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How I Eco-Hack My Kitchen – A Green Goddess Series

In my household eating is a much-beloved activity and cleaning is most definitely  not. In this series on eco-kitchen hacks, I (Tamara) will be focusing on my attempts at green kitchen living. I will share with you my tried and tested tips – from how to eat sustainably, to where I buy food for me and my husband, to food storage and food waste, and of course the ever-dreaded cleaning.

In this post, I will be focusing on five easy and sustainable changes I have made. So, as they sing in Oliver, let’s get started with Food, Glorious Food, magical Food, Wonderful Food!

Man eating strawberries and cream

  1. Buy Sustainable & Certified Foods

fair trade Madagascan cacao bag

My requirement of food is simple –  I want the food I eat to cause me transcendental bliss, to tickle my tastebuds into spasms of delight, to satisfy my stomach and my mind. Surely that’s not asking for much?

What I do not want to taste is worry and guilt in every bite about the unfair treatment of producers and farmers, horrific animal welfare, industrial-scale deforestation, overfishing, air miles, and pollution, and the overall negative ecological impact – ain’t nobody got time for that!

This is why, wherever possible, I buy certified and sustainable food that can relieve both my conscience and my hunger. Whatever your food preferences, whether you are a meat-lover, meat reducer, pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan or fruitarian (not an exhaustive list!) – my first nugget of green wisdom is to be on the lookout for food produced to certified and traceable standards, ideally that goes above and beyond the legal minimum.

Logos and marks I look out for include Fairtrade, the green frog of Rainforest Alliance, the bluefish of MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), RSPCA Assured, Free Range and Soil Association Organic.

Yes, some certified foods can be more expensive as there are higher welfare and environmental standards involved with the farmers and producers are being paid a fair living wage. Yes, I have to make choices and yes, compromises also have to be made. This is why I have my ‘non-negotiables’ and my  ‘if-money-allows’.

My non-negotiables include free range eggs, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance bananas and coffee, MSC fish and seafood, and free-range or RSPCA-assured meats.

If money allows, I have organic eggs, vegetables, meat and cheese, and Fairtrade flowers and wine for when I am feeling fancy.

And finally, I always buy local if that option is available to me – this Christmas I had family visiting from Trinidad and so as it was a special occasion, I splashed out on a local free-range goose for them from the family-run Ashford Farm near Petersfield. I won’t lie, it was expensive but (I am assured) delicious and so worth it!  I also regularly buy fresh produce from my local Milton Market greengrocers Portsmouth Fruit and Flowers who stock veg and flowers from Titchfield. My Titchfield-grown daffodils from them are nodding happily to me as I type!

Basket of Daffodils

So whether it is choosing Fairtrade bananas in your a weekly food shop, or making the choice to buy RSPCA ham from Lidl or MSC certified fish fingers from Tesco’s or buying locally grown sprouts and daffodils from Portsmouth Fruit and Flowers greengrocers; each ethical, sustainable and local choice you make means an unsustainable food item is being left on the shelf. And that my friends, is the power of consumer choice. Boom!

For more information on the various certifications I mentioned and many that I didn’t, I found this list on the Love British Food website useful.

 

  1. Make Your Own Bread

Bread Rolls

Keeping on the topic of food, mine is a bread-loving household as the Dutchman (my husband) would eat bread for every meal if he could. Bread with cheese, bread with peanut butter, bread with chocolate spread – I think I’m married to a man-child!

Last February 2017, he was gifted a bread machine from a kind friend and it has seriously changed our lives! He makes a bread every 2 days and as we no longer buy shop-bread, we no longer have to deal with the plastic bags they come in, thus reducing our plastic waste. I salute those who make bread by hand – we tried it a few times and failed miserably. I’m happy with the convenience of the bread machine, for us it’s revolutionary!

 

  1. Use cloth napkins

cloth napkin with flowers and cutlery

Another small change that has helped reduce the amount of waste we produce is using cloth napkins instead of paper kitchen roll.

I am a mucky pup and spillages are a common occurrence. Cloth napkins are reusable, can be chucked in with my laundry, and it looks fancy shmancy!

I sourced mine from charity shops and my Mum who had more cloth napkins than one person could ever need. I have greatly reduced my (FSC and recycled) paper towel usage as I just use tea towels or cloth napkins instead.

 

  1. (Re) Fill Your Own

refill spice jars

As a prolific user of herbs and spices (smoked paprika makes everything taste yum!), I was delighted to find I can refill my spice jars at Wild Thyme Wholefoods who offer an amazing self-service for herbs and spices as well as a refill service for laundry and washing up liquid.

I recently refilled my Ecover laundry and washing liquid at Southsea Health Shop and it was cheaper than Tescos! Trust me, I checked! This does require a tiny bit more planning, and I am aiming to have one bottle in use and one pre-filled under the sink so I don’t run out and have to do a supermarket dash.

 

  1. Composting

compost heap

I have been lucky that the majority of places I’ve lived in here in Pompey had outdoor space for a compost bin. I compost all uncooked fruit and veg peelings and for years had been also innocently including tea bags made from polypropyleneNow if I am unsure if the material of the tea bag is made from plastic, I just add the tea leaves to the compost and discard the bag. I am currently working my way through a back-supply of tea bags and will be moving onto loose tea to save myself those 5 seconds of extra work.

Other than that, I just throw in my veg scraps every few days with some newspaper and let the compost do its magic. I might aerate it once a year if it’s lucky, but the rest is up to the worms! So far, so good! Though eggshells and coffee grounds can also be added to the compost, I add these to my garden as snail and slug deterrents. Those little bastards eat everything except the bloody weeds!

For those of us in flats or with no outdoor space, you could experiment a wormery or bokashi bin. Years ago,  I used to have a bokashi bin, but was too lazy to look after it properly and so it went horribly wrong. I’ve been thinking I might give it another go as you can add almost all food waste in a bokashi bin including cooked food. I need to research it first as it needs to be convenient for my lazy ass!

Alternatively- or as well as- find a friend or neighbour with a compost bin who you can donate your organic waste to! Try signing up with ShareWaste, a free app that links together people with organic scraps with people who have compost bins, wormeries, or chickens. So far, there are only a few of us in the Pompey area on there, but the word is getting out there, so sign up! Coincidentally, the first request I received was from someone who has the fermented organic waste from her bokashi bin to donate to my compost.

In this post , have just scratched the surface on the many small changes that I have made to green-ify my kitchen. What green kitchen tips do you have? Do you compost and if so,  do you just chuck it all in and hope for the best like me? Have you signed up to ShareWaste or know of any other similar useful apps? Let us know in the comments below.