This zero waste kitchen starter kit is ideal to use with your biodegradable cleaners. Made by Tabitha Eve, this lovely kit includes all you need for a plastic-free kitchen: 2 sponges made from cotton and organic bamboo, a heavy-duty cotton bamboo hessian sponge for pots and pans, and 2 cotton produce bags.
This Zero Waste Kitchen Kit is ideal to create your greener kitchen. The kit includes all you need to make the transition: 2 loofah and plant sponges, 2 cotton drawstring produce bags, a comfortable beechwood pot brush with coco palm leaves and a tote bag, all in a beautiful biodegradable compact box.
Leave No Trace Zero Waste Kitchen Gift Set makes an ideal gift for a loved one, or gift one to your own kitchen. Everything in this set is designed in neutral tones, so it never goes ‘out of fashion’ and can last years. The set is presented in a recycled cardboard box with ‘wood wool’ (shavings of FSC-certified wood) without plastic. It features a wooden dish brush, a bowl cover and 4 multi-purpose cloths made from linen and terry cloth.
This organic chef’s soap from Cornwall is made with plant-based biodegradable ingredients, and no palm oil. It combines shea and coconut bar with coconut oil and oils of mandarin, sage and rosemary to cut through cooking odours, and has been textured with thyme herb for natural exfoliation. Avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing (avoid rosemary oil for high blood pressure). Avoid shea butter for latex allergies.
Which cooking oil should you choose? There are many oils sold, and some are good for salad dressings, others for cooking – and some people say we should avoid refined oils and just eat whole olives etc. There is evidence that it’s good to eat less oil if you have cancer, diabetes or heart disease. It’s your choice. American chef Bryant Terry says: he likes fat, because it makes food taste good.
How much you use it up to you. You may live longer having no oil, but then you may not wish to! But do keep cold-pressed oils for salad dressings, and avoid deep-fat fryers (fire hazards anyway). A little oil makes life nice, but don’t fall for the myth that ‘olive oil is healthy’, because it’s not. We all need some fats, but you don’t have to live with oil. Years ago, olive oil was only sold at the chemist.
If you prefer to use less oil, some good choices are applesauce, plant-based yoghurt and prune puree (good for chocolate recipes). Brandi has a post on how her cooking/baking without oil helped her husband’s gout. Her book The Vegan 8 is oil-free.
Brandi eats nuts & olives in whole form, and is not a fan of applesauce for baking. She prefers nut butters & almond flour (negates the need for oil). Good cookbooks (keep toxic foods away from pets) are Forks Over Knives Family and China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook.
- Coconut oil (not harvested by monkeys – Biona is a good brand) is not good at high temperatures, and flammable. It contains saturated fat (doctors say bad, raw foodists say lauric acid has benefits). If you use it, use 25% less than recommended butter. Some palm-oil-free vegan butters use coconut oil. Don’t give coconut oil to pets without vet say-so, can cause gastric problems in some.
- Chip fryer pans cause house fires. Use an airfryer, for recipes that taste like fried food.
- Olive oil is fine for salad dressings, but the low smoke-point is not good for high temperatures.
- Flax oil again has essential acids that go rancid for cooking (the same reason why cooked fish is no good for fatty acids). Save flax oil for salad dressings or whizz up for smoothies. Or just grind fresh seeds.
- Sesame oil is popular in Asian and Indian cooking. It’s also good to use as a massage oil (don’t add essential oils if pregnancy or nursing).
Local Rapeseed Oils
Rapeseed oil (called canola oil in the US) is one of the better oils for cooking at higher temperatures, and makes good roast spuds (no goose fat required). England has many brands (those bright yellow fields you see are rapeseed flowers). Many are organic. A few brands are:
- Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil
- Chiltern Cold Pressed
- Cotswold Gold
- Farrington Oils
- Bath Harvest Oils
- Mr Hugh’s also offers infused oils with lemon, vanilla and hazelnut. So you can use these to replace butter (or coconut oil).
Don’t Pour Fat Down Drains
This is what caused London’s sewer Fatty McFatBerg. Oil won’t break down, so wrap and bin, and use an oil bin for commercial use.
Never give birds leftover foods with fat (oil, buttered sandwiches, roasts etc) as the fat clogs feathers and affects waterproofing and insulation. See how to help our garden birds for more info.
The Planet-Friendly Kitchen is a nice little guide for anyone who would like to change their shopping habits, but feels bombarded with mixed messages on which foods are truly eco-friendly. This book sets out the facts in a clear and simple way, so you can make informed choices on the best way to shop, products to avoid, the best foods to buy, and sustainable ways to prepare them.
