Zero Waste Fundamentals: Food
In 2016 our food purchases have changed dramatically. My partner and I decided to take on the challenge of ‘Zero Waste’ living, where we aim to divert 90% of our waste from landfill (the other 10% is mostly made up of things like toilet paper and rare non-recyclables). The biggest changes were made with groceries - our pantry and fridge now look a lot different, made up of a lot more glass and reusables, and a lot less plastic. Most of the time we have found changes to be easy, but occasionally it’s more tough and we often find ourselves making compromises. So what foods will you find in our house?
- BULK fresh veggies from a combination of a weekly organic/biodynamic veggie box delivery, our own garden, farmers markets and the local discount fruit/veg shop that sells locally grown seconds
- James’ free-to-roam eggs, from one of many local small-scale egg producers, and backyard eggs for me when I can source them!
- Mylk and dairy-free margarine (see below)
- Homemade kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, flavoured kombucha, water + mylk kefir and hot sauce
- Miso paste (see below)
- Tamari, sesame oil, tahini, mustard, hemp seeds and Japanese rice vinegar in glass bottles
- Local beer in cans
- Hemp seeds
- A homemade salad dressing of some kind
- In refillable glass jars or containers we often keep spelt flour, nutritional yeast, Australian brown rice, quinoa, spices, black tea, vegan chocolate, various seeds + nuts, muesli, oats, stock powder, cacao nibs, besan flour, almond meal, peanut butter, raw honey and cacao powder
- In homemade fabric produce bags we keep dried beans, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, lentils, pasta, potatoes and sweet potato
- A few other basics exist in recyclable packaging, like vanilla/orange flavours, canned tomatoes and beans, coconut milk, jam and baking powder (refilled in bulk).
What do we compromise on?
- Noodles: I’m a huge sucker for noodles, they’re such a versatile carbohydrate and save a lot of time with cooking. They take a lot of work to make well from scratch so we compromise by buying Australian-made, organic noodles and recycle the plastic at our local Coles.
- Tofu: As a vegan, I am not willing to give this up as my main source of protein and iron, and I am yet to find somewhere locally that offers it packaging-free. Again, we recycle the plastic at our local Coles.
- Milk: Occasionally James drinks cows milk, but he is putting in a huge effort to cut this out for health reasons. I make my own cashew or almond milk with no packaging, but occasionally buy unsweetened soy milk (sadly the tetra pack is not recyclable where we live)
- Miso paste: As with tofu, I am yet to find a packaging-free option for this. I use it sparingly so I don’t need to buy it very often, and the plastic container or glass jar is recyclable.
- Nori: AKA sushi seaweed. Again, I am unsure if this is available without plastic as it requires very dry storage conditions. My last packet lasted about six months, so it’s not a regular purchase either.
- Dairy-free margarine: I have experimented with homemade margarine and it tastes fantastic BUT has a very short shelf-life, so we opt to buy Coconut Nuttlex (it's the only Palm Oil Free option they produce!) and reuse the containers for everything.
What about take-away?
- Usually, we avoid take away and just eat in. When we do get it though, we opt for either cardboard packaging (e.g. gourmet pizza, which is compostable) or BYO container. Once I tried this, I brought my own container only to have the waitress sneakily throw it in a plastic bag with cutlery and a napkin while I wasn’t paying attention! But I've had other successes and perfection is not the goal!
The number one rule to get you aligned with zero-waste food shopping is to ‘REFUSE’. For a designated time, I recommend that you make a rule that you’re not allowed to buy anything unless its packaging-free or a 100% recyclable packaging option (though you can even forgo this too for most things). That way you can’t slip back into the old “oh Ill just get it this once”, because you’ll never break the habit and will fall back into your old ways. Give it a go!! It’s the most fun challenge we’ve done to date I think.
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