5 Real Ways To Reduce Kitchen Waste

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Chef Spike Gjerde of Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen thinks outside the box when it comes to green design, energy efficiency and waste reduction. Considering the potential carbon footprint of any restaurant, Gjerde's little efforts have a big impact on Woodberry Kitchen's bottom line. Take a few of his pointers to heart and enjoy lower energy bills, fewer bags of trash to haul and maybe, just maybe, the warm fuzzy feeling that only comes from doing a good deed. Reducing kitchen waste is one of those rare things where everyone wins.

  1. Make sure everything you're throwing away is actually waste

"Basically anything that was alive is compostable," says Gjerde. He distributes his restaurant's "housemade" compost right back to the farmers who supply the kitchen with local veggies. Don't have a backyard? There are plenty of space-efficient and perfectly hygienic ways to compost right in your kitchen without looking like a hippie. Gjerde goes as far as to send the shells from his oysters back to the oyster farmers to use as fodder for growing new ones. But if you just throw your banana peel into a giant Tupperware instead of the trash, it's a good start.

  • Reusing vs. Recycling

  • Recycling is great, but it's also energy intensive. Rather than recycling bottles and cans, Gjerde uses glass Ball and Weck jars for just about everything. Woodberry Kitchen preserves tons of local summer produce to use during winter months when good tomatoes simply can't be had. When the jars are empty, they're used as cocktail glasses until summertime.

    "They're incredibly versatile containers – way more attractive than anything you can buy," says Gjerde. "You don't have to turn your house into Grandma's Country Kitchen or anything, they're just great to keep around."

  • Peel only when you really need to

  • A huge amount of food waste comes from peeling potatoes, carrots, turnips and the like. "If you're buying great local produce, especially from a nutrient standpoint, keep the peels on. It enhances the flavor of whatever you're cooking and saves you time, too," says Gjerde. Keep in mind that this rule only applies to organic vegetables, as pesticides and other chemicals are found in their highest concentrations in the peels and skins of produce.

  • Boycott bottled water

  • Rather than buying case after case of bottled water, buy a home water filter and a few eco-friendly or glass containers. Voilà, your own proprietary blend of homemade bottled water.

    "We've literally reduced tons of waste by not selling bottled water at the restaurant," Gjerde says. "Having both a filter and carbonator in-house has done wonders." He recommends using inexpensive glass Libbey bottles for their sturdiness and rugged good looks. We recommend the SodaStream home water carbonator for the awesome noise it makes when your electricity-free seltzer in its reusable bottle is ready.

  • Find innovative ways to save energy

  • Gjerde encourages any food enthusiast to look into induction cooking as a way to reduce energy. Boiling water or heating something quickly over a gas or electric stove throws a lot of energy (AKA: your hard-earned cash) around the kitchen where it can't be used. "Induction burners used with magnetic steel cookware — anything but aluminum — are 90% efficient, so almost no heat energy is wasted," Gjerde advises. "They're a learning curve, but these stoves are a lot more powerful than they used to be."

    Learn more about Woodberry Kitchen at woodberrykitchen.com and go to Facebook and Twitter to find out what Chef Spike Gjerde and his staff are doing to save energy and reduce waste.

    What energy-saving, green tips do you use at home? Tell all in the comments.

    More on green living at Food Republic: