Now you know how to reduce waste when you shop or cook. But your kitchen still contains a lot of waste. Here’s an overview of the disposables in your kitchen with their washable or durable alternatives.
Meal leftovers, sandwiches or cake slices to keep or take away… all reasons to unsheath the foil or roll of stretch film. Single-use, not very recyclable because of their size, they generate a lot of waste on a daily basis. Aluminum has another big flaw: it migrates into food (just like plastic), especially during cooking, especially when cooking in foil.
To reduce your waste and preserve your health, you will have to think about alternatives. You can already start by wrapping your sandwich in a simple dishcloth, covering your leftovers with a plate or carrying your lunch in a storage box. And if you need something equivalent to plastic wrap or aluminum foil, consider 100% natural, washable and reusable packaging.
Marketed under the name Bee Wrap and Apifilm for Made in France, these labeled organic cotton packages, coated with beeswax, pine resin and sunflower oil, function like plastic film or aluminum foil. For the packaging to take the desired shape, simply place your hands on the contours of the product to be preserved. After use, simply clean it with cold water and soap. Each package can be used up to 100 times, and if it loses its malleability, you can re-coat it.
Be careful, these packages are not suitable for raw meat and fish (they would cause bacteria to proliferate). They should also not be heated in the oven or microwave or covered with hot food. However, they can be placed in the freezer.
Your homemade wax package
INGREDIENTS: 1 square cloth of the size of your choice; wax flakes (beeswax or vegan, rice), baking paper; 1 iron.
1. Posez the fabric flat.
2. Saupoudrez of wax flakes in a homogeneous way.
3. Posez the baking paper on top.
4. Repassez with iron to melt the flakes.
The sequins will soak the fabric and waterproof it. Of course, recover the baking paper for a next use.
Food carts look just like shower carts, but instead of protecting your hair, they cover various containers: salad bowl, bowl, pie dish… Made of a certified Oeko-Tex® fabric coated with a waterproof membrane and elastic, they come in different sizes to fit all types of diameters. Washable and reusable, they are ideal for storing food in the fridge or to protect against insects.
Be careful, these charlottes are not suitable for the oven or microwave.
You can find these eco-friendly lids in organic stores or on the Internet. You can also sew them yourself. Different tutorials are available on YouTube.
Cooking without harm
To cook without sticking, habits have a hard time: aluminum foil for salmon papillotes, stretch film for a poached chicken fillet, baking paper for a pie… Yet there are alternatives.
Put some oil on it!
Baking paper was introduced in 1860, aluminum foil in 1910 and stretch film in 1933. But how on earth did our ancestors manage to do without it? Well, they used a natural and inexpensive ingredient: butter or vegetable oil. And yes, it worked! It’s exactly the same thing as when you’re asked in a cake recipe to “line” your pan with butter and flour so the cake won’t stick. With butter or oil, you can bake any food (fish, fries) or dish (pies, quiches, bread, cookies) in the oven or pan (pancakes). Don’t hesitate to be generous when you spread the fat of your choice, because the food absorbs it more or less quickly.
Cooking in a salt crust
For the papillotes, you can take organic paper (not baking paper, unbleached and non-silicone), to be reserved only for soft cooking because it tends to stick.
If you have some at your disposal, you can also use seaweed or banana leaves if you live in the DOM-TOM. Of course you will avoid ordering them on the Internet if you live in metropolitan France. There would be no ecological logic in bringing them from so far away. Finally, you can do as the old ones did and start baking in a salt crust.
Fish in salt crust
INGREDIENTS: 1 nice fresh fish gutted but not scaled (sea bass or sea bream, for example); 1 bunch of aromatic herbs that you will have grown at home (parsley, coriander, thyme, laurel); 1 lemon; 2.5 kg of coarse salt; 150 g of butter; pepper.
1. Préchauffez the furnace at 200 °C.
2. Insérez the bunch of herbs in the fish.
3. Dans At the bottom of the dish, put a layer of coarse salt (about 1 cm thick).
4. Déposez the fish and cover it with coarse salt.
5. Faites cook for 45 minutes.
6. Une once cooked, wait for it to cool and break the salt crust.
7. Enlevez the skin before serving and voilà!
Washable in my kitchen
Going sustainable in the kitchen necessarily involves the washable. “But is it really ecological? “I am often objected to during my conferences. It’s true that washable requires two resources: water and electricity. To make a decision, you have to compare the life cycle of a disposable product with that of a washable product.
Is the washable really ecological?
