Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials
Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.
By Kayla Robbins
Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.
It can seem like an impossible task at first, but once you set up a simple compost system and get serious about recycling everything you can, you'll cut your waste dramatically.
Once those systems are in place, you'll probably still have some trash to deal with. And remember, while recycling is better than sending something to a landfill, it's not perfect, and it's always better to refuse unnecessary items, packaging, etc in the first place.
Here are a few reusable replacements for some common kitchen items:
If you're someone who loves to sip sweet tea through a straw or slurp a breakfast smoothie during your commute, reusable straws are a great alternative for the disposal plastic variety that have been catching so much flack lately.
With more and more restaurants phasing out their plastic straws in response to customer backlash, having your own set to carry around is a good move if you don't want to give up that satisfying slurrrrp.
Reusable straws are becoming more and more mainstream and available in a variety of styles, colors, and materials. I love my stainless steel set, but there are also softer silicone versions for kids, glass straws that are like functional works of art in your cup, and even bamboo straws from bambu!
Most sets come with a cute little brush to make it easy to clean the inside thoroughly. For use on the go, a quick rinse in the bathroom sink usually works just fine.
Have you guys heard of these?
They're basically squares of cotton covered in a mixture of beeswax and resin. These simple ingredients combine to make a really awesome replacement for plastic wrap in your kitchen. You can use these wraps for covering bowls, wrapping up cheese, fruit, or that other half of your avocado. They can really do it all.
You can keep using and reusing them, rinsing with cool water in between uses. If they start to get a bit bare in places, you can even pop them in a low-temperature oven for a few minutes to redistribute the wax. Good as new!
They're way cuter than plastic wrap since they come in a variety of colors and prints. And once they come to the end of their useful life, they're fully biodegradable, and you can just pop them in your compost bin.
Earth Love has some cute ones to get you started!
Put aside the paper napkins and paper towels. Cloth napkins are softer, prettier, and more eco-friendly than their paper counterparts. And they really require no more care than simply throwing them in with your next load of laundry.
Buying a quality set of cloth napkins is an investment up front, but will save you money in the long run. Plus, you'll never have to scramble to make your table look presentable when you find out you'll be hosting some unexpected dinner guests!
Now, you may be thinking, "aren't tea bags biodegradable?" and for the most part, they are. However, some tea bags can have little pieces of plastic holding them together that are obviously not great additions to your compost pile.
Also, if you buy loose leaf tea in bulk, you can avoid a lot of the excess packaging that comes with tea bags. I've seen some before that were individually wrapped and sealed in a plastic bag that of course went inside a cardboard box that was itself wrapped in a thin layer of plastic. It's ridiculous.
Loose leaf tea typically comes in ONE bag, or even better, a reusable tin.
It really doesn't take any longer to brew, and once you get the hang of it, it can become quite a pleasant morning ritual.
You will need a little bit of equipment, though, and that's where the tea strainer comes in.
If you're making more than one cup, it usually makes sense to brew it in a teapot by putting the tea and the water right in together. To prevent leaves getting into your cup, just top your mug with a tea strainer before you pour the brewed tea. Mountain Mel's stocks a cute stainless steel strainer with a cutout moon and star pattern.
If you prefer to make it by the cup, the mug infuser from Mountain Mel's might be a better choice. Whichever method you choose, don't forget to compost your leftover leaves!
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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