10 Pantry and Kitchen Hacks to Lower Your Environmental Impact

Small changes add up to make a big difference!

Super easy changes that make a difference to the planet. Illustration by author, logo courtesy of Veganuary.

2020 what a year it has been, a relentless bombardment of madness leaving most of us feeling exhausted at best.
So it’s understandable that saving the planet is probably not something that has been at the top of many of our lists of objectives.

You know what? That’s ok!

But now we are nearing the end, and we are starting to think about the future and resolutions, so this seems a good time to share what we can do differently to help the planet and it’s not as difficult as you might think.

The key point to remember is that lots of little changes add up to make a big impact, so even if you only try one new thing from this list, you are already making a difference.

That’s all it takes!

So let’s get started with the most important one:

1. Don’t Buy That Thing You *Think* You Need!

Possibly the most frustrating and most common misconception is that to be successful at lowering your impact you are going to have to go out and buy some stuff first. This could not be further from the truth.

If you want to be more environmentally conscious, you should be diligently considering the necessity of every single purchase you make, and rewarding yourself for making do with what you already own.

I know so many people who have just thrown out all their straws, in place of beautiful aesthetic bamboo, replaced all the plastic containers in their houses with glass ones, this behaviour is contributing to the problem. Yes, I know you’re excited about your planet-saving mission, yes it’s tempting to abandon everything you own for new and better options, but the key here is to use up what you have first and then replace it. This is the least wasteful option.


2. Reduce Your Meat and Dairy Intake / Try Veganuary

A lot of people don’t know that the animal agriculture industry is the number one contributor to greenhouse gasses. I certainly didn’t until a few years back. This means cutting down on meat and dairy consumption can have a positive impact on the planet.

It’s a little unrealistic to demand that the entire world adopts a vegan lifestyle, but it’s not unrealistic to try it out for a month. Veganuary is where people are encouraged to spend January trying out veganism, and removing all animal products from their life.

It might sound terrifying, but it’s not, I promise! Just make sure you are stocked up on lots of yummy veggies and fruit, pantry staples like pasta, rice, beans and pulses, and you will be surprised at how easy it is. We tried it out after being vegetarians for over 20 years; three years later and we remain vegan.

There are lots of other positive outcomes too — with the most standard reports being weight loss, better sleep and more energy. Surely that’s a good reason to give it a shot if nothing else?

If Veganuary sounds a little too daunting, don’t fret, even cutting back on meat or dairy consumption counts, and remember it’s not just a benefit for the planet and animals, it’s scientifically proven to be good for you too!


Here is the meal and shopping planner I created, please feel free to use and share — hopefully, it’s helpful to you too! I have linked the full version and also a black and white version here. Illustration by author.

3. Plan Your Meals and Cook at Home

Try planning out your meals ahead of time. I know this can be tricky when you are a busy working human with a tonne of commitments; I created myself the simple planner above that I use to help me organise my meals.
I have it on my iPad, and a print out in my diary so I can just scribble down ideas as inspiration comes to me. I find it helpful to see each day alongside each other, then I can identify which ingredients cross over from one recipe to the next and what shopping I need to do and when.

Normally, by the time it gets to the weekend my meals are pretty much mapped out for the week ahead. There are many good things about planning the week’s food in advance; it definitely helps me to minimalise waste, makes it easier to prep, coordinate, and also means if I am off out doing something, my partner knows what we are eating and can just crack on with making the meal.


Illustration by author.

4. Buy Reduced Items

Yes, the food that gets reduced in the supermarket and grocery stores has passed it’s sell-by date, but not it’s consumption date. There seems to be a bit of a stigma attached to buying these reduced items, but you should know that the sell-by date is a pretty conservative recommendation and depending on what the product is, there can be a significant gap between that date and when the food actually expires.

Shopping for food that is close to its expiry date is a great way to help stop your local store from throwing it out, it’s also a great way to get some cool things at heavily discounted prices. My partner used to call it yellow sticker bingo and would come home beaming with all of the exciting bargains he had found. You will also often find damaged items, they might be in broken or dented packaging, they’re considered less desirable and knocked down for a quick sale, but often the damage is only cosmetic, so don’t be put off!


