Zero Waste KitchenZero Waste Kitchen


Friends have asked me to blog about what they can do to reduce their household waste. I think its time that I wrote about what we did and are doing in our house. Let’s start with the kitchen (I’ll use the 1st person, because that’s really my territory):

– I do not buy single-use products: They are not worth it (paper towels, garbage liners, wax paper, aluminum sheets, disposable plates, cups, etc…). I swapped paper towels for reusable rags, I chose microfiber because they do an amazing job and have eliminated many cleaning products (see Zero Waste Cleaning). I swapped sandwich baggies for kitchen towels (I made a bunch from an old french linen sheet). We dropped garbage liners all together, the wet items in waste are mostly compostable anyways (tomatoes for example). If you don’t buy these disposable products, you will realize that you can very easily live without them. Try it for a while.

– I buy in bulk or at the counter (see Zero Waste Grocery Shopping), I bring reusable bags and jars for oils, vinegar, dry goods, spices, nuts, meat, fish, cheese, olives, etc.: no disposable or recyclable (because so little of what goes into the recycling can actually gets recycled) food packaging and containers allowed in the kitchen. I shop at my local Whole Foods, Mill Valley Market, Good Earth, Berkeley Bowl, New Leaf, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco (the mecca) and seldomly Safeway (they have never questioned a jar at the cheese counter).

– “Exception makes the rule” above: butter (see below) and special occasion wines (we reuse some of the bottles for refills and recycle the corks). Our everyday wine we do get refilled at a local winery (Guglielmo Winery). 1-10-11 update: we get out wine refilled in French or Italian lemonade bottles that have flip tops (.75l) to reduce our cork usage.– If an item is not available in bulk, I make it (yogurt, mustard, soy milk, salad dressing, pickles, hot sauce, jams, OJ, hummus, sometimes cookies). I will post recipes for these later. 1-10-11 update: For simplifying reasons, I do not make yogurt or soy milk anymore. I purchase St Bemoit yogurt instead, which reuses their containers (deposit at the store).– If I can’t make an item or am too lazy to go that route, I find a supplier and show up with my jar (ice cream shop, candy store)… I filled my travel tea mug with ketchup from a fast food joint once. 1-10-11 update: We get our beer refilled at the local brewery (you buy a growler and get it refilled at the bar when needed), but that only really works when you are ready to drink down 2 liters of beer at once (it will get flat overnight).
– I buy eggs and produce (I bring reusable produce bags) at the farmer’s market (Mill Valley Friday Farmer’s Market), the egg carton is reusable there and you won’t likely find your cauliflower or cucumber shrink wrapped, your potatoes in a plastic bag, your fruit with stickers on them, or your carrots bundled with a plastic/metal tie.

– If a veggie is going to be out of season and I have learned through the past year that I cannot live without it, I’ll can it (instead of getting a store-bought can later). Example: Tomatoes! (that’s the only veggie that I really can’t live without).

– Whole Foods bakery will bake 15 baguettes at a time for me and put it into my large bread bag (to bypass the pesky baguette sleeve), I throw them in the freezer as soon as I get home. 1-10-11 update: I freeze enough baguettes to last us a week (these days, it’s 10), cut them in half and freeze them in a pillowcase.

– We use yummy tap water in stainless steel bottles: not only great to travel with but also to avoid chasing and washing the tons of empty dirty glasses that I used to find on my counter.

– I choose a compostable cleaning brush (a wooden one with natural hair), and a compostable scrubby (I have used loofah or have knitted a scrubby from sisal twine). 1-10-11 update: I substituted the latter for a stainless scrubby, it gets the job done easier.
– I buy in bulk both castile soap as a dish/hand cleaner (Dr Bronner’s) and baking soda as a scrubber (in a stainless Parmesan dispenser). I do still buy my dishwasher detergent (Seventh Generation) in a box, because the one that I have found in bulk is liquid and comes out of a gallon size plastic container. I believe that powder in a recyclable cardboard box is greener (plastic only gets recycled once, cardboard many times). 1-10-11 update: I now buy my detergent in bulk at Good Earth (see Bulk Shopping in and around Mill Valley).– I have turned what used to be our trash can into a big compost keeper (it makes composting easy and at the reach of the kids, before we take it outside on a weekly basis), I use another one for recycling and a tiny bucket for trash (items to put on my to do list of improvements- the less I have in there, the more free time I get!). 1-10-11 update: The tiny bucket took up too much room, I now store our trash items in the under-counter paper towel holder.

– I store all our food in Le Parfait french glass canning jars (not just because I am french, I promise). No more plastic leaching Tupperware. I now have about 150 of those in different sizes (I am addicted). I use them for canning, storing, freezing, transporting, they are so versatile and interchangeable, just love them.

– All leftovers get eaten as-is, reinvented in new dishes, or frozen (the dog sometimes gets some too!) and I make stock from meat bones and veggie scraps.

– I keep my kitchen drawers and cabinets very minimal, with strong metal accessories (no plastic), the stronger and less you have, the less will break, the less will end up, well… you know where. I also have allowed only 2 I-cannot-live-without small electrical appliances: a toaster, and an immersion blender (with chopper and mixer attachments). I agree, simplifying could be the subject of a whole new blog for me… (but I just started this one!)

– I reuse single-side printed paper for grocery shopping and errands lists, and write on them with refillable stainless mechanical pencils.

