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What is zero-waste cooking and why is it so awesome for the planet?

By: Momo Bhattacharjee

Have you ever though about how much food is being wasted every day starting from your own home? Well, an estimated 931 million tonnes, according to a 2019 UN report! It is enough to circle the Earth seven times. In India alone, household food waste is about 68.7 million tonnes a year.

Vegetable, Stir-Fry, Dinner, Vegan
Image credits: ctowner

But wait, the good part is you can change this with the simple concept of Zero waste cooking!

What is zero-waste cooking?

It simply means trying to leave behind as little food and packaging waste as possible when cooking and eating.

The concept of zero waste cooking is slowly submerging into our lives and everyone takes a different approach towards achieving the goal of zero waste cooking. I believe that is the part of converting a concept into an ideology and thereby a mass movement.

My journey towards zero waste cooking began with the realization that a lot of food gets wasted during our day-to-day consumption of meals. Coming from an Indian family, food has always been much more than eating. It is infused with love and emotion. I believe that my counter-love towards nature dragged me into thinking about how I can reduce the generation of food waste without compromising my ever-picky palate. 

While thinking about going zero waste in cooking was very exciting, implementing the same honestly was not easy initially. I mean, what do we do with peels of vegetables and residues of tea and coffee? It is here that I combined my skills of being a research scholar, a naive chef, and a plant lover.

Understanding and experimenting with leftover food

My first few months were all about digging deep into understanding how the different residues of ingredients can be put into better use. Little did I know that vegetable peels are magic ingredients for people like me who are also vegan. Because peels are rougher in texture, a little blanch and proper mincing can create the magic of transforming them into meat substitutes.

I then delved into conducting a number of experiments, on how to make yummy dishes with all the leftover food. I cannot thank my husband enough for encouraging all my crazy time in the kitchen and consuming every bit of taste and disaster with the same zeal.

I believe the support of the ones who share the meal along with you is equally important when it comes to zero waste cooking, like generating no waste in the kitchen is a principle, keeping the stomach of your loved ones happy is a desire. As I progressed with achieving milestones, I came to the understanding that composting is a big part of zero-waste cooking. Those seeds of my favorite fruits and peels of my favorite vegetables which could not be transformed into new ingredients now went straight in my compost bin, decomposing to give health and greenery to all my plants.

It is so strange that when you start walking on a particular path that you are so passionate about, somewhere down the line helping hands come along. I came across a number of organizations that dedicate their vision towards collecting excess food from marriages, birthday parties, and other household or social celebrations and give it to orphanages, old age homes, or the people who spend their nights on the street.

I started advocating for such organizations because I believe they not only serve the purpose of zero-waste cooking but also fight a much bigger battle of hunger. Today, when I enter into a kitchen, I do not have to think about how to go zero waste, because I made it a habit of using as many of the ingredients as I can or repurposing them into some value.

Bring an end to food waste

The end goal is always to stop the generation of food waste and definitely not allow any wet waste to enter into the landfill. I am often asked how can one begin to take steps towards achieving zero waste cooking. I believe it starts with understanding that we might have the purchasing power and access to resources, but we have a greater responsibility towards the mindful utilization of those resources.

But this does not mean that you cannot have fun with food. Enter your kitchen with the mind of a child, filled with excitement of trying out something new. You may not become a master chef in your first attempt, but you can surely become a zero waste chef after a few. Do count your heads before you prepare your meal and use only enough resources that is actually required. Trying to go zero waste stopped becoming a struggle for me the moment I started enjoying my time in the kitchen. Your principles might be ardent, but the road towards it can be both satisfying and adventurous. 

Momo Bhattacharjee

Momo Bhattacharjee

I am from India and by profession, I am a scholar of Sociology and Development studies with a keen interest in Writing. I am the co-founder of a trust, named GreenAmmo, that works towards sustainable waste management systems all over the Himalayas and the coasts.

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