying rack. We do use a dishwasher as we do the majority of our cooking at home, but only a very full one. When I was just living alone, all dishes were done by hand. But with a family, the dishwasher is a lifesaver!

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Cloth napkins swap for paper towels

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Before → After

  • Scotch Brite sponges → Vegetable sponges (cost: 6,36€ → 12,90€)
  • Steel wool → Redeker scrubbing brush and vegetable brush
  • Paper towels → roll of cloth napkins
  • Cleaning cloths → Still going strong! Also using some old clothes as added cloths
  • Liquid soap from Fairy in plastic bottle → Liquid soap from bulk store in reusable bottle (cost: 7,94€ / year → 3,00€ / year)
  • Dishwashing tablets from Finish → Eco dishwashing tablets from EcoMimidu (there is some waste with the plastic wrapper (cost: 27,76€ / year→ 29,75€ / year)
  • Disposable drying pad → Cloth, washable dish mat (cost: 10,20€ / year → 7,50€ / 5 years?)

Decorating

I love using finding ways to decorate that are sustainable as well. While they aren’t swaps I wanted to share with you anyway, how we decorate our kitchen

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  • I love the shape and colors of the Mateus rose bottle. So I kept to us as a vase. I have dried some green plants from a bouquet of flowers I received last year. It make for the perfect everlasting green plant on our counter. I have a couple of other bottles on the counter as well.
  • I love this beautiful handmade shop La A in our neighborhood where we have bought small items to decorate. One being this vintage wooden letter B. I goes perfect with the K I already had and represents both my and my boyfriend (the initials of our surnames that is.)
  • I love having beautiful kitchen tools. They are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Check out this bird that is also a vegetable peeler.
  • I keep a wooden basket with my wine corks to remember what I have tasted, but also to collect enough to turn them into art work. Just the basket itself livens up the room.
  • As you find in our whole apartment, I love to decorate with items from our travels. I have two small ceramic tiles from Lisbon places with our spice rack.

I can’t wait to one day be able to show you what our 100% zero waste kitchen will look like. But until then, we’ll keep reducing, reusing, and recycling and sharing our swaps. I left out cleaning items here. But I think it deserve a whole nother long post. So I’ll save it for you at a later date.

Do you have any tips to share? Any cools swaps I might have missed? Let me know in the comments.


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