Whether you’re an occasional cook or whip up MasterChef-worthy meals most days, a great deal of the household trash that we produce comes from the food we make. Going zero-waste in the kitchen might feel like a mountain to climb from all those bottled goods to a plethora of supermarket-bought food items wrapped in single-use plastic.
Below we’ve compiled a range of eco-friendly and zero-waste kitchen ideas and products to inspire reducing waste in the kitchen.
Quick Links to Our Picks of the Best Zero Waste Kitchen Ideas:
A stovetop coffee maker is one of those essential and long-lasting zero-waste kitchen products. Suppose you buy instant coffee in jars with plastic lids or in pots. In that case, switching to a stovetop coffee maker will not only result in better-tasting coffee, but it’ll mean no more disposable jars.
The other big problem with coffee is the rise (and rise) in the use of once-and-throw-away coffee pods. Read up more about the environmental impact of coffee here - long story short, if we use it once and throw it away, it’s no good.
Stovetop coffee machines make zero-waste coffee a breeze for coffee drinkers. They’re dead easy to use, make brews to your taste and last forever with care. Each cup of coffee brewed on the stovetop results in one less coffee pod produced and subsequently dealt with as waste.
Stovetop Coffee Makers on Amazon:
Our author's Grandmother used to spend several days each summer, bottling enough seasonal fruit to last the winter. Peaches and pears bottled away for the colder days.
Today, mason jars, bottling, and preserving are back in fashion. Glass jars have become the ultimate zero-waste pantry product and are synonymous with a zero-waste lifestyle. And for a good reason.
Buy them once, look after them, and there is no reason why they won’t last forever. Even better, they can reduce huge swathes of plastic bottle waste. Plus, storing food this way can help you cut down on unnecessary food waste.
Glass jars make for brilliant zero-waste food storage. They can store just about anything, from cereal preserves to dry goods. You can even use them to take soup to work in the winter to warm up at lunch or to share around a healthy smoothie in the summer.
To reduce our environmental impact, the best answer is simply to reuse the glass jars you already have. Look around most kitchens, and you’ll find jam, pickle, or other jars ready for reuse.
Rather than recycling them, wash them and use them to store leftovers or your new kitchen concoctions that might otherwise have gone into a plastic bag or container. They work in the freezer, too, and for a range of reusable food storage uses.
If you have a zero-waste store nearby, these jars become even more useful. Take them along to the bulk food shop and refill them for a truly zero-waste purchase of everything from nuts to herbs and oils. You can also check out local second-hand shops or online thrift stores, which may well have some on sale going cheap.
Of course, your loved one might not fall over backward with joy were you to give them a bunch of empty jam jars. Try making something yummy to put in them, and problem solved.
When buying new for a zero-waste gift, it’s worth spending a touch more on quality jars that will last and save money in the long run. Also, look out for sets that provide versatility. Many now come with interchangeable lids, which means you can use them with metal or reusable straws for drinking or even to sprinkle flour or sugar.
Zero-Waste Mason Jars on Amazon:
Each of us used to get through 140 single-use plastic bags a year on average in the UK. And then along came the 5p charge on single-use bags in the supermarket. Since we’ve slashed that number by a staggering 86%.
However, as with most things that require manufacture, the story is not always as straightforward as you might think. We’ve, for the most part, replaced our flimsy bags with heavier alternatives. These take more resources to produce, and whereas they last longer, their useful life remains limited.
Thus, the humble reusable bag makes for an excellent zero-waste home and kitchen addition, so you can bring your own whenever you shop. To be fair, it can be a bit of a minefield working out which choice of bag is the most environmentally friendly.
The trick? Use whatever choice of bag you have made as many times as possible. You can also shop around for bags made of recycled plastic bottles for an extra waste reduction credit.
Reusable Shopping Bags on Amazon:
These geometric bamboo coasters are perfect for items for natural tableware. With designs inspired by nature, they look good too. This set of 4 is hand-cut and made to order from the seller’s home workshop in a range of geometric patterns.
They’d also make excellent bases for vases or small lamps. They come in a wooden box, which you can reuse around the home and kitchen.
Clingfilm (or plastic wrap) makes for one of the most commonly used items in our kitchens. According to the Telegraph, we use 1.2 bn meters of the stuff every year in the UK. Sure, it scrunches up pretty small when we throw it away. However, we typically throw it into the trash because we can’t easily recycle used plastic wrap.
