My Dad's Zero Waste Kitchen Makeover

Max and I are in full renovation mode at our new home. Both bathrooms and the kitchen have been demoed, the retro parquet flooring has been removed, walls are being taken down, and needless to say, there's construction everywhere you look. As soon as the reno hit high gear, we fled to live with my dad near Tahoe.

We are so grateful that my father is letting us live in his home while we complete the renovation, and yet leaving our zero waste home behind has been an adjustment.

My dad is far from wasteful—he hates throwing things away and is much more likely to repair something than toss it in the garbage and buy something new. He also re-purposes glass jars, only drinks tap water and keeps a minimal fridge, buying only what he needs for the day. I recently helped him do a closet cleanse and found that the majority of his clothes are vintage, aka he’s had them since the 80s/90s!

I knew with a easy few swaps, my dad would be an easy candidate for a (more) zero waste lifestyle and the kitchen seemed like the best place to start the makeover since Max and I both love to cook. 

Here are the easy swaps I made that transitioned my dad's kitchen from wasteful to waste-less:

1. Cleaning Tools. One of the first things that had to go were some plastic sponges. Not only were the sponges non-recyclable and non-compostable, they stank and made my hands smell when I used them. Instead of replacing them with new sponges, I swapped them for a wood dish brush, a wood bottle brush and a copper pot scrubber. These three tools are all recyclable or compostable and they don’t smell! They also last much longer than a plastic sponge.

2. Dish Soap. My dad already buys his liquid dish soap in bulk and refills an old plastic dish soap bottle. I upgraded him to a stainless steel dish soap bottle and recycled the old plastic dish soap bottle.

3. Cleaning Cloth. My dad had a roll of paper towels he kept in the kitchen to clean up spills and for napkins at meals. To replace them, I cut up an old towel to create a small cleaning cloths that can wipe down counters and spills. I also resurfaced some cloth napkins my dad had in a drawer to use for meals.

4. Spatula. I LOVE to bake and found that my dad’s plastic spatula was completely shot and in need of replacement. I replaced it with a wood handled spatula with a durable silicone head.

zero waste kitchen

5. Jars. My dad and I did a major kitchen purge going through each cupboard and disposing old spices, expired grains and setting aside unused tools for donation. He already had a stockpile of beautiful glass jars and I taught him how he could buy bulk items and refill the jars.

zero waste kitchen

6. Pepper Grinder. My dad had an old plastic pepper grinder that had to go. This was a Goodwill score — a small wood pepper grinder that can be refilled with bulk peppercorns.

zero waste kitchen

7. Plastic Wrap. My dad traditionally used plastic baggies and seran wrap to store cheese, cut up fruit and veggies or to wrap a sandwich. I brought him some reusable beeswax cloths to use instead. The cloths easily wrap and mold around an item with the heat from your fingers.

8. Salad Spinner. I noticed my dad was buying some pre-washed, plastic wrapped salad mix. I got him a stainless steel salad spinner so he could buy unwrapped lettuce and wash it at home.

zero waste kitchen

9. Reusable produce bags. My dad was already pretty good about bringing reusable bags to the store (he keeps them in car). And when he buys produce, he just skips the plastic bags and put the fruit or veg directly into his basket. I got him a set of reusable cotton produce bags anyway because I think they’re handy for wet vegetables (esp. keeping your basket and bags dry) and buying bulk foods.

10. Baking Sheet mats. As mentioned before, I love baking. My dad had some parchment paper on hand, which can be composted after you use it, but an even more zero waste option is silicone baking sheets. I am obsessed with silpats from France — they keep my baking sheets clean, are easy to clean and reusable.

I was lucky that my dad is open minded and was on board for this zero waste makeover. If you have a parent or sibling or friend who could benefit from a plastic-free makeover, I recommend easing into the topic. Some people can get embarrassed or defensive when you point out all the ways they are creating waste.

Rather, show them by example and offer to be helpful if they're interested in learning more. Invite them over to show them the ways that you've gone zero waste and remember that going zero waste is a process. Encourage baby steps!

I'd love to hear from you about your own zero waste makeover stories. What tips do you have for approaching the subject and how have you helped inspire people to go zero waste?