To answer this question, I relied on a study conducted by the ManaMani4 website on two everyday products: tissues and paper towels. For each of them, a disposable and a washable scenario was established, with calculations of their water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The study shows that the disposable version consumes more water than the washable version (papermaking is water-intensive), but it does not make a difference: cotton cultivation requires a lot of water, and regular washing of tissues and kitchen cloths will further increase consumption (although it will still be less than the water used to make paper fibres). To better make the difference, cotton should be replaced by a less water-intensive fabric: eucalyptus, organic cotton, hemp or linen.
On the other hand, in terms of greenhouse gases, the washable scenario is much more favorable than the disposable scenario.
As you will have understood, washable is much more ecological than disposable. This assertion having been validated, let’s move on to practice with the different washable alternatives for the kitchen.
The washable paper towel
The disposable paper towel is a relatively recent invention. It is due to an error in cutting the toilet paper: a cutting machine malfunctioned and the paper came off the production lines twice as big. In France, the brand Sopalin (acronym of the SOciété du PApier-LINge) was born in 1946. Within a few decades, the paper towel or absorbent paper became the standard in our kitchens. But at what price? Because it has both a financial and an ecological cost.
I already mentioned its financial aspect in the first part of this book and I came to the conclusion that the disposable paper towel represented a budget of 138.67 € per year against 6 € for its washable version (see here).
Now let’s talk about the resources needed to manufacture these rolls.
The grey energy of the paper towel
During my lectures, I am often told that paper towels cannot be considered waste because they can be composted. If we only consider the end of life of the product, it is true. But if you look at the life cycle of the paper towel as a whole and the grey energy it needs to be produced, it has a significant environmental cost.
This grey energy includes all the parameters from the natural resource used: its extraction, manufacturing process, transportation, use and end of life.
This life cycle occurs every time you buy a roll. If you multiply it by the number of people on this planet who buy rolls of paper towels, you can see how much of an environmental impact it has.
Washable paper towel and napkins.
There are washable paper towels, which roll up like disposable rolls and are a perfect replacement for disposable absorbent paper. Each cloth sheet can be detached with one squeeze. The average price is 30 € for 10 sheets. It may sound expensive, but do the math: your washable paper towel will pay for itself in less than a year and you will be able to use it for several years, especially if you take good care of it.
If you like to sew, you can make your own zero-waste washable paper towels. You will find tutorials on the Internet.
And if the first two suggestions don’t work for you, you can always replace the disposable paper towel with cotton or microfiber cloths or wipes.
Finally, at the table, use… napkins! No need to go broke, draw from the family stock or buy them in resourceries or at Emmaus. You can also sew them yourself.
Make your dishes durable
Even double-sided sponges (you know, yellow on one side and scratchy on the other) can be replaced with durable ones! You can take washable sponges, such as tawashi (see below), or washable double-sided sponges, with a cloth on one side and a rougher net on the other. You can also invest in a wooden brush whose head you can change when it is too damaged. You can easily find some in organic stores.
To clean a pot bottom that has stuck, more scraping brush heads are available. You can also use these two natural methods:
Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on the bottom of the pan, and rub with a washable sponge or cloth;
breaking eggshells into crumbs. Sprinkle over the bottom of the pan and rub with a washable sponge or dishcloth.
Do you know the tawashi? They are textile sponges that you can make very easily yourself. It is also a playful workshop to initiate and sensitize the youngest to zero waste and ecology. You can knit or crochet your own tawashi (preferably in acrylic yarn, for its “scratchy” texture), or, even simpler and zero waste, by using an old T-shirt or tights with holes in them that you are going to weave (you will find an excellent tutorial on the blog www.luizzati.com/blog by typing “DIY/ tawashi sponge” in the search field on the right). If you are dealing with particularly stubborn stains, hot water, soap and enough soaking time should help your tawashi to get rid of them; if that really isn’t enough, a wooden brush with soft or hard bristles will help you to scrape off the most stubborn stains. Also note that a little bit of baking soda sprinkled on the stain will give your tawashi an abrasive side equivalent to your old industrial scraping sponge – but still a 100% natural option! And when your tawashi is dirty, hop! a little tour in the washing machine.
Healthy and durable utensils
It is also interesting to think about the kitchen utensils you use, but also the pots, pans and cake pans. Some of them are a real problem both for the planet and for your health. Here’s a quick look at some of the false good ideas in the kitchen and sustainable alternatives.
Materials to avoid
Long perceived as a technological breakthrough, Teflon is not without danger. Certainly, thanks to its non-stick properties, nothing sticks to the bottom of pots and pans anymore. But this material – polytetrafluoroethylene – is fixed with an industrial glue – perfluorooctanoic acid – which is a proven carcinogen for animals and a suspected human carcinogen. Safe at low temperatures, Teflon becomes toxic above 230°C, a temperature reached by a frying pan in 3 to 5 minutes of cooking, the toxicity coming from the fumes of corrosive acids. Finally, Teflon tends to peel off and disintegrate. So we end up ingesting it. As you can see, Teflon is bad for your health and its recycling is just as problematic for the environment. So avoid it.
