Sustainable storage ideas for your kitchen

sustainable kitchen ideas
Eleanor Cording-Booth,-Interiors Writer

Get more organised, add character and reduce waste with these easy, sustainable storage solutions

Kitchen storage containers, boxes, bags and baskets are essential ingredients when creating a more sustainable home. The humble airtight container is the hero that helps reduce food waste by keeping your cupboard stock and leftovers fresher for longer. You can also minimise packaging waste by taking smaller lidded containers shopping with you to refill in zero-waste shops. A sustainable approach works from an aesthetic angle, too, helping you to organise your kitchen and add more personality to the room by creating stylish, interesting displays on your shelves.

sustainable kitchen ideas

1. Choose your containers wisely

When it comes to kitchen cupboard storage, trying to organise food packaging in odd shapes can be a bit like playing a game of Tetris – not forgetting the baking ingredients that get hidden at the back then emerge two years later, well out of date. This is where storage containers make life easier and tidier, especially for dry goods. If you go for clear containers and label them, you can also see everything at a glance, so there’s less waste from those forgotten-about items (and you can see when you’re about to run out of rice).

‘There’s something soothing about tidy shelves, even if they’re behind a closed door,’ agrees Rukmini Iyer, bestselling author of the Roasting Tin series. Refill your containers in a zero-waste shop if possible. And even if you can’t get to one, you’ll be limiting waste by making your cupboard contents easier to see and quicker to access without taping up corners of bags and refolding cardboard boxes. Of course, if you’re storing things that are very sensitive to light – such as coffee beans – or your containers will be placed in a sunny spot, go for solid, rather than clear, containers so your food stays fresher for longer. 

sustainable kitchen ideas

2. Style your shelves properly

In the age of Instagram and the #shelfie, the kitchen shelf is no longer just a place to put your egg timer – it’s a photo opportunity. Open shelving is becoming increasingly popular as people choose to display art and trinkets alongside dishes and cocktail glasses for a less formal and more characterful look. Whether you intend on photographing your kitchen shelves for the world to see or you’d just like to make them look neater for yourself, food storage containers can be the sustainable styling item you didn’t realise was missing.

Choose a matching set for all of your pantry essentials and display them together, organised by content type and peppered with postcards or artworks, your favourite glassware, a few serving boards and some bowls of eggs or garlic bulbs. Arrange your storage containers in rows and stack them to save space. Keep your display interesting with a mixture of heights. 

sustainable kitchen ideas

3. Don’t ditch your leftovers

We’ve all been there. The dish you loosely covered in tin foil wasn’t airtight and now the contents taste like ‘fridge’, the packet of biscuits you’d half-eaten has gone soft and the brown sugar has turned to concrete. The key to minimising waste and making your leftovers last for round two (or three) is packaging. We’re not talking a flimsy lid or a bit of tape on a packet – but a durable, lightweight plastic container with a silicone seal or airtight lock. The kitchen storage options at John Lewis & Partners have silicone seals and our new range is made from BPA-free plastic. 

You could also consider replacing cling film with reusable beeswax wraps – they’re biodegradable, washable and last up to a year. Chef, cookbook author and sustainability champion Melissa Hemsley freezes half-used herbs in reusable bags and saves peelings, courgette tops and cauliflower leaves in a storage container in the freezer to boil into stock later.

sustainable kitchen ideas

4. Use shopping baskets as storage

Woven baskets are especially brilliant in a sustainable kitchen because they serve several purposes. First of all, they just look great on display. When they’re not being used as plastic bag alternatives, if they have a flat base, pop your baskets on the floor, on a shelf or on top of a kitchen cupboard – adding warmth to a space that can sometimes feel a bit clinical. If they don’t have a flat base, hang them from the back of a door or a shaker-style wall hook for a breezy, country kitchen vibe. As well as looking stylish on show, baskets can be used for hiding less attractive plastic bags that you already have, handy string shoppers and fruit/vegetable bags. 

When you do head out, it’s good to get into the habit of taking a string shopping bag with you – they’re so compact and light that you’ll barely notice it’s there. Keep one in your most-used tote or handbag and you’ll be ready for any shopping emergency. Not only is it far more sustainable than buying a new plastic bag, it takes up less space, too. 


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