10 Steps to a Sustainable Kitchen

This is part of a Sustainable Kitchen presentation I did for Planet Home last year. I found it while cleaning things out but it’s still as timely and accurate as ever. Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. Stop looking for commercial solutions to ease your guilt. Just buck up and do it.

1. Stop Wasting Food (or water, or energy for that matter)
Did you know that 40% of all food goes to waste? And rather than getting a rain barrel or solar panels how about you just cut back on your consumption? Not only is decreasing consumption free – it will save you money. Reducing spending is actually better than making money because it saves you from paying tax on that money!! Sustainable and fiscally responsible. Look at you go!

2. Eat more nutrient dense food
You’ll consume less of it, and reduce your garbage at the same time. Did you know that nutritionally-bereft food is the most packaged food there is? It just means more poop and more garbage – you don’t need either one!

3. Garden year round, and eat seasonally
Stop trying to preserve everything in sight – eat winter squash and kale in winter and strawberries and zucchini in summer. You’ll appreciate it all that much more when you only eat it in season.

4. If you don’t garden, consider getting a local, organic CSA
This helps reduce monocrop faring and GM foods, and supports food security in your local economy. If everyone did this it would change the shape of modern agriculture.

5. Learn to ferment, culture dairy and cure meats
This is a great, no electricity-required way to preserve perishable foods until spring. You won’t need to buy those emergency supply kits with their freeze dried meals – you’ll be ready to feed your whole block!

6. Trade surplus produce with friends and neighbors, or donate it to food banks
Don’t let large bounties go to waste and create pest and disease problems!

7. Compost kitchen and garden scraps and turn your past-prime foods into garden gold. This reduces your yard waste and strengthens the web of life in your yard (the good web – the one that keeps down pests and plagues and things.)

8. Get chickens, rabbits or worms (or all three!)
Before becoming garden gold, those food scraps could become eggs, or meat. The synergy between rabbits, chickens and worms is amazing. The rabbits will spill alfalfa pellets (or poop the partially digested alfalfa), the chickens will eat any form of alfalfa on the ground, reducing the amount of chicken feed you need to buy, rabbit and chicken feces will feed composting worms and the worms and any fly larvae will feed the chickens. It’s so cyclical it will blow your mind. And you will get meat and eggs for half the amount feed.

9. Buy a grain grinder and learn to make your own baked goods.
You and your local grain farmers will be healthier for it. And when I say baked goods, I mean that middle 1/3 of the grocery store. Crackers, cereal, breads, buns, cookies. It represents more of your grocery bill than you realize, more of your middle-aged spread than you care to notice, the majority of your garbage, and most of the food preservatives and flavor “enhancers” the industry so loves to pawn off on your kids.

10. Buy local, pastured meats and learn to use the whole animal. Nothing goes to waste. No feed lots to support. No recalls to watch. Find caring farmers who raise happy and healthy animals (or raise your own backyard meats.)

8 Responses to 10 Steps to a Sustainable Kitchen

  1. My mother loves her hand cranked grain mill. I haven’t converted, but the thought of combining human power with food production always appeals!

    My other comment is that nutrient dense food tends to have MORE fiber. So, you’ll have less trash but not necessarily less sewage. How about a composting toilet? However, you will likely have a healthier body weight and it will require less energy (fossil fuels) to transport you, and the need to build new structures that accomodate larger bodies might be nipped in the bud. If we all ate nutrient dense foods…

  2. Can you tell me more about the chicken/rabbit/worm thing? Just how do you set this up?

  3. I love having the chickens – I work very hard not to waste food but sometimes I have stuff that could be composted but I give to the chickens. I don’t feel guilty about not eating every little thing – we scrape our plates right into the “chicken bowl”.
    I am curious about the rabbit /chicken thing too.

  4. Excellent post! My husband and I were just talking about how much less garbage we create than we did once upon a time ago. It’s a combination of watching what we purchase (and how it comes to us) more, better recycling, and our composting is more intensive since we added the hens to our homestead. Worms are next!

  5. Stephanie have you seen the bike powered grain mills? So cool! And I dream of a composting toilet. Nutrient dense food actually has less fiber, it’s the grains and other “empty” things that contain the fiber. Meat, eggs, dairy, fats all have very little fiber. And the less grains I eat the less I battle with middle aged spread, which seems to be trying to catch me this year since I was so sedentary writing all winter!
    Yolanda and Christy, I have a small worm bin under each rabbit cage, all inside the chicken run. I put partly finished compost in the bins. Rabbits pea in the perimeter of their cages but poop all over. The feeder is attached to the perimeter as well. Their alfalfa (a nutrient dense pellet) spills into the chicken run and some of their poop lands outside the worm bin as well. The worms love it, the chickens get half their feed from rabbit droppings and spilled alfalfa and they keep the flies down. It’s amazing!
    Laura – I bet it’s even easier now that your daughter is off to college! Isn’t it amazing how each little step makes such a big difference? I was amazed how cool turning food scraps into eggs was, and then not buying processed foods was the biggest piece. Rabbits eat garden scraps chickens won’t so I can only imagine adding goats and a pig to the mix!

  6. I really enjoyed your post, however, I wonder about #3-Garden Year Round. I live in Iowa and 6 months of the year our ground is frozen. How do you suggest gardening year round in Iowa? Wouldn’t it be better for us to preserve like crazy?

    • Annette Cottrell

      Hi Mindy,

      There is an amazing book by Elliot Cole called Four Season Harvest and also the Winter Harvest Handbook: http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html. He gardens year round using unheated hoop houses and remay cover in Maine. If he can do it there, you can do it in Iowa. It’s a combination of a well chosen site with some protection and carefully selection plants that will either grow in the winter or overwinter once they are ready. I love that his techniques do not require electricity or spendy greenhouses. I think either or both of those will be all you need to get started. If you order them now you can get things in by end of July and be on your way! But just for the record I do still can jams and pickles (although I ferment more of those now then I use to). We just eat a lot of kale and stored squashes in the winter!

  7. Pingback: “So this is the tale of our castaways…” | The Zoo

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