-My biggest pet peeve??? Non recyclable wax paper butter wrappers. I have made some from scratch but at the price of Straus cream and the amount of butter we use (my boys need their daily cookie), it became way too expensive. I have called a bunch of places and got a recent lead but nothing for sure yet. Straus can actually sell a large container of butter, but only to businesses… Rainbow Grocery or any bulk vendor is yet to offer it (I picture blocks of butter, pre-cut tofu size, that could be picked up with tongues and put in my reusable jar). While I wait to find butter in bulk or, at default, compost its wrappers in our upcoming city compost, I am collecting our wax papers for a future art piece; it helps being a recycling artist 🙂 . 1-10-11 update: I now compost the butter wrappers.All of this might seems like a lot of work, but if you start small, one step at a time, you’ll be hooked to Zero Waste. One small resolution to yourself such as: “I will not bring another plastic bag into this house”… will bring on another and before you know it, you’ll ready to move on to another room.

“One small step for man, but a giant step for mankind” Neil Armstrong.


Friends have asked me to blog about what they can do to reduce their household waste. I think its time that I wrote about what we did and are doing in our house. Let’s start with the kitchen (I’ll use the 1st person, because that’s really my territory):

– I do not buy single-use products: They are not worth it (paper towels, garbage liners, wax paper, aluminum sheets, disposable plates, cups, etc…). I swapped paper towels for reusable rags, I chose microfiber because they do an amazing job and have eliminated many cleaning products (see Zero Waste Cleaning). I swapped sandwich baggies for kitchen towels (I made a bunch from an old french linen sheet). We dropped garbage liners all together, the wet items in waste are mostly compostable anyways (tomatoes for example). If you don’t buy these disposable products, you will realize that you can very easily live without them. Try it for a while.

– I buy in bulk or at the counter (see Zero Waste Grocery Shopping), I bring reusable bags and jars for oils, vinegar, dry goods, spices, nuts, meat, fish, cheese, olives, etc.: no disposable or recyclable (because so little of what goes into the recycling can actually gets recycled) food packaging and containers allowed in the kitchen. I shop at my local Whole Foods, Mill Valley Market, Good Earth, Berkeley Bowl, New Leaf, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco (the mecca) and seldomly Safeway (they have never questioned a jar at the cheese counter).

– “Exception makes the rule” above: butter (see below) and special occasion wines (we reuse some of the bottles for refills and recycle the corks). Our everyday wine we do get refilled at a local winery (Guglielmo Winery). 1-10-11 update: we get out wine refilled in French or Italian lemonade bottles that have flip tops (.75l) to reduce our cork usage.– If an item is not available in bulk, I make it (yogurt, mustard, soy milk, salad dressing, pickles, hot sauce, jams, OJ, hummus, sometimes cookies). I will post recipes for these later. 1-10-11 update: For simplifying reasons, I do not make yogurt or soy milk anymore. I purchase St Bemoit yogurt instead, which reuses their containers (deposit at the store).– If I can’t make an item or am too lazy to go that route, I find a supplier and show up with my jar (ice cream shop, candy store)… I filled my travel tea mug with ketchup from a fast food joint once. 1-10-11 update: We get our beer refilled at the local brewery (you buy a growler and get it refilled at the bar when needed), but that only really works when you are ready to drink down 2 liters of beer at once (it will get flat overnight).
– I buy eggs and produce (I bring reusable produce bags) at the farmer’s market (Mill Valley Friday Farmer’s Market), the egg carton is reusable there and you won’t likely find your cauliflower or cucumber shrink wrapped, your potatoes in a plastic bag, your fruit with stickers on them, or your carrots bundled with a plastic/metal tie.

– If a veggie is going to be out of season and I have learned through the past year that I cannot live without it, I’ll can it (instead of getting a store-bought can later). Example: Tomatoes! (that’s the only veggie that I really can’t live without).

– Whole Foods bakery will bake 15 baguettes at a time for me and put it into my large bread bag (to bypass the pesky baguette sleeve), I throw them in the freezer as soon as I get home. 1-10-11 update: I freeze enough baguettes to last us a week (these days, it’s 10), cut them in half and freeze them in a pillowcase.

– We use yummy tap water in stainless steel bottles: not only great to travel with but also to avoid chasing and washing the tons of empty dirty glasses that I used to find on my counter.

– I choose a compostable cleaning brush (a wooden one with natural hair), and a compostable scrubby (I have used loofah or have knitted a scrubby from sisal twine). 1-10-11 update: I substituted the latter for a stainless scrubby, it gets the job done easier.
– I buy in bulk both castile soap as a dish/hand cleaner (Dr Bronner’s) and baking soda as a scrubber (in a stainless Parmesan dispenser). I do still buy my dishwasher detergent (Seventh Generation) in a box, because the one that I have found in bulk is liquid and comes out of a gallon size plastic container. I believe that powder in a recyclable cardboard box is greener (plastic only gets recycled once, cardboard many times). 1-10-11 update: I now buy my detergent in bulk at Good Earth (see Bulk Shopping in and around Mill Valley).– I have turned what used to be our trash can into a big compost keeper (it makes composting easy and at the reach of the kids, before we take it outside on a weekly basis), I use another one for recycling and a tiny bucket for trash (items to put on my to do list of improvements- the less I have in there, the more free time I get!). 1-10-11 update: The tiny bucket took up too much room, I now store our trash items in the under-counter paper towel holder.

– I store all our food in Le Parfait french glass canning jars (not just because I am french, I promise). No more plastic leaching Tupperware. I now have about 150 of those in different sizes (I am addicted). I use them for canning, storing, freezing, transporting, they are so versatile and interchangeable, just love them.

– All leftovers get eaten as-is, reinvented in new dishes, or frozen (the dog sometimes gets some too!) and I make stock from meat bones and veggie scraps.

– I keep my kitchen drawers and cabinets very minimal, with strong metal accessories (no plastic), the stronger and less you have, the less will break, the less will end up, well… you know where. I also have allowed only 2 I-cannot-live-without small electrical appliances: a toaster, and an immersion blender (with chopper and mixer attachments). I agree, simplifying could be the subject of a whole new blog for me… (but I just started this one!)