Plastic is a mixture containing a base material, a polymer, to which chemicals and additives are added. I’ll come back to the dangers of plastic later, but I’m already warning you in this chapter because we still have a lot of plastic utensils in the kitchen, such as spatulas, ladles, salad servers, etc., and we need to be careful not to overdo it. The first concern with plastic is that it migrates into liquids and food. Even more so when it is heated. This means that when you stir a sauce with a plastic spoon, you add microparticles of plastic and then ingest them. So you might as well banish plastic from the kitchen right now.
Just like Teflon, silicone has been a real technological evolution for the kitchen. Utensils, cake moulds, baking mats… everything goes through it. On paper, it’s a remarkable product: flexible, non-stick, unbreakable, colorful, in a variety of shapes, resistant to high temperatures, easy to unmold, easy to clean… and affordable. This polymer is derived from silicon, a natural trace element widely used in nature, which is mixed with a catalyst: either peroxide (cheap) or platinum (more expensive).
In January 2019, the magazine 60 million consumers carried out a test on eighteen silicone and Teflon cake moulds. The results of this study5 show that :
three of the brands tested give off dangerous toxic substances, especially when in contact with fats ;
At 200°C, over long cooking times, a number of mussels release chemical compounds that migrate into the food ;
the cheapest molds, made with peroxide silicone, tend to release harmful particles;
platinum silicone molds are more resistant to high temperatures.
60 million consumers recommend checking that a “food contact suitability certificate” is present on the label, washing silicone molds and greasing them the first time they are used, and choosing a guaranteed “PFOA-free” reference for metal molds.
This material is composed of water and silica. Although it seems a good option at first glance, it is in fact a false friend. Indeed, it is never produced in France, but rather in Italy, or even in Asia. Above all, ceramics is only a coating, which covers aluminum. Another disadvantage: its non-stick qualities deteriorate very quickly, and we find the same problems of emanations and nanoparticles as Teflon.
Stainless steel, or Inox, is the healthiest and safest material for the kitchen. It is not a new material because the Cristel brand has been making it in France since 1830! It has non-stick properties, does not rust, does not emit any toxic emissions and is extremely resistant. It is therefore an investment not for life but for several generations!
The trick of the water drop
To cook with a stainless steel frying pan (or saucepan) without it sticking, there is a little trick. You have to heat the pan for 2 to 3 minutes on high heat. Then pour a drop of water. If the drop boils and evaporates, your pan is not hot enough. If, on the contrary, the drop hops and splits into several droplets that roll into the pan, you are on the right track. When these droplets come together to form a single drop again, you have reached the ideal temperature. You can then put your food to be cooked, they will not stick to the bottom of the pan!
Copper is a non-ferrous metal extracted from mines. In contact with acidic and salty foods, it can oxidize (verdigris) and become toxic. This is why copper cookware must be tin-plated. Tinning is the process of applying a layer of tin to the metal by electrolysis. The French manufacturer De Buyer has been offering tin plating since 1830.
However, copper is difficult to maintain and tin is gradually deteriorating. To avoid this problem, there are now copper pans with stainless steel interiors.
Iron is a 100% natural material. It must be boiled before the first use to avoid oxidation, i.e. boil water and then oil to create a natural coating. When used, it will become black and naturally non-sticky. Its only drawback is that it will rust if not properly maintained. Simply rub the rust with fine salt, possibly mixed with lemon juice, and oil it again.
Composed of an alloy of iron and carbon, cast iron must have no coating: no enamel, aluminum or stainless steel. To base before use, cast iron naturally patinates as it is used. It is the ideal material for simmering and searing food. The only drawback is that it is quite heavy, unlike stainless steel which is light.
Terracotta is a ceramic material obtained by firing clay. Today, terracotta generally refers to porous ceramics, as opposed to stoneware or porcelain, which are vitrified terracotta with negligible porosity. The company Émile Henry has been making them in France since 1850.
Borosilicate glass is a glass that withstands high temperatures and higher thermal shocks than other types of glass. The best known is Pyrex. It is preferable to choose it transparent, as some colored glasses may indeed contain lead or cadmium, which are toxic heavy metals. This material is mainly used for baking dishes.
You don’t need to be burdened with five different pots and four different pans, but what you do have must meet all your needs and last the long term. It is therefore better to put 100 € in a solid stainless steel, cast iron or ceramic pot that will serve you for life, than 20 € in a non-stick pot that you will have to renew every two years. Use the same reasoning for all the utensils, cutlery and crockery you buy from now on. Think qualitatively rather than quantitatively and you’ll see that in the end you’ll be a winner and save money, not to mention throwing away less.
