Zero-Waste Your Space Part 1: The Coolest Place in the House…the Refrigerator

Sometimes I think to myself, is this blog really helpful? Does anyone really want to read this? I often feel like I am probably writing about things that people already know and do. I mean, doesn’t everyone use a reusable water bottle by now?! The answer is a hard NO.

In my day-to-day world, I work for a little known grocery store with a Hawaiian theme. Although the company has much to work on green-wise, I am proud of the steps they have taken so far to be better for the earth – including recycling, composting, and bringing in compostable produce and flower bags. They also donate thousands of dollars worth of food and flowers. I will also say that my wonderful crew members care deeply about the earth and show that on a regular basis. I work with a lot of hardworking, amazing people, so I guess this is what surprises me so much when I take into account how many plastic/single use water bottles are consumed by our crew all the time. Here’s the thing though – we can still be great, well meaning people and still make the wrong choice for the earth. I am NOT excluded in this at all!

The moment that made me realize this; and made me feel like my writing still matters was a wee one. A coworker of mine kindly suggested that we add a case of water to the cooler for the crew, given that it was going to be very hot that day. Truth be told it can get really warm when greeting customers at the door and while gathering carts, so it was a natural request and a kind one for our crew. I honestly cringed inside a little bit at the thought of the single use plastic water bottles knowing that many of the bottles would be accidentally placed into the trash instead of the recycling. But, I get it…it’s hot out, people need water and our store can provide that. However, only minutes later, a coworker of mine spoke up, seemingly bewildered, asking how everyone could survive the day without a reusable water bottle? A few chuckled and said that they just buy one…EVERY DAY. Just….like buying a water bottle every day is no big deal. I wondered to myself how many that added up to in a month, or even a year? I know this may not seem like a big deal to many, but it really struck me.

Photo by Sara Groblechner on Unsplash

Many months ago, our store/company had installed a filtered water system with a separate spout for our break room sink, so that everyone can fill up their water bottles. What an awesome change right?! So, does everyone know about said water system? Yes. Does everyone use it? No. Why, you ask? I honestly don’t know. Naturally people may forget their reusable water bottles sometimes, but that’s not really what were talking about here.

This was sadly an aha moment for me, I felt a little defeated. If people don’t feel inclined to use a simple, reusable water bottle how will any major changes be made? I recognize that I come from a place of privilege – being able to afford a glass water bottle and having access to filtered, clean water. However, I don’t believe that the affordability of a reusable water bottle is the main reason that most people don’t use it. It was then and there that I decided to look more inward and focus more on myself and what I could control (at least for now). I decided to focus this post on ways that I can work on making my own life more zero waste – starting with the coolest place in the house…my refrigerator. We find that we have to clean out our refrigerator and throw things out more regularly than I would like to admit so I thought this was a good starting point. It’s my hope that this post will inspire you and others to make some changes to your refrigerator too!

*Please keep in mind that mistakes are natural and we are not looking for perfection, just progress. We’ve been working on zero wasting our own lifestyle for a while now, but some things just haven’t fully stuck yet and we’ll keep trying.

Less Waste > Doing Nothing

If you’re anything like me, hot days (with no AC in the kitchen) and a whiny but adorable one year old, do not inspire me to always make the healthiest decisions in the kitchen. This goes for my waste consumption as well. I have found myself being a little bit more lazy lately and Covid-19’s temporary restrictions on reusable containers for bulk did not make things easier. With all that in mind, and lots to work on, I wanted to focus on the three things I am going to be doing to lessen the waste in my refrigerator: meal preparation, making coffee creamer, and no packaged foods/make your own condiments when possible.

But first, how many people feel this way? I love to cook, but sometimes I really wish I had a private chef – or maybe a magic wand. This is one of my favorite memes across the internet:

Meal prepping

It can have so many benefits. It makes what’s for dinner an easy answer. You only buy what you need (instead of questioning what’s in the pantry), less food waste, and tends to be healthier when planned. When we plan our meals in our house, we enjoy our meals more and almost always have enough leftovers for lunch for the week.

Make your own coffee creamer

Vegan coffee creamer is a guilty pleasure of mine. I do not like my coffee black and although I can drink it with an oat/nut milk, I enjoy it much more when I have creamer. The one that I love comes in a smaller, non recyclable package which equals more waste. I have made my own coffee creamer in the past with coconut milk and vanilla extract, but it wasn’t enough to keep me away from store bought. Here are a few recipes that I am going to try out to see which one sticks.

Buy no-packaging/plastic-free/bulk whenever possible

BYO container (even if it’s a little more annoying)! When buying loose produce, don’t use plastic – use cloth/reusable produce bags whenever possible. As I am ringing people through the register at work, I watch so many bananas and avocados come through within produce bags (pre Covid as well). These items have tough skin that protects them. Can someone tell me why this happens? I’m not judging, just generally curious about why these items go into produce bags. Are we afraid the avocados will go rolling down a hill within the big bag? Maybe it’s because I’m not as organized as most people? Unfortunately, I lack that gene. Is there something I’m missing or are we just so conditioned to put items in a bag…just because?

Condiments

When buying condiments, try to only buy condiments in glass or make your own when possible. I struggle with buying more condiments when I don’t necessarily need them. Sometimes I’ll buy a new salad dressing without having finished the old one and the next thing you know, the dressing is out of date. Is your refrigerator door overstocked with a million things too, or is it just me? I find I enjoy salad dressings the most when I make them homemade – a little bit of olive oil, mustard, s&p, garlic powder and vegan mayo can create some true magic. It also saves me money and I waste less.

I’ll let you know how my DIY creamer goes and next time you hear from me. I will be the proud owner of a very clean refrigerator with less packaging and more mason jars stocked with homemade BBQ sauce! Check the blog out again next month with Zero-Waste Your Space Part 2: Cleaning Out Your Closet and De-Cluttering – Let’s Get Minimal!

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