Sixth month check-in part II

On Wednesday, I talked about some of the general things I’ve managed to accomplish during the second quarter of our zero waste project. Today, we’re going to get into specifics — some updates, some letting the dream go.

Oh, just cutting up some farm stand carrots.

Oh, just cutting up some farm stand carrots.

Let’s start in the kitchen. Zero waste and the kitchen just seem to go hand in hand, maybe because that’s where the majority of our family’s waste used to be.

Here are my goals … and what happened with each in blue:

Inside my pantry

  1. Stock of home-canned and homemade items to give as gifts throughout the year (I have several kinds of jam, but I didn’t make anything homemade and I’m not even 100 percent sure what I meant by that)
  2. Glass jars of home-canned awesomeness for the fam (moderate success — besides jam, I canned peaches, applesauce and tomatoes, but I still need to do pears, more applesauce, and I wouldn’t mind a few jars of apple and pear butters, both for us and for gifts)

Inside my kitchen cabinets

  1. Jars of bulk options (check)
  2. Minimal tin cans and cardboard (check. I have canned tomato paste, black beans, tuna and soup in the cupboard as we speak, as well as packaged oatmeal and cereal. My one plastic container is organic shortening. I’m trying to tell myself I can bake without it)
  3. Cloth napkins as a replacement for paper towels and plastic wrap (check, thanks to my favorite mother-in-law. Her linen napkins get used as both, in lunches and just around the house)

In my refrigerator and freezers

  1. Glass jars and stainless steel containers for leftovers, cut up raw fruits and veggies, meats, etc. (check)
  2. Glass jars of homemade condiments like mustard, ketchup, salad dressing (salad dressing, but that’s it)
  3. Minimal plastic, i.e., just our milk and cheese (well … we’re better than we were. Items I still routinely purchase in plastic are milk and cheese, as well as bread and tortillas — although I’ve got a tortilla recipe I’ve been meaning to try)
  4. (Freezer) Jars of blueberries, raspberries, etc. (yes for raspberries, dried plums and tomatoes, pesto and green beans, no for blueberries; I’ve been reusing plastic freezer bags for that)
  5. (Freezer) Jars of meat purchased from the meat counter in reusable containers (yes, although we have some wrapped in paper thanks to a fairly prolific deer season)

Under the kitchen sink

  1. Glass bottle of white vinegar (yes, but right now it’s in a quart jar, which is hard to pour. Trying to find another bottle)
  2. Glass jar of homemade dishwashing detergent (I had to give this up because our dishwasher wasn’t working and Eric thought maybe it was the soap. He got it working again … but it’s kind of hit and miss, even with purchased detergent. I’m not sure where I’m at with this right now)
  3. Bottle of bulk dish soap (yep)
  4. Jar of homemade “soft scrub” (yep, love this stuff!)
  5. Jar of dry scrub (yes)
  6. Repurposed spray bottle of homemade all-purpose cleaner (bought a pretty brown spray bottle and have no regrets)
  7. Jar of bulk castile soap (yep)
  8. Repurposed bucket for our garbage, lined with newspaper or not lined at all (I moved the big kitchen garbage into the laundry room, and it turns out I don’t need a smaller can under the sink)

A few things that happened that weren’t on any lists:


Walker grown. Safely in the freezer.

  1. I started getting fresh eggs from a friend in recycled cartons (hi, Beth!).
  2. Summer is prime farm stand season; 99 percent of my produce has been locally grown and package/sticker free.
  3. I totally missed out on making pickles and relish, two items I had vague hopes of making.
  4. I decided I needed a fancy bamboo scrubbing brush for under the sink … but I haven’t been using it because it’s kind of worthless in jars and glasses. Bummer.
  5. I love the space under my sink — it looks very organized without all the plastic bottles.
  6. I scored some local honey in a glass jar!
  7. I’ve been trying to pay attention to the herbs, spices, etc. available in bulk; for example, I recently found baking powder.
  8. We got rid of the paper towels early on in the project and we haven’t missed them at all.
  9. I have a foaming soap dispenser by the kitchen sink, filled with mostly water and some unscented castile. It’s nice because I can wash my hands or a random dish (usually my coffee cup).
  10. Eric ordered replacement parts for our stovetop — I had two burners that didn’t want to consistently work. Some plastic bags came with that, but I figure that’s better than having to get a whole new unit.