5. Buy Imperfect

https://www.imperfectfoods.com/

You can now buy imperfect fruit and vegetables, I have linked imperfect foods, but check your local area for similar. These are the guys that weren’t considered pretty enough to go into the generic grocery display, your extra fat carrot, or your deformed tomato. If like many, you are more interested in how your food tastes than how it looks, you can use a company like this to get a massive reduction in price and, once again your impact from buying up this stock can be what stops it from ending up in the landfill.


If you are lucky enough to have access to a bulk buy/scoop and weigh type shop then this is one of the best ways to consume. Illustration by author.

6. Bulk Buy

If you are not bulk buying your basics yet; things like dry food, tea, coffee, nuts, beans and pulses, why not? If you can buy a big sack of rice, or better still take your jar/bottle/container somewhere to be filled with rice, you are saving on transport, so carbon emissions, resources, and packaging. It’s a great way to eliminate unnecessary waste. There are tonnes of resources for this type of store and some even offer delivery and the collection of containers to be refilled. Check your local area to find what‘s available.


7. Think About Your Wrapping and Baking Tray Liners

I was guilty of wrapping everything in cling film then just throwing it away *please forgive me* I had an epiphany; how wasteful, how terrible — all that plastic! The problem with cling film (plastic wrap) is because of its very nature it can be quite tricky to reuse. Foil can be washed and reused several times before recycling at end of life. You can use greaseproof paper multiple times too, just give it a wipe down, let it dry and you’re good to go. As we have begun to run out of things like cling film we have been replacing packaging with better options; waxed wraps for things like cheese, silicon bags for the freezer and fridge, along with silicon trays for baking. It will take some time before we can completely phase these things out but we are slowly getting there.


You too can embrace jam jar drinking vessels! Illustration by author.

8. Glass, Card and Metal Packaging

This one does take a bit of discipline, but once you get used to it you’ll be tapping and shaking everything in the store like a lunatic. (Not just for fun, it’s to make sure the packaging is not doubled up and is recyclable or reusable) Look for sauces and oils in glass bottles, beans in tins, pasta and rice in cardboard, flour in paper and so on. If you are buying something like pasta or grain in a box, give it a shake and you should be able to tell if there is an additional plastic wrapper inside. By being diligent about what you are buying, you are forcing the supermarkets to consider making changes for the better. Keep hold of your glass bottles and jars so you can use them for other things, don’t forget you can stick them in the dishwasher to strip the labels off then you too can drink your smoothie out of a jamjar like a hipster.


9. Vegetable Tops (And bottoms)

You know when you get your veggies from the greengrocer, the market, or better still your garden, you’ll often find things like carrots or beetroot with their leaves still intact. Don’t throw them away! You can eat them, they are delicious in salads. You can also grow new leaves from the tops, just put into a shallow tray of water, somewhere sunny (windowsill is ideal) and wait for them to sprout. This also works with things like spring onions (green onions/scallions) you just chop off the white hairy stalks, put them in water and they grow brand new green tops! This is quite magical and a great one to do as a project with kids (or grownups).


It’s really not that hard to grow your own fruit and veg — If I can do it, anyone can. Illustration by author.

10. Grow Your Own

I love gardening, I am rubbish at it, but I enjoy it and there is nothing better than planting a seed which then grows into something, especially if it’s something I can eat. You don’t even need to buy anything to do this, most of your fruit and veg come with seeds and stones included. Don’t throw them out, take those seeds from your lemon, apple, or tomato, and all you need is a little bit of space on the window sill and some soil. In fact, you don’t even need soil; a sponge will do the trick. Really! It’s amazing — check out the link here to see how you can do this!


So there you have it, I hope there is at least one thing on that list that’s new for you to try out. The most important tool in lowering anyone’s impact is their brain! If you can start reprogramming yourself to ask if you really need to buy something, or if it is really garbage, then soon this way of thinking becomes normal.

Have a super new year!


For even more tips and tricks on how to lower your impact check out these articles:

https://www.imperfectfoods.com/

https://www.imperfectfoods.com/

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