What Is Zero-Waste Cooking, and How Do You Do It?

For many individuals, cooking, consuming, and sharing meals with family members are a few of life’s best pleasures.

Yet, for these of us who’re involved with the well being of the planet, cooking and consuming aren’t with out issues. The quantity of waste created by meals manufacturing and preparation is likely one of the best points going through the sustainability of our meals system.

At the identical time, inventive options to meals waste are on the rise. Through efforts to compost meals scraps and remove single-use plastics, eating places, cooks, and sustainability organizations are testing out new methods to scale back meals waste.

Zero-waste cooking is an motion you possibly can take in your house, too. With a little bit of planning and follow, you possibly can scale back waste out of your meals and have a extra sustainable kitchen.

This article explains what zero-waste cooking is and learn how to get began.

The notion of zero-waste cooking is nearly as literal because it sounds — it means attempting to go away behind as little meals and packaging waste as potential when cooking and consuming.

A zero-waste lifestyle can even lengthen previous the kitchen. Some folks apply comparable waste-reducing ideas to clothes, magnificence and wellness merchandise, and extra.

One approach to think about zero-waste cooking is by way of the outdated dictum “scale back, reuse, recycle.” It includes the next:

  • Reduce. Use much less of — or do with out — pointless components. Cook smaller parts to keep away from extreme leftovers.
  • Reuse. Repurpose meals scraps as a substitute of throwing them out. Use reusable containers to buy foods in bulk.
  • Recycle. Compost leftover meals scraps. Buy meals from meals rescue organizations that be sure that farmed produce doesn’t go to waste.

These are only a few of the steps you would possibly soak up a zero-waste kitchen.

Is it actually potential?

It could not all the time be potential to remove each final little bit of waste out of your meals. The construction of our present meals provide and the abundance of processed meals makes this job extremely tough.

Opponents of zero-waste even argue that this way of life isn’t sensible.

They imagine that since some quantity of waste is a obligatory byproduct of economics and human consumption, it’s higher to concentrate on managing waste effectively as a substitute of attempting to remove it fully (1).

These arguments would possibly sound convincing on the floor, however the fact is, working towards a zero-waste way of life isn’t about being excellent — none of us are. Very few individuals are in a position to fully remove waste from their lives.

Rather, zero-waste cooking is a part of a better motion to dwell sustainably and reduce your impact on the planet. It’s about doing the most effective you possibly can with what assets you’ve got out there.


There are some ways to dwell a zero-waste way of life. Zero-waste cooking is one avenue that cooks, foodies, households, and people alike use to scale back the environmental impression of getting ready and consuming meals.

One of my favourite issues about zero-waste cooking is that it looks like a choice that advantages so many individuals and locations — my household, others in our group, and the planet.

I’ve observed it will probably additionally assist your pocketbook as you do extra within the kitchen with much less. Reducing your waste would possibly imply giving up sure issues you are able to do with out or making dishes by yourself relatively than shopping for them premade, each of which may save you money.

What’s extra, zero-waste cooking may be inventive, experimental, and downright enjoyable — although, ultimately, the principle cause why so many individuals try zero-waste cooking is as a result of it’s a easy technique to scale back their environmental impression.

Reduces meals waste

Current estimations for the way a lot meals goes to waste annually are astounding.

Though it’s laborious to pinpoint a precise quantity, researchers imagine that companies and people mixed throw away as a lot as 25–40% of all the food produced in the United States annually (2).

That’s practically 133 billion kilos (60.3 billion kg) of meals — price $161 billion (3).

In some circumstances, a single particular person would possibly waste as much as 660 kilos (300 kg) of meals over the course of 1 yr (4).

By repurposing meals scraps, doing all your greatest to not let meals spoil, and buying solely as a lot as you want, you possibly can lower down in your meals waste.

Reduces your use of plastics and packaging

Zero-waste cooking additionally reduces waste from meals packaging and serving containers, together with takeout packing containers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviews that greater than 23% — or practically 1 / 4 — of all trash despatched to landfills is packaging and containers, a major quantity of which is food-related, single-use plastics and different supplies that aren’t usually recycled (5).

Plus, rather more waste from meals packaging goes unaccounted for as litter that pollutes roads and waterways.

Zero-waste cooking reduces meals packaging through techniques like utilizing reusable containers to purchase in bulk, preserving your personal meals, utilizing fewer components, and making most of your meals at home.


