Since we’ve been trying to reduce our waste, we’ve also tested lots of recipes and tips to lower our waste. Some of them were great and have become parts of our routine, and others, were, well, not so great. Keep in mind that it’s only our experience, and that you might end up loving what we hate and vice-versa!! The best way to know is to try and see what works for you!!
Not so great recipes/tips:
- Homemade Soda: that was a big letdown. I tried to make my own soda (I have now no idea why since we don’t drink soda, but at the time making my own hibiscus soda seemed like a terrific idea). The part where I made a ginger bug was okay. Then came the soda part and that wasn’t so easy. The liquid separated, with strange scoby-like things floating around. On the 3d day, the daily burping ended up in a messy explosion of a foul-smelling, purple concoction. I have no idea what went wrong, but I won’t be trying that again. (I won’t be making any kombucha either: I tried to buy a little bottle at my grocery store to see what the hype was about. Slightly sweet vinegar? Ew, no, thanks).
- Vinegar made from fruit scraps: on the plus side, it’s very easy to do. On the downside, it’s not very ‘vinegary’ in taste, and we simply didn’t like it. I won’t be doing it again, but if you like a vinegar that’s more sweet than sour, it might be for you!
- Sponges made from mesh produce bags: Sometimes I can’t find loose onions or lemons, and I end up with those weird mesh plastic bags. I tried to reuse them by scrubbing my pans and dishes with them. That was a big miss. It’s messy, doesn’t hold soap and is all around not easy to use.
- No-poo routine: okay it’s probably not fair of me to put it there because I don’t actually know if it works: I couldn’t go one month without washing my hair. It looks awful, my scalp was itchy, and I gave up. And I can’t use baking soda on my scalp, it’s too rough. I’ve settled for a ‘low-poo’ routine that works quite well: I wash my hair every 5/6 days, with a gentle shampoo that I find in my local organic store. It also works for my kids (they have very different hair, so one washes her hair twice a week, the other only once).
‘Meh’ recipes and tips:
- Tawashi / cloth sponges: the tawashi sponges are easy to make with old clothes, and quite a fun activity for rainy afternoons with kids. They’re okay to wipe bathroom sinks and smooth surfaces. They’re definitely not great for washing dishes or scrubbing anything really dirty.
- Sourdough bread: as a French person, I take bread very seriously. We eat bread every day, and not pasty white Wonderbread. We like good bread with texture and amazing crust, real baguettes and good sourdough bread. I’ve been making bread for a while, and decided to step up my game by making sourdough bread. My sourdough starter (named Agatha) is doing okay. The results with the bread are more inconsistent. I can get a near perfect loaf one day, and something that looks like a brick the next. It’s always edible, thank Gaïa, but not always the best experience. I haven’t given up (because I’m hard-headed like all women of my family), but it’s definitely a challenge!
- Food waste app: I have downloaded a French version (called ‘Too Good To Go’) and it works quite well. The app shows me the avalaible food to save from restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries in the area. My main complaint is that despite the app’s advice that you should bring your own container and bag, the restaurants and stores always have the food already wrapped when you come get it. So… food saved from the business’ garbage, but unnecessary package in my own… And of course, you can’t choose the food, so it’s not exactly ideal for vegetarians or vegans!
- Baking Soda in place of toothpaste: I put it in ‘meh’ because I suppose it could suit some people. I couldn’t get used to the feel and taste, and I felt like it was too abrasive for my teeth. We are using a toothpaste (no fluor, no titanium dyoxide) that comes in a metal tube.
Great recipes and tips:
- Chocolate Syrup and Vanilla Extract: those two recipes are easy and excellent staples to have!! You’ll find excellent recipes at the Zero-Waste Chef!
- Yoghurt: my kids love yoghurt, and my youngest has one every morning. I bought a yoghurt machine years ago, with glass containers. I make one or two batches a week without fail, it’s very easy, rather economic, and you avoid the plastic containers!
- Homemade Granola: that one is a favourite of mine! My kids and my husband eat cereal, and I used to buy granola at the organic store. It costs a lot, comes in plastic bags, and is often very, very sweet. I make my own using Now&Gen recipe for granola bars: I just add 1/2 more cup of oats (without changing the rest), and I skip the first roasting of the oats & seeds. I also replace the chocolate chips with 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa. It’s easy to make, way cheaper than store-bought granola, frankly delish, and a sneaky way to make my kids eat seeds (hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and grounded flax seeds!)
- Cloth bags, bee wax wrap and cloth bowl covers: we’ve been using cloth bags for 3 or 4 years now, without any issue. We bring them to the farmer’s market, to the bakery (where we’re now known as ‘the cloth bag people’) and to the organic grocery store. I hope to see a bulk store soon in the neighborhood! I also made bee wax wrap and cloth bowl covers, and both are an easy swap (and a cheap one if you made them yourself) for cling wrap!
- Non-dairy milks: we consume some dairy at home, but only as cheeses and yoghurt: my youngest and I don’t like to drink milk, and my husband doesn’t digest cow milk unless it’s fermented. I used to buy alternatives in Tetra-Pak bricks, but I’ve found it’s super easy to make your own! We now make oat and hazelnut milk (both are grown locally and are rather environnementally friendly which is a plus!), and I often add a couple of macadamia nuts to the milk for a creamier result! I only buy (locally-grown, non GMO) soy milk once a week to make crepes. I highly recommend hazelnut milk with a splash of the above mentionned chocolate syrup for a delicious hot chocolate!
- Veggie Broth from Scraps: this sounds a bit weird but it’s actually very good! Freeze your scraps (carrot and other root veggie and onion ends, old garlic gloves, bits of cabbages…) until you have enough, cook them in water with a pinch of salt, drain, and voilà!
- Homemade Deodorant: that’s a huge hit in our home. My husband says he’s never used such a great deodorant, I love it as well, and it’s also super cheap. 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup arrow-root OR cornstarch, and 10 drops of essential oils (only if you want to! I use palmarosa and peppermint). I store it in a former baby food container, and it lasts very long! It’s a cream/paste consistency that you apply directly with your fingers. In the summer if it’s really, really hot, I store it in the fridge.
- Pressure cooker beans: that one is a super tip. We eat a lot of kidney beans and chickpeas, but cans are wasteful and expensive if you compare with bulk dry beans. And cooking dry beans in water is long, nerve-wracking, and disappointing. The solution? Ye good old pressure cooker! Soak the beans overnight. Drain, put them in your pressure cooker and cover with water, a pinch of salt and eventually herbs (I like to add a bay leaf), close the cooker and put on medium/high heat. Once it joyfully whistles, cook for 10mn. And done!! Delicious, flavourful and perfectly cooked beans!
Bonus tip: cloth wipes. I’ve been using cloth wipes to remove my occasional make-up and apply rose water for years. It’s a no-brainer, really. It’s easy to use and to wash, and cheap – same thing for tissues, we simply use handcherkiefs when at home. When my girls were little, I also used cloth diapers and cloth wipes, and it worked perfectly well. Those wipes are now used in place of toilet paper… for #1 only. We use (recycled) toilet paper for #2. But with 3 girls home, this tip has certainly helped us to reduce our toilet paper consumption by 2/3! I simply wash the dirty wipes once a week with our towels, since there’s no issue of contamination. I know people aren’t usually fans of middle ground, but this is I think a solution that could work long term for a lot of people!
What are your best low-waste tips so far?? Share them in the comments!
Until next time, folks!