– I reuse single-side printed paper for grocery shopping and errands lists, and write on them with refillable stainless mechanical pencils.

-My biggest pet peeve??? Non recyclable wax paper butter wrappers. I have made some from scratch but at the price of Straus cream and the amount of butter we use (my boys need their daily cookie), it became way too expensive. I have called a bunch of places and got a recent lead but nothing for sure yet. Straus can actually sell a large container of butter, but only to businesses… Rainbow Grocery or any bulk vendor is yet to offer it (I picture blocks of butter, pre-cut tofu size, that could be picked up with tongues and put in my reusable jar). While I wait to find butter in bulk or, at default, compost its wrappers in our upcoming city compost, I am collecting our wax papers for a future art piece; it helps being a recycling artist 🙂 . 1-10-11 update: I now compost the butter wrappers.All of this might seems like a lot of work, but if you start small, one step at a time, you’ll be hooked to Zero Waste. One small resolution to yourself such as: “I will not bring another plastic bag into this house”… will bring on another and before you know it, you’ll ready to move on to another room.

“One small step for man, but a giant step for mankind” Neil Armstrong.

  1. Liz says:

    January 10th, 2010 at 6:22 am (#)

    Bea – WOW, this is amazing! You have not only totally inspired me but given me a footprint I can begin to follow at home. Thank you! Wiz (Geoff & Robin's cousin in the UK)

  2. Amy (Crazypsycho Bag Lady) says:

    February 19th, 2010 at 1:36 pm (#)

    Hello Bea and Readers,

    I learned about this blog from yesterday's NY Times Home section article. I live in Maine and have worked hard to reduce my household waste. The biggest problem I have is with my grocery store, Hannafords. The closest indy shop or specialty grocery is a 15-mile drive, so I don't have much of an option. I bring reusable bags, and resuse the paper coffee bag until it wears out, but the store is pretty inflexible.

    I gave up refusing extra plastic bags when a cashier hurled a package of chicken at me and acted as though I had sprayed her check-out station with samonella syrup. Of course, I spoke to the manager and sent a letter to corporate HQ. Instead of less plastic, I got a "reputation."

    It seems to me that people in urban areas are more attuned to these issues, but you must get resistance sometimes? What do you do? What do you say to the sweet old man at the farmer's market (to which you rode your bike with your handmade wicker shopping basket) who says, "Oh, this lettuce is wet. You don't want it to get your lovely basket all wet. I'll put it in a bag for you…"?

  3. Bea Johnson says:

    February 19th, 2010 at 6:10 pm (#)

    Hi Amy:
    From time to time I do run into the same roadblocks (see my article Difficult Trip to Whole Foods). It helps shopping at the same stores from week to week. But any small frustrating interaction with vendors makes them think. Be strong. You're the one doing the right thing here… This week I asked the Whole Foods Flower counter why their flowers had to be sold in plastic (such a shame, I can't buy them). The woman rolled her eyes and sent me off. Did I plant a seed? Not sure. This week I will put a note in the suggestion box.
    Keep up the good work and please, don't get discouraged!

  4. Bea Johnson says:

    February 23rd, 2010 at 4:26 pm (#)

    Sorry, anonymous, but I will not allow foul language on my blog. Try rephrasing. Thanks.

  5. anne says:

    February 23rd, 2010 at 8:27 pm (#)

    Hi, I just saw this site which was featured in the Daily Candy and thought you might like these wax covered fabric food bags. They look stylish and practical. I haven't tried them but think I might order one to try out.
    http://abeego.ca

  6. Bea Johnson says:

    February 23rd, 2010 at 9:53 pm (#)

    Thanks, Anne. Thanks for sharing the info! I wonder if I can make a bag from their "flats" to transport a whole chicken. Will inquire.

  7. Anonymous says:

    February 24th, 2010 at 10:03 pm (#)

    last summer i started our family on something similar to a "100 mile challenge"… i wasn't too concerned about my waste (blasphemy to you, i'm sure) but i have noticed how little waste we have, just with me being more careful about what i buy for the house!! you should call a dairy, if you have one around you, and see if you can get standard milk (i don't know where you currently get your milk??) ours comes in glass containers. instead of being heated up to 200 f, like most milks, it's heated to 165. so it's legal, but you still get a lot of cream. i make my butter with the cream i skim off. maybe this will help your wax paper dilemma?

  8. emily says:

    March 1st, 2010 at 3:59 pm (#)

    i've just discovered your blog and am enjoying it immensely. thank you! i'm wondering – what do you use for packing your children's lunches for school? that's the place where i'm still using (bpa-free) reusable plastic containers, because i worry about sending glass containers in the lunchbox. any advice?

  9. Bea Johnson says:

    March 2nd, 2010 at 12:10 am (#)

    Hi Emily:
    They are stainless options out there instead of plastic, but for simplifying reasons, we pack our lunches japanese style, with just a kitchen towel. mmm… would make a good subject for an article…

  10. emily says:

    March 2nd, 2010 at 2:06 pm (#)

    thanks bea. i'd love to know more about japanese style lunch packing! i'm going to do a bit of googling and see what i can find. thanks, also, for the stainless suggestion. i'll check that out too! looking forward to reading more around here.

  11. Bea Johnson says:

    March 2nd, 2010 at 4:40 pm (#)

    Google Furoshiki… it's also a great way to wrap presents in reusable cloth!

  12. Anonymous says:

    April 7th, 2010 at 1:29 am (#)

    Have you checked out Clover Farmstead butter? It's local and organic, and the wrapping appears (haven't verfied) to be better than the non-recycable box plus wax paper for Straus butter.

