How to Create a Zero-Waste Kitchen

Use these simple tips for a leaner, greener kitchen.

| September/October 2011

  • Photo By Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
  • You can replace plastic produce bags with organic cotton mesh ones like these from Life Without Plastic. Large, $9; small, $7.50.
    Photo Courtesy Life Without Plastic
  • Natural Home compost crock available at

Stroll into The Kitchen, a community bistro located in the heart of Boulder, Colorado, and you’re in for a culinary treat—rustic food that’s in-season, locally grown and prepared over an open fire. But what’s also noteworthy is that all waste is either recycled or composted, no small feat for a popular eatery. “We moved to zero waste seven years ago and we strive to improve every day,” says Kimbal Musk, chef-owner of The Kitchen ( “Our oils are recycled as biodiesel, and composted foods go to our local farms,” he says. “We also were the first wind-powered restaurant in Colorado, which we see as another form of zero waste.”

Anyone interested in reducing waste and saving money can learn from The Kitchen and others dedicated to making their operations zero-waste, meaning they send nothing to the landfill. Here’s how a few small, easy changes can minimize your footprint while potentially saving you some cash.

Rethink Waste 

Planning well is the first step toward a waste-free kitchen. Consider all of the waste your kitchen produces—trash, food waste, water waste—and how you can process it on-site. “Zero-waste is not only a physical kitchen, but a mindset,” says Adela Szpira-Stopka, a green-designated broker with @properties, a Chicago real estate company. “Given that most home waste originates in the kitchen, a green home should definitely include a zero-waste kitchen.”

Musk says it’s not difficult to become conscious of, then reduce, kitchen waste. “With simple new habits you can end up with a very small amount of true landfill garbage, which may mean reduced costs on your garbage bill,” he says. “Home kitchens should use a three-unit system: one container for compost, one for recycling and one smaller unit for nonrecyclable items such as plastic wrap.”

Coffee grounds, onion peels, carrot tops, egg shells and other non-meat food waste can go into a countertop crock, then on to a compost pile in your yard. Or use vermicompost bins, in which worms turn food waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. For a list of compostables, and instructions and tips on making compost, read the article "Compost at Home: Tips for Composting and Vermicomposting."

1/30/2014 9:19:34 AM

FYI, this article was written in 2011, (posted below author's name preceding article), before Blue Lotus closed. Posts are often RE-posted and shared at later dates. There is still a good deal of valuable information in this article and many like it. Suggestion: Use Google to locate similar products or new vendors of same products mentioned in article.

9/27/2013 9:36:39 PM

Great article. I want to share that many items can be recycled through including many health & beauty containers (and much, much more)while helping out many nonprofits or schools in the process. I help a local nonprofit by recycling several different items, to me it is a win/win. I hope that helps.

9/19/2013 1:28:15 PM

I would love to get some of these bags, but..... As of December 31, 2012 , Blue Lotus is closed. :( someone may have wanted to check that before posting the story.

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