Check medications for foods to avoid (green veggies, grapefruit etc). Avoid nuts (and nut/seed butters) for children and cut choking hazards (carrot sticks, veggie hot dogs) lengthwise and then again. Choose palm-oil-free vegan butters. See foods to keep away from pets (inc. garlic, onion, shallots, leeks, mushrooms, green potatoes/tomatoes, fruit pips/seeds and corn-on-the-cob).
The book features tips and advice to make small changes, that have big impact. This can help to create a kinder way of feeding the world, and also help to preserve our beautiful planet, for many generations to come.
About the Author
Karen Edwards completed a BA (Honours) Journalism course and has gone to have as successful writing career mostly in showbiz. But today she focuses mostly on writing about helping wildlife and responsible tourism. She is now a popular lifestyle writer for several magazines, and has worked part-time as a naturalist in faraway locations on small expedition trips, including Antarctica, where she has seen first-hand the effects of climate change.
GreenPan offers healthy ceramic non-stock cookware. Conventional frying pans are coated with Teflon, a coating that is not good for our health and also can kill birds if fumes are released (especially those red dot pans that heat up first, before you put food in). Teflon is also found in self-cleaning ovens, irons, ironing board covers and heat lamps.
Although the company state that their cookware is safe near birds – never cook near birds, as all cookware is toxic to them. See PDSA and Pet Coach for tips to bird-proof your home if you live with feathered friends.
Other items to avoid near birds are candles, smoke, fires, inferior/imported bird toys, household cleaners, hairspray, nail varnish, paint, carbon monoxide, many unsafe food and plants and nearby glass (see how to stop birds flying into windows). Birds are mostly happier in outdoor aviaries or parrot sanctuaries, where they can fly free with their own kind.
These pans use a kind of ceramic coating, to make them naturally non-stick without all the toxic chemicals. They are sold in many colours including blue and copper, and with good care, should last you years, if not for lifetime. The range includes:
- Fry pans
- Grill pans
- Saucepan sets
- Saute pans
- Skillets with lids
- Pasta pots
- Milk pans
Hand wash for best life, and handle with care. Although they have aluminium, the coating on top is good enough that it won’t flake off, like cheap aluminium pans.
Do aluminium pans cause dementia? Experts say there is no proof (but then they use animal tests which is not accurate, unlike humane research). What is known is that examinations of brain platelets in deceased patients, have sometimes been found to have more aluminium. However, many people this is more to do with more widespread issues like aluminium in tap water, rather than a little off an aluminium pan.
This beginner’s guide to slow cooking can help you choose which device is best for you, and find recipes suitable. Slow cookers work by cooking food at very low temperatures for a few hours (high) or several hours (low). Buy new for safety, and keep wires away from paws and little hands.
If used well, slow cookers can replace expensive hours of roasting in the oven, and is a good way to use dry cheap beans (always boil kidney beans for 10 minutes to remove the toxin, or just use tinned for safety). If you’re the worrisome sort, you don’t have to leave the house: just set it to ‘high’ and cook things in a few hours, while at home. Lakeland sells good ones, including smaller versions for one or two servings. Modern pressure cookers have safety valves (so won’t explode steam in the kitchen). And instant pots do several jobs at once, to avoid a cupboard of gadgets.
- Prep first. Chop all fresh produce, and roast onions beforehand, for better flavour.
- Liquids don’t evaporate the same in slow cookers, so reduce recipe by around a third, for best results. Don’t use too much liquid (or fill to top) or things won’t cook well.
- Don’t take lid off to check ingredients, as slow cookers will take a long time to get back toe temperature. Add quick-cookie veggies (spinach) near the end, and use root veggies first, as they take longer to cook.
Slow-Cooking Recipe Books
Check medicine paper inserts, for any foods to avoid (green veggies, grapefruit). Avoid nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters for young children. Cut carrot sticks/veggie hot dogs lengthwise and again, to avoid choking. Choose palm-oil-free vegan butters. See foods to keep away from pets.
- The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook has recipes for vegetable lasagne with basil ricotta, red curry rice noodle soup and cookies ‘n’ cream cheesecake.
- The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for Your Instant Pot has recipes for autumn mushroom bean soup, quinoa chickpea scramble, vegetables in cheezy sauce, tempeh chilli, mushroom stroganoff with potatoes and vegan cheesecake.
- The Plant-Based Slow Cooker has recipes for ziti with mushroom & bell pepper ragu, crockery cassoulet with Greek-style beans, chipotle black bean chilli with winter squash and seitan stroganoff.