Zero-waste cooking will not be solely enjoyable and thrifty but in addition advantages the planet by decreasing meals waste and the reliance on single-use takeout containers and disposable packaging.

Zero-waste residing is an idea that’s taken form over the previous 40 years or so.

Although no scientific proof instantly hyperlinks zero-waste cooking to raised human well being outcomes, it could profit your well being in a number of methods.

Aids environmental well being

When we throw meals away, it not solely wastes the meals itself but in addition the abundance of assets — together with water, vitality, land, and labor — that went into rising, getting ready, and distributing the meals.

Wasted meals can also be a serious contributor to greenhouse gasoline emissions. These gases take in warmth and entice it within the environment, which results in global warming.

When meals rots in landfills, it releases methane — a potent greenhouse gasoline even stronger than carbon dioxide (5).

The meals system as a complete contributes practically 13% of all greenhouse gasoline emissions annually. Wasted meals — that which spoils or is thrown away — accounts for practically 8% of gases (5, 6).

Thus, much less meals waste means fewer greenhouse gasoline emissions and a more healthy planet for all.

May enhance folks’s nutrient consumption

Less meals waste additionally means extra meals to go round for others.

Some cooks and entrepreneurs focus their zero-waste efforts on rescuing meals that will in any other case go to waste and redistributing it to folks of their group who’re in want or simply need to guarantee that good meals isn’t wasted.

Due to their perishable nature, many nutritious fruits and greens spoil earlier than they are often eaten (7).

Ensuring that these nutrient-dense meals are eaten as a substitute of discarded could assist others improve their consumption of health-promoting vitamins like nutritional vitamins and minerals.

Plus, by avoiding meals containers and packaging, chances are you’ll scale back your publicity to harmful chemicals used to make plastics and different food-grade supplies (8).


Though zero-waste cooking isn’t tied to particular well being advantages, it could not directly bolster well being by encouraging the consumption of complete meals, decreasing publicity to dangerous chemical compounds, and bettering the surroundings round us.

There are some ways to follow zero-waste cooking.

Each of us lives and eats inside distinctive circumstances. We have entry to numerous varieties of kitchens and cooking tools, eat on completely different schedules, and will have dietary wants and preferences to think about.

Thus, your zero-waste cooking strategies in all probability gained’t look the identical as others’. That’s to be anticipated — and even celebrated, as everybody has their very own methods of decreasing waste.

Here are 6 frequent zero-waste cooking strategies, although many extra exist. You could even develop your personal concepts after getting acquainted with the fundamentals.

1. Plan your meals

In my expertise, planning my meals is an important step to conserving a zero-waste kitchen.

Meal planning not solely means deciding what you’re going to eat through the week but in addition entails fascinated with how and whenever you’re going to organize your meals, in addition to the components you’ll want.

Many folks plan a whole week’s price of meals or extra relatively than someday’s, although the precise timeframe varies from individual to individual.

A couple of issues to think about when planning zero-waste meals are:

  • perishable meals in your cabinets that must be used quickly
  • recipes utilizing meals you should purchase in bulk
  • learn how to use the identical components throughout a number of meals
  • recipes that gained’t require obscure components that you just may not use once more
  • what serving dimension is manageable to your family
  • how long leftovers will keep

2. Think twice when consuming out

Knowing what you propose to eat lessens your possibilities of ordering takeout, which often is available in disposable containers and simply results in meals waste from extra-large parts.

Millions of tons of paper, plastic, and glass packaging find yourself in landfills annually. Though not all of that comes from takeout and restaurant meals, they’re definitely massive contributors. Around 45% of the supplies in landfills come from wasted meals and meals packaging (5, 9).

That’s to not say you possibly can’t ever order takeout whereas practising a zero-waste way of life.

In this point in time, busy schedules, social time with household or associates, or a want to help your favourite restaurant are all frequent causes to order in or exit to eat.

With a couple of small changes, you possibly can get pleasure from occasional takeout whereas minimizing waste. These embody:

  • being acutely aware of portion sizes
  • ordering dishes that gained’t go away you with leftovers
  • selecting eating places that provide compostable or biodegradable to-go containers
  • searching for out eating places that help zero-waste efforts, resembling meals donation
  • ordering instantly from a restaurant relatively than a meal-delivery service
  • bringing your personal reusable to-go containers
  • declining plastic utensils, luggage, and straws

3. Repurpose what you possibly can

Finding methods to reuse leftovers, scraps, and neglected elements of fruits and veggies, resembling stems or peels, could also be some of the thrilling elements of zero-waste cooking. In my expertise, it’s the step that leaves probably the most room for culinary creativity.

