Kickstart your journey to a waste-free kitchen with the 30 Day Challenge. If one small change can make a difference, imagine what 30 can do!
Small changes can have a big impact. Imagine what change 30 days worth of changes can do! Go through this 30 Day Challenge and see what you can start doing each day. I tried to order these from most doable to those that take more effort. Of course, you don’t have to do them in this order, it’s just a suggestion. Challenge yourself and your family to take small steps towards a No Waste Kitchen.
And remember, it may take you longer to go through the 30 Day Challenge. We are all on this journey at our own pace. Some of the items listed may not be feasible for you and/or your family. Just try your best.
Originally Published On: September 15, 2018
Last Updated On: September 17, 2020
30 Day No Waste Challenge: Day 1-10
Day 1: Start your Trash Audit
Day 2: Identify plastics/single-use items in the kitchen
Make a list of all plastic and single-use items you have in your kitchen right now. Just a list of them. See what you can eventually swap out.
Day 3: Identify challenges for you/your family
Every family will have their own unique challenges to overcome or be aware of on the journey to a No Waste Kitchen and through this 30 Day Challenge.
Some of these may include allergies, health/medical considerations, location, ease of access to bulk stores, etc.
Once you know what challenges you may face, you can make a plan for those situations.
Day 4: Decide what is most important/where you want to start
Do you waste a lot of produce? Maybe you should start with composting. Always have leftover food that goes to waste? A meal plan may be the best thing for you.
No matter what it is, only you and your family can decide what part of having a No Waste Kitchen is the most important for you. Is it eliminating wasted food? Saving money? Health reasons?
Day 5: Make a plan for replacements when needed
As tempting as it may be sometimes, don’t go through the kitchen and throw out everything that doesn’t align with your vision. Trust me, buying all new things will get expensive.
Instead, use your Getting Started Kit to identify everything that needs replacing. And make a plan. For example, once we use all of the paper towels we have, then we will purchase cloth napkins and towels. Or after we finish all of the coffee pods, then we will buy a reusable pod.
When you have a plan and a list, you can also check for great deals if you are out at thrift shops. If possible, it’s always better to buy second-hand.
Day 6: Contact your recycle center to know what you can and can’t recycle at the curb
Every company is different in the type of materials that they can collect at the curb for recycling. Some places allow glass,
The only way to know for sure is to contact your recycling company. A lot of them will have the information on their websites, but it may not always be clear. Mine had a list of plastics that can be accepted. But it didn’t list the numbers.
If you can’t find what you need, see if you can find an email address or phone number and call them. Ask your questions and see what they say. Even better: see if they offer tours of the facility.
When I sent an email, I found out we can recycle all the numbers of plastic, including plastic bags, at the curb. We don’t have to separate anything. But, I also know that’s rare, so always check with your recycling company.
Day 7: Locate your nearest bulk store
This may not be as easy as it seems. When I search online for “bulk store” I get the big-box bulk stores (Costco, SAMs, etc.) and, for some reason, Petco.
If you can find a bulk store, it will help cut out a lot of packaging. I am still on the hunt for a store that lets you bring your own containers to fill. My local HEB has bulk containers, but you have to use their plastic bags which defeats the purpose for me.
One way to get resources in your area is to join a local zero waste group on Facebook and ask there. Also, a great online resource is https://app.zerowastehome.com/.
Day 8: Bring reusable bags for your next grocery trip
So many events now give out a registration bag that can be reused as a cloth grocery bag. I have about 10-15 bags that can be used for groceries. And I haven’t purchased a single one of them.
That being said, most grocery stores sell them for $1-$3 each. Depending on how often you go shopping and how much you usually get, 4-5 may be enough.
Using these bags cuts out the use of plastic grocery bags and are much easier to carry into the house when you get home.
Day 9: Set up a compost bin
As you are working through your Trash Audit, you may be noticing you have a lot of food waste. Besides just making sure you only buy what you need, the best way to deal with leftover food is a compost bin.
