3 Tips for Going Zero-Waste in the Kitchen

Jessica Waite, CEO and cofounder of The Plot, a zero-waste, plant-based restaurant, talks trash—and how to make less of It in your own kitchen.
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1. Source Smarter

You don’t have to be all in on the zero-waste movement, which emphasizes producing as little trash as possible, to make a difference in the world. Jessica Waite—who cofounded The Plot with her husband, Davin (who is executive chef), and a business partner in Oceanside, California—suggests starting small to avoid overwhelm. Be intentional about where you buy, she says: “Get to know the family growing your food; go to your local farm stand or farmers’ market instead of the grocery store.” Doing so eliminates packaging, minimizes travel footprints, and supports regenerative agriculture and soil health, all of which translates into better health for you and the planet. Plus, when you buy from someone you know, you tend to waste less and enjoy more, Waite says.

2. Innovate

Waite and her team developed The Plot’s menu to get diners excited about plants while rethinking the anatomy of a veggie. “Look at your vegetable as a whole,” Waite says. “There are different flavor components—different textures to each part. We juice celery root to make a concentrate for sodas and a consommé for other dishes, but then we use the pulp to make takoyaki balls [a Japanese appetizer traditionally made with octopus].” At home, you can salvage strained almond or oat pulp from homemade milk alternatives to make muffins, or turn carrot stems into pesto. Leftover broccoli stems? Add to a stir-fry. Kale ribs? Pickle them. Tangerine rinds? Emulsify in a tangy vinaigrette. Using every part reduces waste and honors the resources that went into growing the produce. If you spend good money on something, Waite asks, why would you throw half of it away?

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3. Ferment

In the United States, we dispose of food at rates equivalent to 1,250 calories per person per day, and when it hits the landfill, it turns into methane, which warms the atmosphere and can be 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Not a scrap goes into the landfill bin the city makes The Plot keep, thanks to a composting alternative called bokashi that uses grains to essentially ferment food scraps—including meat and dairy, which can’t otherwise be composted—so they can be buried in a garden. At home, add inedible waste to a five-gallon bucket, top with bokashi grains (available from online retailers and select local farm stands), pop on an airtight lid, and let nature take its course, adding scraps as you go. (Pro tip: Pre-made bokashi kits also come with a spigot to drain liquid, plant tonic in itself.) Once full, the bucket sits for about 10 days, and voilà! Nutrient-rich soil additive.