Changing Kitchen Habits One Trash Bag at a Time
A few weeks ago we ran out of large kitchen trash bags. Ya know the ones – white, shiny plastic that you can never find the top to open and you spend too many precious minutes of your life turning over again until one of you admits defeat. Yeah, we ran out of those ones and I haven’t bought any since! I had high ambitions of bringing (dragging) my partner and sister into the zero waste fold with me and while I may have had the best of intentions, I’m realizing that introducing manageable, low impact changes in the kitchen over time is much more effective than abrupt swaps that force you to quickly change your behavior. I don’t want these people to start making trash just because they resent me *nervous sweats emoji*. So while it may have been my dream to kick the kitchen trash can altogether and never buy plastic trash bags again we’ve come to a balanced compromise for the moment.
This is where the term “low impact” over “zero waste” becomes important. Zero waste is an awesome goal to work towards but often times can feel inaccessible because there is no room for error. This may discourage folx as they transition into a waste-conscious lifestyle. Our conversation with Celia Ristow of Litterless was a great example of accessible lifestyle transitions. Especially living with other people who may not be totally sold on giving up their secret stash of flaming hot cheetos (yeah I found ‘em!), suggesting gradual “low impact” changes encourages better participation. So where to begin?
Smaller bags = less waste
We started simply and made the switch for smaller trash bags. Instead of refilling our normal large kitchen trash bags I grabbed a few small bags meant for the bathroom can, about ¼ the size of the regular liner. One must be a bit more mindful when putting things into the bin but overall for the past few weeks the relative size of the disposal bag has encouraged each of us to consider every single thing that we put into it. Now, we don’t make a ton of waste to begin with (especially as we’ve finessed our compost gathering) but honestly, every bit counts.
If this one easy change can make that much of a difference, where else can we be making kitchen swaps to cut down on waste? I came up with a pretty manageable swap list to help you get you started! Start this week by making your first swap and commit for the next month! If you’re up for the challenge try a new swap every other week or so. Make it easy for yourself and / or family to jump into the new routine and stick with it.
Small changes that add up in your kitchen:
- Swap out your large kitchen bags for a smaller size. Reduce the amount of waste you can keep in the bin and you’ll start to think about what’s going in there more often. A paper grocery bag does a great job as well.
- Change out your paper towels with smaller dish towels. You can still keep your paper towels around but try putting them under the sink, just out of easy reach so you will remember to use your dish towels first whenever possible.If you put a bucket under the sink for used towels you can collect them easily and throw them in with your other linens when doing laundry.
- Lose your sponge for a compostable scrub brush. Next time you need to buy sponges, don’t! Let’s stop buying plastic-wrapped, dyed, landfill bound sponges ASAP! Instead, switch out for a brush with a scrubber head you can change out and keep on hand for way longer!
- Swap out all your plastic sandwich bags and plastic cling-wrap wrap for reusable containers. This maybe an easy one but after I stopped buying sandwich bags I was surprised by how often I would reach for them without thinking. It forced me to make use of the containers I had on hand, which are way easier to clean and not single use. I’m even still using tupperware I’ve had since college because that tupperware is going to live a long, full life before it gets into recycling. Use what you have on hand!
- Wait to swap things until they have been used within an inch of their life or are broken. Not so much an actual swap but a good reminder that you don’t need to immediately invest in new storage containers or bags, etc if you have things that are doing the job. Buy less and when you do buy, purchase with purpose.
I wouldn’t normally give my bin much thought but as of late that’s changing. It’s been interesting to implement these subtle behavior changes that encourage thoughtfulness at home. Something as small as changing the size of your collection bag doesn’t give a lot of extra room for unnecessary items. Changing kitchen habits takes time and implementing smaller changes will help make this a more sustainable practice for everyone.
Do you have other easy kitchen swaps? Let’s me know when you get started on this list! #closedloopcooking