Small and mighty cleaning set

Minimalism is empowering. This small and mighty set can clean benchtops, windows, grout, carpet, upholstery, leather, wood and fabric stains. Past Zoe had a separate cleaning product for every kind of surface and stain. Today, I have a bicarb shaker and a simple multi-purpose spray made of vinegar + water with a dash of eucalyptus oil.

Minimalist cleaning

A tea towel and a brush are perfect for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. They’re also good for drying hands and scrubbing nails, holding hot pots and cleaning boots, playfully whipping siblings and pretending to have a fancy moustache.

A functional zero waste kitchen

I learned to split my bins, write ‘landfill’ on my kitchen bin, save my scraps, make my own cleaners, use what we have before replacing it, favour long-lasting re-useable items and natural materials, and understand how to store food to maximise its lifespan.

Split my bins & keep the landfill small

The kitchen should have a teeny tiny landfill bin as well as compost, recycling, and potentially a separate soft-plastics recycling bin if this option is available to you. The mindset is that all of these bins should be the last resort for items that come into your home (ie consider using food scraps for stock before composting them).

Our compost bin is bigger than our landfill bin.

Our compost bin is bigger than our landfill bin. We keep it on the kitchen bench so it’s front of mind and easy to access. I made it out of a metal tub I found and the lid of an old pot. Essentially, it just needs to be leak proof and have a hole on top to breathe.

Our tiny landfill bin is hidden in the laundry cupboard next to the kitchen (out of sight, out of mind). We also have a soft plastics bag hiding in this cupboard to keep us all sane while we transition as a household.

At our current rate of waste creation, I’ve estimated that we would fill one landfill bin every 8 months, and one recycling bin every 5 weeks. Previously, it would take 2 weeks to fill both bins, mostly from kitchen waste. Shrinking the size of our kitchen bin encouraged us to think twice about throwing things away.

Next: Let’s talk Trash

Save my scraps

Food scraps have a multitude of uses. They can be turned into stock, iced tea, cleaning products and beauty products. The freezer is a great way to keep food until you’re ready to turn it into something new.

Ziplock bag of veggie scraps in the freezer. When full, we made vegetable stock.

At our place, vegetable scraps are put into a bag in the freezer and then periodically turned into a delicious veggie stock for risotto, paella, soup and stews. On top of veggie scraps for stock, I’ve been saving fruit scraps for iced tea. The core and peelings of stone fruit are perfect to infuse overnight with mint leaves and some red or black tea. It makes a really refreshing cold drink. Meat off-cuts and bones make amazing stock, too. Even coffee grinds can serve a purpose before they go to compost, my favourite is a deep-cleansing body scrub combined with coconut oil.

Fruit scraps are saved for iced tea

Make my own cleaners

I hope I never need to buy cleaning products again. Vinegar rules!

Essential cleaning products for kitchen, bathroom and floors
  • Dishes & Hands: Castile liquid soap. We have the same soap pump for both dishes and hands.
  • Multipurpose spray: Vinegar + Castile soap + water. This spray is used for benchtops, floor, cupboards, oven, fridge, etc. It can even be used on carpet, leather and upholstery.
  • Orange vinegar: Orange scraps + White vinegar + 2 weeks. The cleaner smells amazing and is highly effective. I also love seeing the bottle/s of orange slices on display in the kitchen. I find it decorative and beautiful. It’s become my own version of cut flowers. I also throw lemon rind in there if I don’t have a use for it.
  • Baking soda: No recipe needed. Just put it in an old spice shaker and use for scouring the oven, cooktop, kitchen sink, drains, and stubborn grease. Shake on a surface and use the multipurpose spray to see it froth and bubble.

Use what we have before replacing it

Zero waste thrives with a ‘make do’ attitude. Use up what you have before replacing it with a zero waste alternative. Either that, or give it to someone who doesn’t have the same flexibility as you. Hide single-use items out of sight (out of mind) to help reduce any dependency.

Turns out, we didn’t need any of these items

We hid items in the garage to see if we could live without them. It worked. As a household, we can live without bags, plastic wrap, baking paper and snap lock bags: so, I was happy to give these away.

I have learned that zero waste thrives with a ‘make do’ attitude. Did I need to buy a metal lunchbox? No. I did not. I could have put leftovers in any jar or plastic container that has been floating around in my cupboards for years. Or I could have bought a plastic lunchbox from a thrift store for $1. Thanks to this very pretty, over-priced lunchbox, I’ve become conscious of why I am buying something. I don’t regret this purchase. It’s encouraged me to form a habit of bringing my own lunch to work. But, I don’t want anyone to think they need to prepare themselves for going zero waste by buying anything. Trust me, you can make do. The goal isn’t perfection, it’s improvement.

Despite what others say, this metal lunchbox is not an essential item

Favour long-lasting re-useable items

If anything needs to be purchased, favour long-lasting reusable items made from wood, metal, glass, marble, and natural fabric. Better quality products can be bought second-hand.

When the time comes to replace something in the kitchen, consider natural materials like wood and metal. These are often easier to find at thrift stores (I am looking forward to replacing our old kettle with an antique stove top one).

  • Beeswax wraps: Substitute for plastic cling wrap
  • Metal utensils and cookware: With wooden handles.
  • Glass & Stainless steel containers: For food storage
  • Wooden chopping board: For fruit, veggies and bread.
  • Marble chopping board: For chopping meat and cheese.

Store food to maximise its lifetime

Research how to store fruit and veggies to maximise their lifetime. Utilise the freezer. If food starts to go bad, there’s often a recipe that compliments this part of the food’s lifespan (ie old milk makes excellent greek yoghurt, old veggies make great soup and old bananas make sweet smoothies).