  13. Bea Johnson says:

    April 7th, 2010 at 6:38 pm (#)

    Hi Anonymous: I did purchase the Clover Farmstead Butter once, for the pretty pottery container that it came in. But I will not buy the refills because the packaging is actually no better than that of WF365 (not to mention that it cost $10/8oz). The butter is wrapped in an aluminum sheet lined with wax paper… I have talked to them directly and they too confirmed that the wrapper is meant for the landfill… bummer. I like the crockpot though, it matches my dishware perfectly.

  14. mary says:

    April 19th, 2010 at 4:27 am (#)

    Speaking of the butter from Straus, I wonder if Cici's (since they get their cream from Straus) could be the "business" through which they could sell the butter in bulk. I for one would be a local interested in splitting (or ordering one of my own as we go through quite a bit of butter at our house) an order. Did they say how large the container of butter would be? I am really interested in this…

  15. Bea Johnson says:

    April 19th, 2010 at 4:52 am (#)

    Hi Mary:
    I doubt that Cici would be into doing this, since they have been difficult at simply filling my jar with gelato (I had to drop it off a day early, and pick it up the next: not very convenient and expensive).
    I think we might have a better chance with Mill Valley Market. I can't remember the quantity of the container but I'll ask Straus and talk to MV market. I am really glad that you too are interested!

  16. mary says:

    April 20th, 2010 at 6:10 am (#)

    OK, let me know if you want me to do any footwork. My former students are the sons of the MV market owners and they have always been really great to me (though you might have a connection as well) Also, I am friends with Michael and Liana at Cici, so I could ask them (but agree that they might not be into it…) Also, wondered if you have ever bought Kerrygold butter? I purchased some at WF today and the wrapper seemed like it was made of paper without plastic coating (though it is gold and shiny, not sure if that is aluminum or what…) not organic, though… curious.

  17. Bea Johnson says:

    April 21st, 2010 at 1:13 am (#)

    sure, mary, why don't you take care of it. I do not know any of the 2 store owners… You are more "connected" in Mill Valley than I am 😉

  18. mary says:

    April 22nd, 2010 at 2:16 pm (#)

    OK, can you connect me with the Strauss information or should I just call them myself? Just want to know the size and price, etc. (not sure if they told you all of that) Can you maybe e-mail me at mmanulkin@gmail.com if you have that info and maybe also who you talked to so they dont give me the runaround… Thanks! I have been watching my family's (mostly my kids and baking) butter consumption and it is hard to keep up with them! 🙂

  19. mary says:

    April 22nd, 2010 at 8:20 pm (#)

    Success! I think. I contacted Rainbow Grocery (they are always so amazing to deal with) and spoke with Kelly who does the ordering from Straus. She said that we could special order the large container of butter through them. She will be calling me back on Friday with all of the details and costs. yay!

  20. Bea Johnson says:

    April 22nd, 2010 at 8:28 pm (#)

    yay! thank you soo much mary, I contacted them about it 6 months ago, and they did nothing… perhaps they were not ready, or simply needed more demand for it?? I cross my fingers this time!
    Thanks again!

  21. mary says:

    April 22nd, 2010 at 10:24 pm (#)

    I will follow up with her if I dont hear back by Friday. I'm sitting here with Molly whom you met today at the panel and she said how great it all was! Cheers!

  22. mary says:

    April 27th, 2010 at 4:49 pm (#)

    OK, I have all of the details for the bulk butter buying! can you send me an e-mail at mmanulkin@gmail.com and I will pass it all along to you?
    Thanks!

  23. Anonymous says:

    June 10th, 2010 at 10:34 am (#)

    Hey, great blog! I am going to try to cut down our waste using your ideas. Keep it up!

  24. Anonymous says:

    July 19th, 2010 at 8:56 am (#)

    Bea,
    You mention an immersion blender with chopper/mixer attachments. Recently my blender of 20+ yrs broke. I am looking to replace it. I have been looking online & stores for a good stainless steel one, but not been successful.
    Something is rubber/ plastic or way too expensive. Can you please give a little more info on your purchase — brand/ make/where purchased?
    Hope that's not too much to ask. Any info will be helpful
    Thanks for all your great tips

  25. Bea Johnson says:

    July 22nd, 2010 at 3:11 pm (#)

    Hi there: I have a Dualit. It was the one that had the least plastic and the most accessories when I shopped for one. However I do not recommend their customer service. When I have had to replace a piece, they were super slow and rude.

  26. Anonymous says:

    December 22nd, 2010 at 1:47 am (#)

    Hi Bea:
    Just read the article in Sunset: kudos to you!
    I have been trying to go more towards zero waste, but am not as close as you. One question on the kitchen: what do you do (if you eat meat) with the bones & fat? I've read that you're not supposed to compost it and have not tried that . . .also one key thing I still struggle with is cat litter & cat poo–again, not supposed to go into the compost because of the potential bacteria. Wonder if anyone has other solutions? Thanks from LJ in LA

  27. Janet V. says:

    December 27th, 2010 at 5:56 am (#)

    LJ, that's my question too! I love the idea of using the kitchen can as a composter (my younger children's preschool does that as well–funny it never occurred to me before), and I use my meat leftovers for stock, but they eventually have to go somewhere, and composting animal products (except eggshells) brings rats. Here in Pasadena, our "green waste" barrel is for grass and yard clippings only–they refused to empty it one week and left me a little citation note because I had put a paper grocery bag in there. Really, isn't that bag made from trees?!?!