What I need to work on in the coming months:

  1. I’ve been lazy and getting flour and sugar in paper bags. Not terrible, but I can get both in bulk — and I need to make that a habit.
  2. The dishwasher probably needs a professional to take a look at it … and then I’ll know if it’s my homemade detergent or some other issue causing my dishes to not get clean on the top rack.
  3. I want to continue stocking the pantry with home-canned items (ditto the freezer).
  4. I think it’s time to start working on the condiment issue in the fridge.
  5. I need to figure out what I’m buying that I could make and freeze (i.e. tortillas?) to further cut packaging.
  6. Continue to compile that zero waste cookbook I started (sorting through my recipe collection and keeping only what’s zero / minimal waste).
  7. Can I get cheese in bulk somewhere without spending Abby’s college fund?
  8. I need to be better about getting bulk olive oil. (Is there bulk organic canola oil and / or balsamic vinegar anywhere?)
  9. I’m so close to 10 things!
  10. There, that’s better.

Next up: Part II-a. I’m compiling a list of easy zero waste kitchen wins to share.

7 Responses to Sixth month check-in part II

  1. Trisha, I have only commented a couple of times before, but I had to tell you how brilliantly you are doing. That’s really great progress in the last six months! Also, I have been inspired by following your progress – you’ve got some great ideas, and even just reading about what you are managing to do has kept it in the forefront of my mind, so that I have become much more conscious of packaging etc as I buy groceries. Sadly I can’t find anywhere near me to buy bulk dry goods, but I’m doing what I can, and actively thinking about it, which is entirely a result of reading your posts. I had read Bea Johnson’s blog last year but found it too strict and the tone off-putting, whereas you make it seem like this is something that I can do while still working and having a family and a life – it’s possible to make lots of positive changes to reduce waste without spending 24 hours a day working on it. So a huge thank you for putting yourself and your process out there for us to read, and keep up the good work!

    • Oh, Karen, thank you — I appreciate that so much! Mindfulness is most of the battle, and it’s awesome that you’ve been able to reduce waste by doing what’s possible in your area. (I know I’m ridiculously lucky with my bulk bins and farm stands.) Thanks again. You made my day.

  2. You are doing an amazing, tremendous job with this. I want to encourage you with making mustard — my son made three types of mustard for his dad for Christmas a couple years ago, and it was easy and yummy! I just bought tomato paste (in a tin) to make barbecue sauce for the next time we need it.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Yes to homemade mustard, I usually think homemade condiments aren’t worth the trouble, but salad dressing and mustard are the exception.

      Mustard is so easy, it’s cheap, and it tastes amazing. Plus, the powder stays good a very long time so you can just make what you actually use and not throw out a ton of watery or crusty mustard when you realize the jar has been around too long.

    • Thank you, Roberta! Mustard is actually what I’m looking at for a first go — I can get the powder in bulk and the recipe I have looks fairly simple.

      And V, you made me laugh — crusty mustard indeed!

  3. I am not surprised you had problems with your dishwasher after you made your own soap. I didn’t want to rain on your parade, but that is very common. Commercial detergents have sheeting chemicals that facilitate rinsing. The whole thing can get clogged without them. You might experience the same thing with homemade laundry soap, so keep an eye on your plumbing. I’ve heard horror stories.

    • I appreciate the feedback. I’m actually kind of relieved — I can get dishwasher detergent in cardboard, and Eric told me last night that he’s convinced his white t-shirts aren’t getting clean with my laundry soap so it looks like I’m going to have to switch to something else anyway. I can get that in cardboard, too, but it annoys me that everything comes with a plastic scoop (unless I just suck up the bulk detergent price).

      It’s too late for my dishwasher, but I would be devastated to lose the washing machine. Thanks for the warning! This is all about finding sustainable solutions, and sometimes that means giving up a dream.

Leave a Reply to Trisha Walker Cancel reply