- Vegan Slow Cooking for Two (or just for you) has recipes for breakfast pumpkin polenta, white bean quinoa gumbo and blueberry lemon cake.
- Vegan Slow Cooking has recipes for seedy banana breakfast loaf, tofu shakshuka, Satay cauliflower, pulled jackfruit burgers, mac-n-no cheese, sweet potato shepherd’s pie and lemon blueberry drizzle.
- Vegans Under Pressure has recipes for roasted pepper & white bean dip, harissa-glazed carrots with green olives, pozole chilli, Thai summer vegetable curry, cornbread and pear-almond upside down cake.
- Vegan Pressure Cooking has recipes for apple pie steel-cut oats, kale lentil squash chilli and sweet potato enchiladas.
These food-safe silicone food covers are ideal alternatives to clingfilm (very toxic to make and can’t be recycled) and foil (wasteful). Clingfilm results in microplastics dropping in the oceans, and has hormonal health issues.
These items are made from silicone. This is a sand-based product that is not biodegradable, but it does last a long time, and breaks down far slower, so less likely to deposit microplastics in the ocean. It’s kind of like a synthetic rubber and does use fossil fuels, but is the bridge away from plastic for now, if you don’t use glass. Some manufacturers allow you to send them back for recycling, at end of use.
Dry thoroughly, before stacking. Wash before use, and avoid abrasive cleaners, so you don’t scratch the silicone. Soak stains in a baking soda solution. Heat/frost resistant, up to a point.
- This Set of 6 Silicone Food Covers can stretch over any container or half-eaten food. Dishwasher safe (use baking soda solution for stains) but avoid scrubbing.
- Stasher Silicone Reusable Bags are made from food safe pure platinum silicone that can be washed over and over. This pinch-loc seal is perfect for meal prep, packed lunches or marinating overnight.
- These Silicone Zip-Lock Freezer Bags are 100% airtight and leakproof, to keep your food fresh. They are suitable for cooking, freezing, dishwasher and microwave, very low weight and can also be folded. Sold in small, medium or large sizes. They comply with FDA and European-food-grade standards. And a tree is planted for each item sold.
- You can also buy silicone zip bags, which are a reusable alternative to plastic freezer bags. These are airtight and leakproof, so ideal for fruits and liquids like soups or stock. They are freezer safe up to -40 degrees and heat resistant up to 230 degrees, and also dishwasher/microwave safe. Remove odours/stains by soaking in baking soda and vinegar.
These pretty reusable bowl covers are ideal to replace clingfilm and aluminium foil, to cover food. Most have elasticated edges to fit snugly around a bowl or dish. This can help to reduce food waste too. Once used, just throw them in your washing machine on a cold wash, they lay out flat or hang to dry. These also make a lovely zero waste gift, and are also good to cover food on the table. At end of life (several years), just cut the fabric into strips and throw in your compost bin. Also see food-safe silicone covers.
Helen Round Reusable Bowl Covers are made by hand in a Cornish studio. In pretty colours of blue or beige, these are made from high quality linen, which keeps food fresh (linen is from the flax plant).
Tabitha Eve’s Patterned Bowl Covers are sure to brighten any kitchen. Handmade in the UK from stretchy cotton, they feature contemporary eucalyptus design, and are suitable for most cereal bowls and small Pyrex dishes.
Or get these write on, wash off bowl covers that come with a pink or blue washable pen, so you can write the contents, who made it and when it has to be used up by.
These alternatives to disposable paper towels are ideal for the kitchen. Cheap disposable kitchen roll just falls apart. But the luxury versions actually take longer to break down in landfill, and are still wasteful, expensive (you only use them once) and sold in plastic. These alternatives are all sent in zero waste packaging.
Two caveats: use them with biodegradable cleaning products (so you don’t pollute the oceans, when you wash them in the machine). And don’t use fabric conditioner (or bleach) or you’ll reduce absorbency.
Leave No Trace Reusable Cotton Kitchen Roll is handmade in the UK from highly absorbent organic cotton terry cloth in 4 colours (peach, mustard, sandalwood or navy). They are good to mop up spills. The 6 sheets come with poppers, to wrap around your kitchen roll holder (or for a few pounds, add a rubberwood kitchen roll holder).
Vesta Living Reusable Cleaning Wipes are ethically produced in the UK, in 7 colours and patterns, in packs of 6, 12 or 24. These fit around your kitchen roll holder. The organic cotton range is in neutral white, undyed, plain blush or turquoise.