  28. Sandra says:

    January 1st, 2011 at 7:06 pm (#)

    Hi, Bea. It's been almost 10 months since I started reading your posts and incorporating your ideas into my household. The kitchen was where we produced the most daily waste, and it is the area of the house I tackled first. While we haven't yet achieved the level of waste reduction that your household has, I am happy to say that our family has significantly decreased the amount of garbage we throw out each week and we have been able to sustain it.

    Composting and bulk grocery shopping were the easiest habits for us to adopt. Cleaning out the kitchen drawers (donating the unused items) and keeping them minimal made cooking and finding tools a whole lot easier. I switched out my use of parchment/wax paper for reusable Silpat liners, and re-purposed an old baking spatula for scraping out used cooking oil from pans and dirty dishes. I highly recommend Alice Waters' cookbook, "The Art of Simple Food", for recipes that primarily use fresh or bulk item ingredients. The book also has lots of recipes for homemade sauces, mayo, dressing, jams, etc.

    Of all the tips you mentioned, paper towels were the most difficult single-use item to stop using. At first I composted the used towels, but eventually what got me to quit using them was simply not buying them. It forced me to find alternatives, like the spatula for cleaning out cooking pans, sponges for countertops, dish towels for drying hands/veggies/dishes.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas on this blog. You've helped my family realize a healthier lifestyle that protects the Earth and makes our home a much cleaner(!) and relaxing place to live in.

  29. Anonymous says:

    January 7th, 2011 at 9:01 pm (#)

    Hi Bea. Thanks for the inspiration. I have a question about freezing bread. Do you put the loaves in the pillowcase in the freezer or do you transfer them to some other kind of bag first?

    Thanks

  30. Bea Johnson says:

    January 8th, 2011 at 7:39 pm (#)

    Pillowcase only.

  31. Anonymous says:

    January 9th, 2011 at 10:31 pm (#)

    Thank you to everyone who has written on this blog and to Bea for such great inspiration! Can you tell me how you like to buy flour in bulk (i.e. what kind of bag do you use to transport the flour?

  32. Bea Johnson says:

    January 10th, 2011 at 6:11 pm (#)

    In cloth bags… please refer to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping.

  33. Bianca says:

    January 21st, 2011 at 5:18 pm (#)

    Amazing! This blog is wonderful.

  34. Anonymous says:

    February 22nd, 2011 at 1:00 am (#)

    Hi Bea,

    Just added this site to "favorites", not many there so you should feel honored:) One question, can you put your "Multi Purpose Cleaner" (castile, vinegar, water) in a spray bottle for easier use around the kitchen for counter tops and such?

    Thanks! Wes

  35. Bea Johnson says:

    February 24th, 2011 at 5:54 am (#)

    Wes: yes, definitely put the cleaner in a spray bottle.

  36. A L says:

    February 26th, 2011 at 1:16 am (#)

    I was inspired by this blog to use no plastic bags, whenever I can. Today, I went shopping and forgot to bring a bag from home, and I almost got another bag from the grocer's. Instead, I bit the bullet and crammed everything into my shoulder bag, and lugged it home. I then immediately sewed up a cloth bag, and folded it into my purse, so that I would hopefully not leave the house anymore without one.

  37. Ariel says:

    February 26th, 2011 at 7:53 pm (#)

    Hi Bea, just a question I was hoping you might know the answer to…

    Receipts. Since registers automatically print them, I'm assuming you have the store throw them away for you instead of taking them home? I know it is not good to recycle them because of BPAs in receipt paper, so I considered putting them down the garbage disposal, but then the stuff is entering our water system. Still, in landfills it would most likely enter the water system anyway, correct? What is your thinking on this?

  38. Anonymous says:

    March 1st, 2011 at 3:47 am (#)

    I stumbled on your site this morning. I love it, so glad to see people care. I loved reading your ideas. I'm not the only one getting funny looks at the grocery store!
    In my own life I look for made in the USA, try to buy local and organic whenever possible. Our area has an awesome recycling program. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to put all your thoughts down to share with anyone who's interested in bettering their world.

  39. Bea Johnson says:

    March 3rd, 2011 at 12:40 am (#)

    Ariel: PLEASE do not put your receipts thru the disposal!
    -you would be putting BPA straight into our drinking water!
    -you would be using electricity and water to run it (I recommend a sink strainer to reduce disposal usage anyway).
    -the paper type does not dissolve like toilet paper.
    -At this point, recycling or even landfill are much better options than sink disposal. If BPA ends up in recycled paper goods, it at least does not directly end up in our mouths, as it would if disposed of thru a disposal.

  40. Anonymous says:

    March 11th, 2011 at 5:50 am (#)

    Hi Bea

    How are you able to keep your vegetables and greens from wilting in the cloth bags?

    Thanks!

  41. Cam's Mommy says:

    March 14th, 2011 at 5:17 am (#)

    Hi Bea,

    I just found this site online and I think it is wonderful! I'm determined to have my family do as much as possible to minimize our waste. We just bought a compost bin from Costco today-we use to use a small bin but that one was WAY to small and broke (made from plastic) so we bought this bigger one to take it's place. It's amazing how much produce we go through on a day to day basis.
    I am pretty close to being a vegetarian so there are a lot of veggies and fruits that I buy from Trader Joe's. After reading your blog tonight, I went back into my kitchen and was absolutely amazed at all the plastic used to package veggies.
    Trader Joe's is a great cheap store with lots of organic foods but the packaging is ridiculous. We have a coop here too-I'll be going there more often now to get rid of all the plastic.

    My question is for the kitchen and bathroom sections of the home. When re-vamping them, what did you do with all the "bad" stuff you currently had? Where did you donate them?
    My husband is a big Costco fan and buys items in bulk like plastic ziplock bags, trash bags, kleenex, toilet paper etc….since he hasn't bought any of those things for quite awhile, how should we get rid of the existing one's we have??