Given that there’s a roll of plastic wrap in most kitchen draws, there’s a bunch of organic waste to be saved by finding alternatives to keep your food fresh. The best zero-waste kitchen move we can make is to use reusable glass or metal food containers with lids to store our food.
However, that may not work for everything. Cue the eco-friendly beeswax alternative.
The ancient Egyptians used beeswax from their honey hives, wrapping food in wax cloths to preserve it in the hot Egyptian sun. Before plastic wrap came along as a cheaper and more convenient alternative, we used beeswax to conserve all manner of foods. Sometimes in our movement toward sustainable living, the best ideas are already out there and just need an update for our modern times.
Beeswax wrappers make a fantastic gift for cooks, and today there’s an extensive range out there to replace plastic wrap in all shapes and sizes.
Beeswax wraps all share a handful of qualities. They easily mold with warm hands to cover fruit, bowls, or plates of leftovers. And then, you simply wash the wraps after use to reuse them.
They’ll last a long time if you look after them, with each reuse saving you from having to reach for the plastic wrap. When Beeswax wraps finally reach the end of their useful life, you can compost them easily due to their construction from natural, organic materials.
Further, they’re printable! This means you can choose one to suit your loved one's style. Plus, buying bee products helps to support the industries that are working to increase their numbers.
None of us wants to risk our best delicate china outdoors. If you have any, that is. Regardless organic coconut bowls make great natural and zero-waste alternatives. They make these bowls from all-natural materials. Formed from the shells of coconuts, which are typically a waste product in themselves, when polished up, each one makes for a unique zero-waste kitchen gift.
Further, coconut bowls are great for picnics and the outdoors as they won’t shatter. Sure, you still have to wash them up, but then that’s a lot better than throwing away disposable plates. Also, grab some sustainable reusable cutlery to replace those plastic cooking utensils you might use for BBQs and the outdoors.
Even better, their natural feel helps remind us of nature. And being produced individually from an organic product, each one is unique in size, shape, and color. And they’re not just about the outdoors either. Perfect for buddha bowls or anything other laden with healthy freshness, they’re bound to hit the spot. As you'd expect, they come completely free of plastic packaging.
We couldn’t pass up including this nifty zero-waste kitchen product. A mason glass variant, these tinted mason jar glass containers are turned into mini hydroponic planters to grow your herbs. Fill them with tap water and place them on the windowsill or somewhere with a bit of natural light.
They come complete with seeds that make it easy to start growing herbs on a window sill, saving you from ever having to buy pre-packaged herbs again. What’s more, they look great and will help green up any kitchen.
Of course, when working towards a no-waste kitchen, the less we waste means, the less we have to buy.
With a bit of preparation and effort, we can do so much to preserve food for later use. You can also benefit from preserving by buying fruit and vegetables in season when they are abundant, nicer, and cheaper. Pickled veg can last for months. Jams, soups, and even whole meals like Vegetable Curries preserve well in glass jars for a waste-free kitchen.
Whereas many preserves don’t need a pressure cooker, they are essential for anyone wanting to up their food preservation game. The difference here is that the pressure cooker (or canner) cooks the food in boiling tap water and seals the canning jars while allowing food to last longer.
You might like to accompany their gift with Kerry Michael’s book: Modern Pressure Canning.
Pressure Cookers and Recipe Inspiration on Amazon:
Related: For other eco-friendly cooking options, check out our recommendations for the best halogen ovens.
Alongside our fight to help reduce unnecessary waste, we care about climate change. Less plastic requires less energy, which requires burning fewer fossil fuels. Further, our broader lifestyles are contributors to climate change, from driving and flying to fast fashion and unnecessary consumption.
Our pick to not only tick the eco-friendly box but also to inspire a more climate-friendly diet is “Planted” by Chantelle Nicholson. Chantelle knows a thing or two about this stuff. She’s presently chef patron at Tredwell, which won the AA’s London restaurant of the year.
In Planted, she shares mouth-watering recipes for seasonal, animal-free eating. You can also gift the kindle version for less packaging and trees used in production.
For a more functional everyday zero-waste kitchen product, choose stainless steel reusable food storage containers to replace their plastic alternatives. These reusable containers will last pretty much forever if you look after them saving money in the long term. Stock up on zero-waste cooking essentials from local zero-waste stores or your local farmer’s market, and you’ll be well on the way.
Stainless Steel Storage Containers on Amazon:
Food waste is a massive global issue. Research shows we waste a staggering 4.5 million tonnes of food in the UK every year. WRAP, who conducted the study, put a monetary value on the problem of around £12.5 billion. And that’s just the UK.