ZERO WASTE DRINKS
At this stage, your kitchen is really close to zero waste. But some waste is still present. And are becoming more and more visible. Among them, of course, are bottles of water, fruit juice and milk, but also coffee and tea packaging. Once again, alternatives exist.
Bottled water vs. tap water
Bottled water appeared at the beginning of the 20th century with the rise of thermal waters, prescribed by doctors for their therapeutic virtues. The market for mineral and spring waters was born. These natural bottled waters invaded supermarket shelves. Added to them is sparkling water, which can be from a natural source or the result of a chemical process mixing spring water and CO2.
Today, 9.3 billion liters of bottled water are consumed per year in France. Our country is the second largest consumer of plastic bottles in the world, behind Mexico6.
But bottled water poses three major problems:
>This industry generates a lot of waste in the form of plastic bottles. Although they are recyclable, they often end up in nature or in the oceans. In France alone, only half of the bottles thrown away are recycled.
>The plastic of the container migrates into the contents. Therefore, do not expose the bottles to the sun or reuse them.
>This industry privatizes natural water sources, which become inaccessible to local populations, who are deprived of drinking water. This is notably the case of Coca-Cola and Nestlé Waters (see here).
Unlike bottled water, tap water is treated before it enters our pipes, which is a concern for many consumers, who are more inclined to turn to bottled water. However, tap water is much more closely monitored, tested and verified than bottled water. To find out the quality of water in your community, visit https://solidarites-sante.gouv.fr/sante-et-environnement/eaux/eau.
How to purify tap water?
Tap water is pumped from natural reservoirs (groundwater and surface water) and then sent to treatment plants where it is filtered and treated before being stored and distributed in the pipes. This water is known as “drinking water” and is therefore safe for human health.
However, questions remain. We know, for example, that water treatment plants are not able to treat certain molecules. This is the case in particular for drug residues and pesticide residues discharged, via reprocessed wastewater, runoff and rainwater, into the environment. An article in Le Figaro7 dating from 2016 warns of the scarcity of studies devoted to the concentrations of drug residues found in trace amounts in drinking water.
But, as I mentioned earlier, tap water is regularly monitored and Maximum Allowable Concentration (MAC) levels have been set to ensure that quality water is delivered.
A filter carafe has a cartridge that filters out impurities and improves the taste of the water. This filter, made of a combination of ion exchange resin and activated carbon (obtained from coconut husk), reveals the aromas of hot drinks, such as tea or coffee, and helps to reduce the hardness of the water. The Brita and Berkey decanters are the best known.
How to choose an ecological coffee maker?
It is best to avoid capsule coffee makers. As the British newspaper The Guardian points out, coffee pods are a scourge for the environment: “Because aluminium and plastic capsules are difficult to recycle, most end up in the garbage can and 75% go to landfill.15 “When you consider that 20 billion capsules are used worldwide every year, this is indeed an environmental calamity. However, Nespresso now recycles used capsules collected to recover coffee grounds and aluminum. A slightly more virtuous circle, provided that consumers take the trouble to deposit their capsules at the dedicated collection points.
The paper capsules are therefore more environmentally friendly, as the coffee grounds can be composted or recovered for other uses.
The filter coffee machine remains an acceptable option for the same reasons of composting and reuse of coffee grounds. It is best to use filters that are washable or already integrated in the machine.
But the big winner remains the Italian or piston coffee maker that requires neither filter nor capsules.
Of course, always think about buying second-hand if you need to equip yourself and buy your coffee in bulk!
So, tea lovers, prefer to buy loose and use a tea ball or a teapot with a built-in filter. You will be zero waste. You can also initiate yourself to the pleasure of infusions. Rooibos gives a very fragrant red tea… without theine, which can be a plus.
Also think of the many medicinal or aromatic plants produced in France, which offer a range of interesting flavors and benefits.
3. Éditions Leduc.s, 2019.
5. Source : www.60millions-mag.com/2019/01/15/test-de-moules-gateaux-12372
8. Source : www.lexpress.fr/styles/saveurs/binchotan-le-charbon-actif-purifie-t-il-vraiment-l-eau_2069748.html
9. 60 million consumers, “Natural, l’envers du décor”, special issue no. 1265, August 2018.
11. Chiffres Coca-Cola 2012.
15. The Guardian, “Better latte than never… compostable coffee pods go on sale,” November 4, 2019.
16. Environmental Science & Technology, ” Plastic Teabags Release Billions of Microparticles and Nanoparticles into Tea “, 25 septembre 2019.