    Thanks so much for this blog!
    McKenna

  42. Anonymous says:

    March 15th, 2011 at 4:24 am (#)

    Hello Bea,
    Where do i get the "tare weights"? if it doesn't already coming on the container?
    Thanks Aidan

  43. Bea Johnson says:

    March 16th, 2011 at 11:16 pm (#)

    Customer service… please refer to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping. Thanks.

  44. Ryan says:

    March 18th, 2011 at 6:46 am (#)

    A friend showed me the Yahoo! video about you and your family, and then sent me the link to your blog. I am absolutely, without a doubt in love with and inspired by this lifestyle you and your family are leading.

    I didn't get a chance to read through all of the comments (44 is a lot!), and I did notice you made a note that you are now composting the butter wrappers. However, have you considered making your own butter? I've heard it's fairly easy from some people at PCC (like Whole Foods, but only found in Washington State where I live). If nothing else, it could be a fun test that you could make and store in a glass jar!

  45. Jazz says:

    March 21st, 2011 at 2:45 am (#)

    Love It! Have already been doing some of these things, like the stainless water bottles, did that years ago just to get rid of all the dirty glasses really! I would like to know what citris juicer you use? Thanks so much!

  46. Bea Johnson says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 1:19 am (#)

    Jazz: Citrus juicer is discussed in the blog store…

  47. Bea Johnson says:

    March 24th, 2011 at 4:59 am (#)

    Ryan: Yes I have made butter. Too expensive and time consuming. Got to keep Zero Waste manageable or you won't stick to it. Zero Waste for us, is not a project with a deadline, but a lifestyle…

  48. Kathleen says:

    April 4th, 2011 at 6:34 pm (#)

    Do you have access to cream? You can easily make your own butter, which I love. You just put the cream in a jar and set your boys to shaking the jar until you have butter. Buying a daisy butter churn is handy as well – glass with wooden beaters.

    Or maybe you can find a dairy farmer who would help you out?

  49. Bea Johnson says:

    April 7th, 2011 at 12:28 am (#)

    Thanks Kathleen for your suggestion. I have covered butter-making a few times already. In short: I have of course given it a try in the past. However, the cost and time involved for the amount needed in my household (I bake a lot) was unsustainable. I made our butter from Straus cream, and the $6 pint would only yield 1/4 cup (I use 1 cup for a batch of cookies…)
    Once again, if a substitution becomes too costly or time consuming it is less likely to stick to your lifestyle… For simplifying reasons, we make the choice to buy butter (only packaged food in the house: the exception makes the rule, right?), recycle the box and compost the wrappers (although today, I am still saving mine for a ongoing art project). And I am OK with that.

  50. Anonymous says:

    November 11th, 2012 at 5:14 pm (#)

    We get at least one more use out of butter wrappers by using them to grease baking sheets and such. They can also be used as you would wax paper for separating burger patties you make ahead and then freeze. Just stick the wrappers in the freezer till you need them.

  51. Amanda M. says:

    April 20th, 2011 at 4:40 am (#)

    Bea… Currently we purchase chicken and other meats in bulk, but it comes in a large plastic bag. Then we break those down into single-night Ziploc freezer bags. My research about freezing meat suggests plastic. Is there a better alternative method of freezing chicken for a family of six? Thanks!

  52. Bea Johnson says:

    April 21st, 2011 at 2:38 am (#)

    I have had no problem freezing chicken in glass jars.

  53. Kath says:

    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:12 pm (#)

    Hi from Brisbane Australia. I just discovered your blog & you're very inspiring.

    I was wondering what is wrong with Tupperware? its BPA free.

  54. Becky says:

    April 23rd, 2011 at 2:17 am (#)

  55. Tanya says:

    April 26th, 2011 at 5:35 am (#)

    Hello Bea,
    I was wondering if anywhere in your blogs you might have some of those easy and simple recipes for meals posted? I saw some of your pointers and what you like to keep stocked in your kitchen. I just don't have many recipes and get overwhelmed very easy. I am a single mother who works full time and goes to school but I don't like convenience foods or fast foods. Any suggestions would be appreciated more than you know. Thank you so much!

  56. lizzie says:

    May 4th, 2011 at 5:07 pm (#)

    What do you do about milk ?

  57. cebow says:

    May 8th, 2011 at 5:31 am (#)

    I like the le Parfait jars a lot; is there a way to keep the metal part looking nice and the rubber gasket from getting brittle? rubbing with vegetable oil??

  58. Amanda C. says:

    May 10th, 2011 at 12:50 am (#)

    Hello Bea- I was wondering if you label your Le Parfait jars (ie. so you can tell the difference between your salt and sugar) and if you do- how? Thanks for your time!

  59. Anonymous says:

    May 10th, 2011 at 6:36 am (#)

    Hi!  I just wanted to mention that having an organic raw vegan diet really cuts down on waste, too.  You wouldn't have to worry about butter wrappers and chicken juice (yuck!).  Also, very little equipment is needed…maybe some knives, a cutting board, etc.  Refrigeration can be useful, but not totally necessary and there is no need for stoves, microwaves, pots, pans and all of that other expensive and energy consuming stuff we fill our homes with.  Just clean and pure nutrition.

  60. Bea Johnson says:

    May 12th, 2011 at 4:46 am (#)

    Thanks anonymous… I personally am not yet ready to give up my baguette, cheese, and leather shoes 😉

  61. Bea Johnson says:

    May 12th, 2011 at 4:50 am (#)

    Cebow: have not had the problem with the craking of rubber, so I can't advise anything on that.