Yellow banana = Snacks. Brown bananas = Smoothies and cakes.

Storing food takes a level of observation. I try not to over-stock so I can easily see if something is getting old. I have found a few simple tricks like storing carrots in a jar with a splash of water, or keeping fruit in the fridge to help it stay fresh a little longer in warm weather. I researched the main foods that we eat, and found tips for each one.

If we’re over-stocked, we’ll chop up food for the freezer such as carrots, corn, peas, spinach leaves, minced garlic, ginger, berries and sliced sourdough.

When the pantry gives us sad looking food, I turn to Pinterest for inspiration and see what comes up. Most fruit and vegetables have a recipe that compliments each stage of it’s life.

When we have too many oranges, we make marmalade, orange juice and orange cleaner.
When we have too many beetroots, we make falafels for the freezer and beetroot mud cake


How to transition to a zero waste kitchen

Write ‘landfill’ on your smallest bin, and split the rest into compost, recycling and soft plastics. Utilise your food scraps by saving them in your freezer. Store food to maximise its lifespan. Consider DIY cleaners. Favour long-lasting re-useable items and natural materials. Use what you have before replacing it.

Next: Reduce packaging waste when grocery shopping

Package free dishwashing powder

I got really into DIY when I started going zero waste. It’s cheaper to make it yourself but it’s not essential. I’m happy to discover that more and more items are available package free. This is dishwashing powder from @ceresbrunswick. I first bought it packaged from @thankyouaus so that I could refill into an appropriate container. I haven’t attempted DIY dishwashing powder simply because it’s convenient and easy to buy ready made and package free.

Side note: For package free living, containers become a careful long term consideration. The right container makes dispensing easier and means I won’t get my white powders mixed up

Molasses is a rust remover.

These are two almost identical tobacco tins. I’ve cleaned the one on the right by soaking it in diluted molasses for 2 weeks. The one on the left represents the ‘before’ state.

Molasses is a zero waste rust remover

Molasses is a zero waste rust remover


It takes patience, but it works:

  1. Dilute molasses in water.
  2. Soak rusty item in mixture.
  3. After 2 weeks, molasses should have turned the rust into a goop. Rinse with water.
  4. Gently wipe excess rust off with a rag.

Natural solutions are all around us. Not only is this zero tox, but it’s made from ingredients that we could eat! Do you have any quirky cleaning solutions that you’ve tried? I’d love to learn more.

All in one liquid soap

Living zero waste is so easy now that we know what we’re doing. This is hand wash, face wash and make up remover at the bathroom sink.

The next image is dish detergent and hand wash at the kitchen sink. It’s the same Castile soap mix. It just has different purposes depending on the context. This basic mix cleans us, our stuff, our house and our dog. Glass bottles were found in the community donation bin at @ceresbrunswick. Pumps were saved from @thankyouaus dispensers at the start of our transition.

What can 1 part castile soap : 7 parts water clean?

  • Us
    • Hands
    • Face
    • Body
    • Hair
  • Our stuff
    • Dishes
    • Clothes
    • Shoes
  • Our house
    • Carpet
    • Floorboards
    • Leather
    • Surfaces
  • Our dog
    • And all the mud he walks into the house…

By popular demand: Is Dr Bronner an evil Palm Oil supporting company?

I’ve reached out to Dr. Bronner directly and was satisfied with their answer on this topic – but I haven’t researched Palm Oil in detail, so my knowledge of this topic is largely based on gut feel, tv documentaries and here-say. In the interest of diversity, I’ll be trying different brands after our giant gallon of soap is used up. I’m always keen to learn more.

Dr bronners liquid castile soap

You’ll need 10-15 large handkerchiefs if you have a severe cold.

Much uses. Such versatile… These handkerchiefs have traveled far and wide. I’ve used them for neck/head scarves, bakery treat holders, fruit bags, wipes, leftovers and more recently… erm… snot rags. 🤧🙃

Now that I’ve been fully sick, I realise how understocked we are. You’ll need 10-15 large handkerchiefs if you have a severe cold. Unfold and wash on a warm cycle. If you don’t want to wash a set each night, get more. To avoid a red nose, favour silk or softer fabrics.

I found these way better than tissues because they are softer, don’t deteriorate and I no longer have a gross pile of tissues surrounding me at the end of a sick day. I don’t have as much of a red nose this time around.

Vacuum waste = Excellent compost.

Having a Corgi X means that our home gets very fluffy, particularly as the weather gets warmer. Not so fun for us, but it’s amazing for our compost bin. All the waste from vacuuming is great for compost as long as it’s organic matter like dust, dirt, hair and fur.

After some short lived second-hand purchases through @gumtree, we reluctantly decided to buy a brand new @dyson vacuum cleaner. If you’re ever feeling cornered to buy brand new, it’s ok. There’s a growing number of companies that are designing products to last, and considering sustainability in their packaging design. I was confident that this would be an amazing machine, but I felt guilty before unboxing. I was impressed (and relieved) that their packaging is styrofoam free and almost plastic free. The one thing I would change is to reduce the amount of plastics in the @dyson product itself, but then I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it 🤑

Plain old bulk.

If liquid package-free bulk isn’t available to you, consider buying plain old bulk instead. This Castile soap can be watered down (1 part soap: 8-10 parts water) to clean dishes, hair, make up remover, dog wash, carpet, surface, toilet, grease, leather, and loads more. Yes, it’s plastic, but it’s a huge improvement on buying multiple bottles.

We got this giant half gallon of @drbronners_australia from @terramadreorganics but it might also be available to buy online depending on where you’re located.

Anyone in remote areas with limited access to bulk? I’d love to hear how you reduce your packaging.