There are multiple ways to do a compost pile, and where you live plus your lifestyle will determine which is best for you.
Some cities have compost pickup, but I’ve never lived anywhere with it. Compost is great for gardening because the soil that comes out of it is rich in nutrients that the plants will love.
There’s a great resource HERE that has information about what can and cannot go in the compost bin.
Day 10: Swap rags for paper towels/napkins
Get a decent, but cheap, set of rags that you can use in the kitchen to clean up spills. We get a new one out every morning. The boys call this the “wet rag” because it’s usually damp and we keep it hanging over the sink during the day.
These are great for wiping off hands and mouths after meals, cleaning the table and counters, or any other spill you may have. I bought white cotton shop rags that came in a set of 100.
Even though they get dirty, I recommend getting white rags. We bought red at first and even after washing them dozens of times they still bleed red so have to be washed without anything else. And I tried to clean the white pantry door one time, and a bit of the red got on the door.
For dinner napkins, you can also use an old sheet if you have one, or get some fabric and cut/sew your own napkins. If you have to buy fabric, get everyone a unique style, and you’ll be more likely to use them if they are fun!
11th-20th Days No Waste Challenge
Day 11: No more plastic straws
I know this has been in the news lately, but unless you have a medical condition, there really isn’t a need for a straw.
And if you are someone who prefers to have a straw, there are many more eco-friendly and sustainable options than plastic out there. Straws can be made from stainless steel, bamboo, paper, glass, etc.
Many cities are starting to ban plastic straws because they are so harmful to our environment. So, if you really want one, make sure to get a travel one to bring with you when you go out.
Day 12: Make coffee at home
Not only will this cut waste, but it will save you so much money! Many people buy a coffee on the go almost daily. That adds up, very quickly.
Coffee shops often use disposable cups. They can’t be recycled because they are mixed material. When you make yours at home, you can use regular grounds. Compost the grounds when you are done. Fill the coffee into a regular mug or a reusable coffee cup.
Just remember, using coffee pods in something such as a Keurig doesn’t help. If you want to use your single-serve machine (like we do) get a reusable cup that you can fill with grounds.
Day 13: Bring a reusable cup with you to work/school/errands
Most people don’t drink enough water as it is. And if you are someone who is constantly on the go, it can be difficult to make sure you are staying hydrated.
Do your body and the environment a favor and keep a reusable cup with you at all times. And make sure it’s full. Don’t reach for plastic water bottles when you need to go somewhere, but fill your own cup. Keep it with you all day and wash it when you get home, so it’s ready for the next day.
Most public places have a water fountain near the restrooms that you can use to refill your cup. Or, if you are out at a restaurant, you can ask them to fill your cup. Some places won’t, for sanitary reasons, but as long as they aren’t using disposable cups, then you are still making an impact. Ask for a refill and dump it into your own cup yourself.
Day 14: Make a meal plan
The majority of the waste in most kitchens comes from food. Whether this is food that went bad before it was ever used or leftovers that never got eaten, it all gets wasted. And that wastes your money, too.
Before going grocery shopping, make a quick meal plan. Know what recipes you want to cook and only buy what you need. Plan which one needs to be cooked first based on the recipes with the most perishable foods.
When you know what you are cooking you can plan your grocery list so you don’t buy food in excess. Also, it helps to plan a leftovers day once a week. Don’t cook anything new. Eat up anything left in the refrigerator before it gets dumped.
Day 15: Find a farmers market and plan to check it out
Search for a farmer’s market in your area. Some places have markets set up daily, some are weekly, and some are monthly. By shopping at a farmer’s market, you are helping local farmers make a living while getting the freshest produce you can buy.
One of the biggest benefits of a farmer’s market for the No Waste journey is the obvious lack of packaging. Most of the time, you can grab the produce right from their stall. It isn’t wrapped in unnecessary plastic. And it doesn’t have a sticker on each piece.
And don’t forget your cloth shopping bags when you hit the market. Bring one or two so you can fill those rather than getting a plastic bag from the market to carry your purchases.