    Amanda: I do not label the jars. No need. Their location, size and color/texture of contents, let me know what they carry. For ex, Evaporated cane sugar is brownish compared to salt, and both are stored in a different location and different size containers.

  62. trishalou78 says:

    May 30th, 2011 at 7:35 pm (#)

    Hi Bea. I've been following you for awhile now… I do have a few questions: 1) You freeze your bread in pillowcases… but how do you store it when you thaw it out? I've still been buying the bread in the plastic bags (I know, very bad) because the bread gets hard in the pillowcase on my counter. 2) Do you refrigerate your peanut butter that is freshly ground at the store? 3) Do you put your entire canning jar in the dishwasher- rubber gasket attached?
    Thank you once again for being my biggest inspiration! Now that you won the grant- I cannot wait for videos… and maybe a BOOK! : )

  63. Christine says:

    June 18th, 2011 at 3:56 pm (#)

    Hello Bea, how do you keep your vegies in the fridge? mine seem to wither if I don't keep them in plastic? thank you so much for your posts! very inspiring! Christine

  64. Zoe says:

    July 3rd, 2011 at 8:25 pm (#)

    Hi Bea,

    I must add my voice to the others who are grateful for the inspiration and solutions that you provide! Some notes on waste-free solutions:

    I've heard that rinsing your hair with vinegar works well – but it has to be apple cider vinegar. No personal experience, but if white vinegar isn't working for you, this may be why!

    My sister uses "pee wipes" she made out of an old sheet, instead of toilet paper (for #1 only). She stores the clean ones in a basket on the toilet, puts the dirty ones in a large glass jar next to the toilet, and washes them in hot water. It works well!

    Regarding tooth powder: I've also heard that dentists recommend not using baking soda all of the time because it can be bad for your enamel. Uncle Harry’s tooth powder uses chalk as a base, maybe we could find a recipe online/make up our own using that instead? Also, I agree that flouride in toothpaste is unnecessary (and toxic). If your kids have issues with cavities, I would highly recommend starting with their nutrition: veggies and unprocessed whole grains are MUCH less likely to result in cavities 🙂

    A few resources:
    http://environmentaltoothbrush.com.au/ – the other toothbrush link wasn't working for me, so I found this

    http://www.uncleharrys.com/store/product_info.php/cPath/48_57/products_id/548#!tab1

    http://www.drbronner.com/

  65. Susan d says:

    August 8th, 2011 at 12:27 pm (#)

    Hi Bea:

    Just wondering if you or any of your readers have tried the food containers from Abeego that are mentioned above. I am considering buying some but would love to know what people think before I do.

  66. Sandra says:

    November 1st, 2011 at 10:52 pm (#)

    If you can't find liquid castile soap in bulk, another alternative is to use the solid Dr. Bronner's soap bar, which is wrapped in paper. It works just like the liquid form; just rub the bar onto your dish sponge/brush. I've been using Dr. B's bar soap to wash dishes on camping trips for years, but only recently thought to use it in place of bottled liquid dish soap.

  67. Anonymous says:

    December 15th, 2011 at 6:13 pm (#)

    Hello all!
    Just wondering if anyone had any input on what to stash in your freezer. I just realized that my freezer doesn't hold the cold very well because it is essentially empty (talk about a waste of energy!)
    So, what are some freezer staples that I could store in there that are packaging free? I know breads and overripe bananas, but other than that, I am at a loss of ideas.
    Thanks!

  68. Bea Johnson says:

    December 16th, 2011 at 9:51 pm (#)

    Anonymous, love your question, re: freezer: besides the 10 weekly baguettes I freeze bones (before composting to reduce stink, but also use for stock), dry bread (for bread pudding and bread crumbs), butter (I always want to have some handy), candles (they will burn longer), vodka (360 brand), bait (calamari and anchovies that we keep freezing/thawing), ice pack, and occasionally leftovers or meat/fish (if we went out on meat/fish night). Hope this helps. I really like the freezer to always have bread on hand, otherwise, we could probably do without one. If I did not work, I would maybe make a daily loaf, like Caroline Ingalls;)

  69. Odymon says:

    January 11th, 2012 at 4:33 pm (#)

    My wife sent me this link and I was floored at all the things we can do to help strive for zero waste; however, the task seems daunting. What are some small steps we can take at first, aside from distancing ourselves from the paper towel addiction? I will add you to my blog roll. Thanks.

  70. Dianna says:

    March 11th, 2012 at 12:35 pm (#)

    I love your blog. It gave me many ideas on saving waste. I stopped using paper towels and paper napkins a few year ago. I bought cloth napkins at yard sales and we now use them. I knit cotton dishcloths and dishtowels. I donate my magazines to the local paper office who resells them for cancer. we also recycle cans and paper and plastic. thanks for the many ideas.

  71. marie says:

    March 26th, 2012 at 12:19 pm (#)

    hi bea – i've been combing your blog for this answer but i can't find it – what brand is your undercounter fridge and is it a fridge/freezer combo or are they separate? we are moving to a teeny apartment which comes with a huge fridge that i know we don't need – something under the counter (thats NOT like the dorm room kind) would be perfect and i'm guessing more energy efficient. i've searched online and i'm not finding a lot… thank you in advance and love your blog – this might sound dramatic but reading it has been life changing for me. 🙂

  72. Anonymous says:

    March 30th, 2012 at 6:24 pm (#)

    Hi Bea, I find not only you & your family's lifestyle inspiring, I am so impressed by your Kitchen! The attention to detail in your design & choice of materials (love the clean, purity of the marble) is perfection! I have often looked at the big, ugly box sitting in my kitchen ie: the refrig & wondered about 'a better way.' Can you please share the brand name/model of your ingenious, marble counter top! Refrigerator? Thank you so much,,you have touched my soul with your level of commitment and sharing! Patricia M.

