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Skye’s Sustainable Kitchen

We’ve asked chef-patron of London’s wonderful Spring Restaurant (and long term plastic-free advocate) Skye Gyngell to give her top tips for reducing waste at home. It can seem overhwleming at times to change our habits but take it from Skye when she says, “changing one small thing at a time is enough to start with; allow that one small thing to become a habit…and then think about something else that is small and doable and set your sites on that.”


1. Start composting

Making compost. I have a small bucket that I keep under my sink where I simply put all of my vegetable and fruit peelings, loose leaf tea (theoretically you can put tea bags, but many still contain plastic) and coffee granules. It’s simply a matter of separating your waste. I wait until it is 3/4 full, then I take it to the garden and place it in my compost bin. Simply follow Jane’s (Scotter of Fern Verrow) instructions as she says, it is a pure demonstration of the cycle of life and producing your very own soil is a wonderful feeling. 70 percent of all kitchen and garden waste can go in the compost bin including cardboard and paper. If you don’t have a small garden many farmers markets will gladly accept your compost.

2. Going single-use plastic-free

At first this idea can feel overwhelming, but it’s less daunting than it may first appear. We’re here talking of single use, which means any plastic that has only one use–plastic packaging for food, cling film, plastic water and drink bottles. In place of cling film, I use bees wrap which, can be bought at farmers markets, online and in certain shops. It comes in a couple of different sizes and can be washed and reused, smells delicious, is very tactile and actually feels like a pleasure to use. It prevents exposure to air and fits all sorts of shapes and sizes. If you already have a lot of plastic in your kitchen (Tupperware etc.) simply look after it and keep it in the system as long as possible. Throwing it away because you suddenly feel you must do something about your plastic situation only means it ends up in landfill and will never break down. Get as much use out of it as you can–essentially keeping the plates spinning in the air rather than in the ocean or soil. We do need to turn off the tap and stop using all plastics not just single use–try investing in containers such as glass and stainless steel to keep your food in. They are long lasting, kind to food and can go in the fridge or freezer.

3. Invest in quality things

For example, if you are like me and love sparkling water, why not buy yourself a soda stream. I have a beautiful one from a Danish brand called Aarke – it comes in many different and streamlined and sits happily in a corner by my sink. It means I can drink all the sparkling water I want without having to shop around looking for glass bottles. Ultimately, I think it also saves money over time too. Invest in good cookware – pots and pans that are heavy based and sturdy and will last you a lifetime. If you look after them they will get better with age and will become old and familiar friends. You will have a lovely familiarity with them and know exactly how they tick which will allow you to be more confident in the kitchen.

4. Buy little and often

In normal times, I buy little and often, generally guided by what is in season, looks fresh and is appealing on the day. I buy from one or two small shops in my area (health food shop, fishmonger) but tend to buy eggs, cheese, flowers from the farmers’ market. I either receive a weekly delivery from Jane (of Fern Verrow) or buy something small on the way home: a couple of ripe tomatoes, a handful of broccoli, a tub of goat’s curd and have a very well-stocked pantry that always has dried pulses and grains, good olive oil, a few tins of anchovies, dried chilies and spices. We don’t eat meat at home and very rarely fish. I’m happy with whole grains and vegetables. When I do eat meat (often at the restaurant) it is always from a farm I know is organic, small herd’s pasture-raised that actually sequesters carbon.

5. Cleaner cleaning supplies

Use baking soda and vinegar combined together to make a very effective all-purpose cleaner. It saves on buying in plastic bottles and avoids all those liquids and detergents that are full of petrochemicals.

6. Support small farms

It’s very important to support small organic farmers and producers who care about the land and the future of our food. Supporting small farmers that practice holistic land management is one very important way to help mend our broken food system. Our health and the health of the planet are inextricably linked and we cannot separate them, nor have one without the other.

7. Take advantage of your freezer

I’ve realised the benefit of using my freezer only in recent years. I had, for a long time, a strangely negative feeling towards my freezer but over the last 5 or 6 years, I have really found it invaluable. Many vegetables and fruits that have a high sugar content that quickly turns to starch actually taste better and more pure when immediately frozen rather than sitting in the fridge. I also can take out just what I need and leave the rest knowing that it will remain in a perfect state until I’m ready to use it. When I make bread, and it’s cool enough to slice I leave out what we are going to need that day and then simply slice the rest and place it in the freezer so that you can remove slice by slice.

8. Grow your own herbs

Jane talks about growing in small spaces: pots, windowsills, little plots of land. It gives great pleasure and a sense of satisfaction, but also means that you have an endless supply of your favourite herbs at your fingertips. I find that shop-bought herbs are not only wrapped in plastic but often either have too much or too little–most delicate herbs don’t like the fridge and will quickly wilt. They are happiest in the earth and if you just show them minimum care they will last indefinitely and be ready to use whenever you need. Once you feel confident and if you have a little space, you can grow a little more. I have not much more than a courtyard garden with one small bed and lots of pots. I grow rhubarb, tomatoes and a few lettuces, which give me a great deal of pleasure and plants me firmly in the season.

9. Don’t let anything go to waste

Think about using as much of the vegetable or fruit–if you buy organic keep the skin on and eat the whole plant. The outer leaves of cauliflower, for example, are arguably more delicious than the center–try blanching them and then quickly grilling with a little olive oil, lemon juice and dried chilli–it is one of my favourite things to eat. Or make sauerkraut or kimchi with the outer leaves of cabbage.

10. Cook as an act of giving

Cooking simply from scratch food that is organically grown and nutrient-dense is the kindest thing you can do for both yourself and the planet.