So we should encourage our environmentally concerned and zero-waste-ambitious loved ones to prevent wasted food in the first place. To help, we’ve compiled 9 tips to waste less food. Or take a look at our 30 day zero food waste challenge.
All the same, there’ll always be some unavoidable wasted food in the kitchen. No one fancies eating used coffee grounds or eggshells. And there’s only so much marmalade you can make with orange peels. Composting makes good use of those vegetable scraps.
Therefore, if your loved one has a garden, a lawn, plants in tubs, or even an open-minded neighbor, a compost bin is a highly functional zero-waste product.
Our versatile pick for urban composting comes from Utopia. It's smart enough for placing on a benchtop without causing an eyesore or in a cupboard or larder. The best thing about this stainless steel compost is that it comes with a washable charcoal filter to prevent odors.
The GEOBIN (right) outdoor composter is made from 50% recycled sources and made to last. And we reckon if it saves a bunch of waste elsewhere. The alternative is to make your compost from natural wood.
Home Composts on Amazon:
The below, we think, all make for worthy zero-waste considerations. They might not sparkle and may remind people of chores around the house. You can, however, mix and match a few to fill out your own zero-waste gift box.
Soap nuts are nature's amazing clothes-washing miracles. You won’t be alone if you have an under-sink cupboard stacked full of detergent bottles. Soap nuts can help in the pursuit of going zero waste and cutting out the trash from clothes washing liquid bottles.
They harvest soap nuts as berries. They’re a sustainable, natural, and 100% organic alternative to chemical-based washing detergent that almost always comes in plastic bottles. They’re also 100% biodegradable, and you can compost them once you’ve finished with them.
They make these organic mesh reusable produce bags from 100% natural cotton. They can be reused and are easily washable, meaning they’ll last for ages. These cotton produce bags are great for everything from storing vegetables at home to taking along to bulk stores for everything from nuts to beans and larger grains.
They can also use them in the laundry or out and about for sports and so on.
Reusable dishcloths mean you no longer need to keep buying sponges or disposable kitchen cloths. You can also use them to replace paper towels for cleaning up those spills. They come with a scrim backing for those harder-to-shift scrubs.
They make these clothes from natural organic cotton and sustainably harvested bamboo fiber, which researchers find more environmentally friendly than cotton. Bamboo has a higher yield and uses less water than cotton.
To go with your cloth and scrubs, have a click around our choices of the best zero-waste dish soaps for sparkly dishes without plastic waste. If you have a dishwasher, we also have some of the best zero-waste dishwasher detergents a click away.
It probably comes as no surprise that our kitchens typically contain the most amount of plastic. Think of all the detergent bottles under the sink, squeezy jars, bags of dry goods, and fresh foods in the fridge - all wrapped in plastic.
Plastic is an incredible material - lightweight, cheap to produce, and versatile. And it serves us well in the kitchen. The thing is that when you wrap most food in plastic, it lasts longer. The plastic keeps stored food air and watertight making it a convenient and practical choice. And it’s food-friendly.
And all of this would be all very well if we didn’t have a massive problem with plastic waste. Three hundred forty-eight million tonnes of the stuff was produced globally in 2017. And the problem is not that it’s convenient in the kitchen.
Instead, we must consider that every single-use plastic item produced and used for our food supplies and kitchen essentials draws on our finite energy and oil resources. Incredibly of all the plastic made, only 9 percent gets recycled. And even if it is, it still uses more energy in the recycling process.
Further, we incinerate the rest, or it ends up in landfills, or worse, our oceans.
Estimates vary and suggest up to 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in our Oceans every year. And the problem doesn’t stop there. It takes hundreds of years to degrade and never leaves our Ocean entirely. Fish and marine life consume plastic and can die.
A recent report even found that Humans could be ingesting up to five grams of plastic every week due to microplastics leaking into our water sources.
Thus, one of the best things we can all do to help alleviate the problem is to aim for a zero-waste kitchen. Or at least progress in that direction by choosing to use products that can be reused and we don’t discard them straight away after use.
To help you on your quest, we hope you’ll find above some home and kitchen zero waste kitchen product inspiration for yourself or to gift to the special person in your life.
Giampiero Grossi, Pietro Goglio, Andrea Vitali, Adrian G Williams, Livestock and climate change: impact of livestock on climate and mitigation strategies, Animal Frontiers, Volume 9, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 69–76, https://doi.org/10.1093/af/vfy034