  73. onedoglife.com says:

    April 6th, 2012 at 1:51 pm (#)

    Bea,

    I know you get plenty of "love mail" in your comments, but I just wanted to add my own! You are such an inspiration to my boyfriend and I. Of course we recycled and tried to avoid processed food, but your blog has openend our eyes to all the simple things we can do to eliminate needless waste. We recently made the jump to a "paper-towel-less life", and we are LOVING it. I talk about zero-waste all the time to lots of people … I figure if I can plant even one seed, than all that talking is worth it 🙂

    Most of all I like that fact that you are realistic and down to earth about what is possible for you right now and what is not. You don't try to do everything or overwhelm yourself with unecessary tasks — making bread or cheese. You are great at being humble and realistic which is what makes Zero Waste easier to stick to!

  74. trishalou78 says:

    May 14th, 2012 at 5:05 am (#)

    Hi Bea. I've been following you for awhile now… I do have a few questions: 1) You freeze your bread in pillowcases… but how do you store it when you thaw it out? I've still been buying the bread in the plastic bags (I know, very bad) because the bread gets hard in the pillowcase on my counter. 2) Do you refrigerate your peanut butter that is freshly ground at the store? 3) Do you put your entire canning jar in the dishwasher- rubber gasket attached?
    Thank you once again for being my biggest inspiration! Now that you won the grant- I cannot wait for videos… and maybe a BOOK! : )

  75. Bea Johnson says:

    May 15th, 2012 at 4:42 am (#)

    -We thaw half baguettes at a time in a folded kitchen towel.
    -We do not refrigerate PB
    -We put the whole jar in the diswasher. That's one of the reasons why I choose this brand.
    -Book is coming along!
    Thanks for your questions!

  76. trishalou78 says:

    May 17th, 2012 at 6:15 pm (#)

    Thank you!

  77. Anonymous says:

    November 16th, 2012 at 7:13 pm (#)

    I know that it has been a long time since some questions were asked – but i noticed a few people mentioned the wilting veggie problem, and I have a solution for that! If you make bags out of terrycloth (you could repurpose old towels for this) and use those as your reusable bags for storing your greens, they will keep the greens crisp. You just wet the bag and wring it out as well as you can so that it is just damp, then place your greens inside and fold it over on itself to keep the direct air off them. It's the best way I've ever used to store greens and keep them nice!

  78. orion vaughan says:

    December 8th, 2012 at 4:19 pm (#)

    Rubbish Removal is a part of service which can make remove rubbish form home, office, shop, hotel, garden etc. This tips is service that we should always keep, it will help us. Thanks admin
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  79. Anonymous says:

    December 13th, 2012 at 4:45 pm (#)

    Bonjour Béa !

    Tout d'abord je tiens à te dire MERCI pour ce blog merveilleux !
    Tu es une vraie source d'inspiration !
    Pour ma part, je suis à la lettre toutes tes recommandations, mais je suis encore aux prémices du zero waste home ! A Montpellier difficile de tout trouver sans emballages !!!! Mais ça me passionne terriblement, je me sens vraiment de plus en plus heureuse ! Merci pour tes bons conseils !

    Toutefois une question se pose : en ce qui concerne la congélation de la viande dans les pots en verre. Mon compagnon est le seul a manger de la viande, je suis végétalienne ! il lui arrive souvent de congeler sa viande, mais c'est toujours un combat sans fin pour en retirer juste un morceau. As-tu une astuce ?

    Merci d'avance !

    Ambre

  80. kitchen sink says:

    January 5th, 2013 at 3:50 am (#)

    i am searching some useful information, immediately i found this post and gain some useful information great work such a great brain to use.

  81. Lorena Seidel says:

    January 20th, 2013 at 9:52 pm (#)

    Bea,

    I love your blog. I have been reading it for many months now. I have been decluttering my house for almost a year and have changed my grocery shopping habits. I am so inspired by you. Thank you.

  82. Sandstone Suppliers in India says:

    February 6th, 2013 at 10:18 am (#)

    Hello There,

    this is really very nice blog and looking very nice. this blog is very helpfull for shopping .. we want come back on this blog…

  83. balers says:

    February 13th, 2013 at 2:29 pm (#)

    Replacing all our light bulbs with energy-efficient versions, and replacing all our disposable batteries with recyclable ones. Donating to and buying from secondhand stores.

  84. Antoine Joseph says:

    July 20th, 2016 at 2:43 am (#)

    I am all in favour of the idea behind what she is doing, but the fridge and kitchen shelves left me feeling like I was being given a look inside a prisoner’s kitchen who was very deprived and had to arrange things on an invisible tic-tac-toe board to make it take up more space . My grandmother generated very little trash, but she did use plastic bags. She simply washed zip lock bags and pieces of aluminium foil in the washer or by hand and then reused them.

    There’s no shame in using plastic bags if you do that. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have some giant carrots hanging half out of the water when you can cut them up and keep them moist in a plastic bag and then wash the bag with your clothes. I remember she also kept eggshells and used them as little cups for starting seeds and to fertilise something. And there was a whole brigade of elderly women around who could crochet those plastic grocery store bags into rugs and who knows what else. Reusing things was just a way of life.

    And you become successful in the marketing of zero waste when you persuade people to buy your “zero waste”products.

  85. Keeping it Simple: Ten (Near-O) Amendments – Near-O Waste says:

    November 6th, 2016 at 11:01 pm (#)

    […] it’s fun to make, the entire process including clean up just takes time. (If the queen of Zero Waste buys it packaged, why can’t I?) And just when I thought the only downside was the waxed paper […]

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