Day 16: Find ways to use technology in the kitchen to reduce waste (grocery lists, recipes, etc.)
Let’s face it, we are all dependent on our technology. What are you reading this on? A computer, tablet, phone?
That same technology can be used in the kitchen to reduce waste. There are dozens of apps made for the kitchen. Everything from your grocery list to recipe storage to cookbooks online are apps.
Instead of writing your grocery list on a piece of paper, find an app that works. Then you aren’t throwing out that paper when you are done. Bonus if you can use something similar to Walmart Pay so you don’t even get a paper receipt!
Day 17: Pack your lunch rather than getting food to-go
Similar to making coffee at home, packing your own lunch rather than going through fast food creates much less waste. Even going out to a restaurant can often be more wasteful than preparing lunch at home.
You’ll likely eat healthier when you pack your lunch and save money in addition to the reduction in waste. If you go through the drive-thru, your sandwich is packaged. Your drink is in a cup that probably can’t be recycled, you are given plastic utensils, small packets of condiments, and some napkins, all in a bag.
Buy your food in bulk and take one day a week to separate it out to make lunches easy. Or, invest in a bento-box style lunchbox so you can keep each thing in its own compartment without a bunch of containers.
Day 18: Use real dishes rather than paper plates, bowls, etc.
Yes, paper products are convenient because they can just
It doesn’t take very long to wash the dishes after a meal, especially if you clean up after each meal so you don’t have a looming pile at the end of the day.
Remember, just because you aren’t using paper doesn’t mean that plastic is the only option for kids
Day 19: Buy in bulk and portion individually as needed
Buying in bulk was mentioned on Day 7. But I feel it needs further explanation. Whether you are making food for yourself or preparing multiple lunches for work and school, a little prep can save a lot of time, money, and waste.
For example: instead of buying individually wrapped string cheese, buy a large block of mozzarella cheese and cut slices off for each person’s meal. Do the same with other foods, such as yogurt or applesauce.
When you buy in bulk, there may still be some packaging waste, but it’s much less than purchasing single-serve foods.
Day 20: Cook with produce that’s in-season
Search online to find out which growing zone you are in, and find out what produce is in-season for that area. Try to plan your meals around the current fruits and vegetables.
In-season produce usually costs less because there is more supply, and it will taste much fresher. The produce that’s in-season also tends to last longer in the refrigerator before going bad.
The best way to find in-season produce is at that farmer’s market you found on Day 15.
30 Day Challenge: Day 21-30
Day 21: Cut down on meat consumption
I’m not asking you to go completely vegetarian or vegan here, but try to incorporate at least one or two meatless days per week. Unless you go straight to the butcher, meat comes heavily packaged.
Most meat is placed on a styrofoam tray and wrapped with tight plastic. Both of these can be recycled in some places, but not after they’ve been contaminated with the meat.
Day 22: “Pantry week” once per month to use up food
Choose one week out of the month that you are going to have a “pantry week” at your house. Pantry week is when you don’t buy anything new for the week and make meals out of the food you already have.
Grab that half-used box of noodles in the back and cook those with a butter and garlic sauce. Or make grilled cheese sandwiches with any extra bread and sliced cheese.
Either way, only shop for the essentials (milk, fruit, etc.) during that week. Eat what you have on hand so it doesn’t go bad before being used and save yourself money on your grocery bill. Remember, any food that ends up being wasted is also money wasted that you spent on that food.
Day 23: Take your own containers for leftovers when going out to eat
Almost every restaurant I have ever been to give out plastic or styrofoam containers if you have food leftover. Those are cheap, which is why they are the standard. But most places can’t recycle styrofoam, which means those are all sent to the landfill.
Next time you go out to eat, grab your own leftover container. When it’s empty, it won’t weigh much at all to throw in a cloth bag to bring with you. If you only have plastic containers at home, that’s still better than their single-use ones since you will reuse it.