Earth Kind offers lovely handmade Unpaper tolls from Yorkshire. They are sold in many designs, with poppers to fit around conventional kitchen roll holders (don’t use metal snaps on polished surfaces). Thin kitchen roll tends to not be very good, and the thick brands take a long time to break down in landfill.
Ecoegg Reusable Bamboo Kitchen Towels are made from the world’s fastest-growing grass (certified industrial organic bamboo is not taken from panda habitats). These are very strong and can be used wet or dry. You get 20 sheets that last up to 85 washes. Made in the UK (these don’t roll after first use, so stack somewhere safe).
Recycled Kitchen Paper Towels
Sometimes you may need to use disposable kitchen towels, for instance in medical settings. Here are some brands that are made from recycled materials:
- Who Gives a Crap? Bamboo Kitchen Towels are made from a blend of sustainable bamboo and sugar cane. These super-strong 2-ply kitchen roles can handle the toughest clean-ups, and also biodegrade. Sold in plastic-free packaging, 50% of profits go to help build toilets, for people who need them.
- Ecoleaf Recycled Kitchen Rolls come in jumbo rolls of 165 sheets (3 times more than most rolls). Made with recycled paper, these are sold in packaging made from biodegradable outer film and inner core.
- The Cheeky Panda Bamboo Kitchen Towels are made from the world’s fastest-growing grass (this is FSC-certified, industrial bamboo is not the same as fresh bamboo shoots, eaten by pandas). This is free from fragrance with no de-inking agents used.
Here are a few tips to make fresh produce last longer, to avoid food waste. A third of all fresh food is thrown away (enough food is thrown away worldwide to feed all the world’s starving people). Also see the post on how to keep bread fresh for longer.
The main reasons why fresh produce goes off is:
- Buying too much (supermarkets could help by selling one apple, as opposed to a bag of them).
- Ethylene gas. This is the gas that fruits give off, and makes things go mouldy.
- Not storing fruits and veggies properly.
Tips to Make Fresh Produce Last Longer
- Check the temperature of your fridge. Your manual should say how cold it should be. Make sure that it’s the correct temperature for safety. Did you know you should also store cantaloupe the same way as meat (wrapped and away from everything)? Due to salmonella risks.
- A stacked freezer is okay, but you should let air circulate your fridge. Have a little clear-out every couple of days. Keeping a small jar of open baking soda or leftover charcoal water filters in the fridge, helps to prevent odours.
- Generally the bottom fridge shelves are cooler, so go for the most perishable foods there (if you eat meat, it’s best here as they are colder and won’t drop juices down to the vegetarian’s shelf below).
- Most fridges and freezers can’t cope with very cold outside temperatures. So try not to store white goods in a garage or shed.
- Let hot food cool, before putting it in the fridge. Otherwise it warms up the fridge, and also could be a food safety hazard, by breeding bacteria
- Try to keep produce dry. Only rinse or wash mushrooms and berries etc, just before use.
- Asparagus is like someone says ‘similar to a vase of fresh flowers’. As soon as you buy it, trim the stems and pop them in a vase of water, then store in the fridge.
- Store carrots and celery in a tub of water in the fridge, change the water every day or two.
- Keep produce away from apples, pears, potatoes and bananas, to make them last longer. However if you have something you want to ripen quickly (say some rock-hard pears), put them next to these fruits, to speed up ripening.
- Wash salad leaves, soak in cold water for a couple of hours. Then dry in a spinner and keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
Organic Spice Produce Saver Sheets
These organic spice produce saver sheets are made by The Freshglow Co. With over 2000 positive reviews, this has been called the best kitchen invention ever. The founder uses her Indian grandmother’s knowledge to create sheets that you simply add to bowls of fruit or salad produce, to make it last longer, using Indian spices.
A great way to reduce food waste, these sheets were years in perfection and keep fresh produce up to 2 to 4 times longer. Plastic-free, just drop a sheet into your fridge crisper draw, fruit bowl, carton of berries or bag of greens. Then the sheets compost when done. ! pack of 8 sheets is a 2 month supply, so pays for itself in around week, by reducing food waste.
The best sustainable tea towels are made from organic cotton, linen or hemp, all of which naturally biodegrade back to the earth after use. Tea towels are washed frequently. So if you have synthetic fibre towels, use with a microfiber catch bag, to stop microplastics breaking off in the machine, and going into the sea.
If lining a wildlife box with towels/blankets, remove string or knotted fringes, as they could entangle on the way to the rescue.
Helen Round’s Pretty Organic Linen Tea Towels (Cornwall) are handmade and will soften with age and use. In 2 colours (natural or duck egg blue), it’s ideal for drying dishes and glasses. Machine washable.
