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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Kitchen opportunities for refilling, reusing and repairing

Lunchbox

Credit: iStockphoto

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The kitchen is a great place to get the hang of refilling, reusing and repairing our stuff. We eat everyday, but so many items are single-servings, over-packaged and creating waste. Some of the ways to cut this down are:

  • Reusable water bottles, coffee mugs and thermoses - make sure you get some in small sizes for your kids as well.
  • Tupperware or other reusable containers - instead of buying individually-wrapped portions of snacks, buy them in bulk and refill your containers each day. This can work for nuts, dried fruit, yoghurt, crackers, cheese, etc.
  • See if you can buy other food in bulk as well, maybe from local markets instead of the chain stores. You can get beans, pasta, cereal and flour this way, and cut back on both packaging and the number of shopping trips you have to make each month.
  • Instead of cling-film for wrapping your sandwiches, try one of the wrap mats available online, or make your own. They stay put with velcro and come in different sizes.
  • If you use a water filter, learn how to refill the cartridge yourself.
  • Invest in a really good roasting pan so you don't have to use those tinfoil disposable ones. The same goes for a rice-cooker instead of the single-serve microwave rice packets.

And while we're on the subject of appliances, make sure you get the best quality you can afford, and see if it's parts are easily replaceable or repairable. As with the electronics we talked about last week, there are still small businesses out there who do repairs, just a quick search away online or in the Yellow Pages.

Keep your appliances clean too, so that nothing goes wrong with them. I clean my kettle by boiling vineagar or lemon juice inside it, then rinsing it thoroughly. I regularly give the toaster a clean out too - don't want it catching fire because it had so many crumbs stuck in it!

Have a think about whether things really need replacing, too. Recently my husband asked if I wanted a new beater for when I make cakes, which I've been doing more often. Ours is an old 80s model, at least 25 years old. It was a pretty sad-looking old thing! But I had a look at the shiny new ones in the shops and it's not like there's been any advances in beater technology - it's still just two whirly things and a speed setting. I decided that I'd just give mine a good cleaning to make it look shiny and new again. It's now my old faithful, the beater that's never let me down, and I look forward to using it for many years to come.