A better option would be to invest in a few stainless steel containers since they are lightweight. We have many glass containers for use at home. I’m always worried about carrying glass. Stainless steel
Day 24: Grow herbs indoors
Those who enjoy cooking may find themselves reaching for the same herbs and spices often. Most of them can be grown in a small indoor herb garden. Harvest as needed for a meal instead of buying the plastic jars at the grocery store.
Purchase some seeds from your local garden center (or most hardware stores have them in the outdoor section) and plant them in some potting soil or compost that you have already made.
Herbs can be very susceptible to weather changes, which is why I suggest indoors. A windowsill is a great place to keep them so they get sun.
Day 25: Replace your cleaning products
Clean up is part of using your kitchen. There are so many products on the market that are laden with chemicals and come in plastic containers or squirt bottles.
Since we are trying to rid the kitchen of wasteful and harmful things, this includes those cleaning products. Most kitchen messes can be cleaned with a bit of vinegar, baking soda, and a clean rag.
A lot of bulk stores will carry both vinegar and baking soda that you can put into your own containers. Otherwise, I buy the largest thing of vinegar I can find so I’m not going through the bottles often.
Day 26: Join a free swap group for your area
Do a quick Facebook search for Your City Name swap group. Sometimes they are called “freecycle” groups. These are groups intended for people who are looking to give away things they don’t use or need anymore.
This is a great way to get things second-hand that would otherwise head to the landfill. It will save you money, help someone else clear up space in their home, and get you something “new”.
Day 27: Shop for needed appliances/utensils/anything secondhand before buying new
In connection with yesterday’s challenge, if you can’t find a good group, or can’t find what you are looking for, still try to buy second-hand. When you purchase something used, you are giving it new life!
Check out any local thrift stores or community garage sales. Online pages such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace can also be a great resource for cheap products.
For example, my brother-in-law was wanting his own stand mixer. I noticed someone selling theirs in my community. It was hardly used. They were selling it for half off. My BIL got a great deal and the seller didn’t send it to the trash. It was a win for everyone.
Day 28: Start a small garden
Many vegetables can easily be grown in a small garden. Most fruits require a lot more space, so those are harder to do if you don’t have the land needed.
Vegetables can grow indoors or outdoors, depending on where you live and what your climate is like. By growing your own food, you can harvest it at peak time and enjoy it as fresh as possible. And when you pluck something from your own backyard, you know there is no packaging that you need to deal with.
Many foods can be regrown from scraps. So once you purchase it at the grocery store or farmer’s market, you can use pieces of it to grow your own plants and save money.
Day 29: Results of trash audit
By now, if you started your Trash Audit on Day 1, you should have completed the four weeks. Add everything up and see where you stand.
What type of trash did you throw out the most? Are you surprised your numbers are as high or low as they are?
Look through the lists you made in your Getting Started Kit. See where you have room for improvement. Will following some of these suggestions cut down on your waste?
Print the Trash Audit again and do the next 4 weeks then compare your results to see any improvement you’ve made.
Day 30: Remove the trash can
This is a difficult one for many people…. remove the trash can. Get rid of it. Put it in the garage or somewhere completely inconvenient. This will make you think about everything you have to take out to the trash.
If you are composting and recycling, then hopefully you don’t have much trash going to the landfill now. See how long you can go without having to take the trash to the curb.
As long as you aren’t throwing food scraps (or dirty diapers) in the trash, then there shouldn’t be anything wet. Because of this, your trash shouldn’t smell and shouldn’t attract bugs or mold.
This was only 30 days. And maybe it took you longer than 30 days. If so, that is ok! Remember, this is all about the journey, about making better choices. This isn’t a to-do list and isn’t something that will happen overnight.
Every time you choose an action that lowers your waste, you are on the right track. We all have our good days and our bad days.
Again, you don’t have to complete this in 30 days. Maybe you make it a goal that you do these each in a week (other than the Trash Audit). Even at one item per week you will still be drastically reducing your waste one year from now.
As always, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you as fast as I can!