These zero waste ways to chop vegetables, can hopefully make it easier for anyone who feels a bit terrified by the giant purple cauliflower that lands in your veg box. Often many of us would love to cook things from scratch or buy that nice home-baked loaf from the real baker. But if you don’t have a few knife skills, it may feel intimidating – or even dangerous – to do anything about it. So let’s have look at what we can do.
Orsa Whetsone Knife Sharpener is made from solid Swedish sandstone to last a lifetime. The stone is 360 million years old from silicon-bonded quarts and is washable and scaldable. Dampen with water for 20 to 30 minutes beforehand or leave to soak, then wash after use, dry stone well with a cloth and leave to dry overnight before storing.
How to Safely Wash Produce
Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub produce, then dry with a towel and remove outer leaves, storing lettuce and watermelon in the fridge. Cantaloupe can carry salmonella so store away from everything else. FDA is not a fan of commercial produce wash. Some say rinsing will get as much ‘chemical’ off as anything else. Or use (edible) baking soda to wash and rinse – find ‘recipes’ at Happy Herbivore.
Reusable produce bags (used to replace plastic bags in produce aisles) have a mesh design, which means not only are they good to store fresh veggies in at home, but they can double up as colanders, to wash veggies in the sink. You can then throw them in the machine, and use them again.
If for hygiene reasons (say in a professional or medical capacity) you have to dry produce with paper towels, EcoLeaf kitchen roll (also in a jumbo version) is made from recycled paper. It’s also free from chlorine bleach, so better for sensitive skin and allergies.
Zero Waste Chopping Boards
Konk! Chopping Boards (Bristol) are made from leftover European oak (from handmade furniture) and sealed with food-safe oil. Bambu Chopping Boards are naturally anti-bacterial (the handhold doubles up as a food platter, finished with food-safe oil). Smidge Chopping Boards are made by compressing salvaged paper (happy in the dishwasher). Keep a damp tea towel underneath, to prevent slipping.
Choosing and Using Safe Knives
Many chefs recommend Zyliss Comfort Kitchen Knife Set is made in Switzerland and is a good set of safe knives with colour codes and a safe storage block. Costs around £40 with a 5-year guarantee. The basic 3-piece set costs around £15. Always dry your hands before using a knife and let others pick them up. Clean cuts, dry & apply biodegradable plaster.
These biodegradable washing up tools are good on two counts. Firstly, the handles are not made from plastic, so biodegrade at end of use. But the biodegradable bristles don’t shed wash microplastics down the sink. Use with a biodegradable washing-up liquid and Fair Trade rubber gloves.
- Leave No Trace Sponges are made with cotton canvas, hessian and coconut coir, and natural latex coating (lasts up to 2 months, no packaging).
- This set of 2 organic cotton dish cloths are beautifully made. Sturdy and absorbent, the raised surface helps to get rid of dirt, and the absorbent fabric s good to wipe surfaces. Rinse and squeeze well after each use, and wash often up to 60 degrees. Dryer safe. They may shrink up to 10% after first wash, to are cut in a generous size. At end of life, just cut into thin strips and put in the compost bin.
Washing Up Brushes
- This beechwood & sisal dish brush is made from FSC beechwood and the fibres made from sisal. Stylish and durable, you also get replacement heads, so with good care, the handle should last you years. This brush is good to scrub pots and pans, and can even handle baked-on dirt.
- Eco Living’s Stainless Steel Scourers are for wrapped in recycled paper.
These biodegradable washing up liquids are free from fragrance oils that cause algae bloom (which chokes oxygen out of the water, harming marine life). Use with Fair Trade rubber gloves (use a separate pair for the dishwasher) and biodegradable washing-up tools. For sparkling glassware, use cleaning vinegar or bicarbonate of soda (neither are food-grade).
Avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing. And it’s best to use unscented versions for allergies and when washing pet food bowls.
Authentic House Washing Up Bar is made with coconut oil, citric acid and washing soda. Choose from Unscented, Lemon, Sweet Orange or Mint (all made with real essential oils).
- Dishwashing Soap Bar is made with organic coconut oil, natural glycerine and sodium carbonate.
- Sintra Naturals Dish Washing Paste is ideal for dishes, stove tops and bathrooms. Packed in a reusable glass jar, made with vinegar, baking soda and lemon oil.
- Bio-D (also in bulk sizes) contains a small percentage of non-ionic surfactant, sodium chloride and citric acid with lavender or pink grapefruit. Bio-D Dishwash Powder (up to 72 washes) works with Rinse Aid (all at Natural Collection).