It could also be daunting initially, however a giant part of zero-waste cooking is experimenting. The extra you’re employed with repurposing meals, the extra assured you’ll change into.

Plus, you possibly can repurpose meals scraps in an infinite variety of methods. Here are a couple of:

  • Sauté or make pesto with veggie leaves and stems.
  • Use leftover bones, meat, and veggie scraps to make broth.
  • Freeze cheese rinds and use them to taste soups.
  • Juice leftover fruit and veggie scraps.
  • Season and roast squash seeds.
  • Replant roots or trimmings from onions, celery, lettuces, and different veggies you possibly can regrow.
  • Use coffee grounds and eggshells for backyard fertilizer.
  • Use fruit peels to infuse oils, vinegars, and bitters.

4. Compost what you possibly can’t reuse

Composting is a course of by which pure natural matter is was nutrient-rich soil. It’s additionally a good way to maintain meals scraps out of landfills.

All it takes to get began is a compost bin or an space in your yard the place you possibly can eliminate scraps.

Composting is a good way to recycle leftover (10):

  • vegetables and fruit
  • eggshells
  • espresso grounds
  • tea luggage

However, not all scraps may be composted. If you’re frightened about rodents or flies entering into your compost pile, keep away from including meals like (10):

  • dairy
  • meats
  • bones
  • oils and different fat

5. Shop with zero-waste cooking in thoughts

When I first began attempting to zero-waste cook dinner, I realized it’s necessary to get in the precise mindset earlier than stepping foot within the kitchen. In different phrases, a lot of zero-waste cooking really begins with planning and procuring.

Making considerate selections on the retailer has simply as a lot impression on waste as the selections you make at residence.

Some straightforward methods to zero-waste store embody:

  • bringing your personal luggage
  • shopping for in bulk when potential
  • avoiding objects with pointless packaging

Paying close attention to expiration dates and estimating the shelf lifetime of any perishable meals you propose to purchase are equally as necessary.

You can even analysis meals rescue organizations in your group. Food rescue teams work with farmers, distributors, and grocery shops to save lots of meals that will in any other case be thrown out, as a substitute redistributing it at inexpensive prices.

6. Store meals for max shelf life

Although we intend to eat the meals we purchase, generally it inevitably spoils whereas sitting on the counter or at the back of the fridge. We’ve all been there earlier than.

It could appear primary, however storing meals correctly is an oft-overlooked technique to delay the shelf-life of perishable meals.

To retailer meals correctly, preserve your fridge and counter tops clear in order that they’re freed from micro organism or different microbes that might trigger meals to rot faster. If you discover meals starting to spoil, instantly separate it from the remainder of your meals in order that the micro organism don’t unfold.

It can also be greatest to go forward and eat meals that appears as if it gained’t final for much longer.

However, if meals has grown mold, turned mushy, or begun to scent, you shouldn’t eat it. Even in a zero-waste kitchen, it’s higher to compost or repurpose what you possibly can relatively than threat getting sick from consuming spoiled meals.

If your fridge has humidity-controlled crisper drawers, storing meals within the applicable drawer is a good suggestion. You can even preserve meals you may not use fairly often, resembling flour or nuts for baking, within the fridge or freezer to increase their freshness.

7. Preserve your personal meals

Preserving meals which will spoil quickly, or that you’ve an excessive amount of of to start with, is a tried-and-true technique to make meals last more.

The commonest varieties of preserving achieved at residence are:

  • Freezing: fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, and so on.
  • Pickling: cucumbers, carrots, inexperienced beans, squash, and so on.
  • Canning: jams, jellies, applesauce, tomato sauce, corn, apples, peaches, and so on.
  • Dehydrating: fruits, greens, legumes, grains, meats, and so on.


Zero-waste cooking begins with planning your meals, after which you’ll decide learn how to cook dinner and eat the meals you purchase whereas forsaking as little waste as potential.

Reducing the waste generated from meals and snacks is a good way to reduce your environmental footprint and help good well being and correct dietary consumption.

You can begin with small modifications like shopping for meals in bulk, taking your personal luggage to the shop, and consuming any and all leftovers.

That’s simply the tip of the iceberg, as zero-waste cooking includes a broad set of sustainability efforts that may be as easy or as advanced as you’d like.

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