Sustainability, low waste or zero waste cannot be achieved overnight or with the flip of a switch. We need to work towards it by making small changes in our daily lives. It should not feel like a punishment or an inconvenience but instead, make us question why haven’t we been doing this all along! Start with little things and work towards major changes over time, so it does not feel overwhelming.

Sometimes, it is not just about the will to do it, but also about finding alternatives that work for us, constantly learning, exchanging ideas, holding ourselves accountable if we fall back into old habits and, more importantly, being kind and patient towards ourselves and others around us.

Waste less, use more

Let us start at level one: Fresh produce from farms, farmers’ markets, supermarkets, local vendors and so on. Buying local and seasonal produce is not only good for our budget but our health as well. This also ensures that less produce is wasted starting from the farmer to the middleman and finally the retailer. Try eating foods that are in season. After all, each ingredient serves a purpose, be it for the environment or our bodies. Nature provides specific ingredients in a particular season because our bodies benefit from those nutrients at that time. Not to mention the environmental load and carbon footprint of seasonal produce grown around the year or kept in cold storage to last through the year, or ingredients transported from another city, state or country.

Imperfect produce is good. Most of us tend to select perfect-looking fruits and vegetables but, in fact, bruises, discolouration, odd shapes and sizes do not impact nutritional value. It is purely for aesthetic reasons, which should not be a factor since the produce is going to be cut up and eaten anyway and will not be put on display like a work of art! In looking for the perfect tomato, apple, plum or carrot, we forget that the ones left behind most likely end up in the trash and translate into financial loss for the farmer and/or the seller. Also, being perfectly edible, it is produce that could have gone to someone who really needed it. Rejected produce contributes to around 30 per cent of waste at the farm level and, as food goes down the supply chain, so much more is lost due to improper handling and storage.

Once we have the produce, how can we make the most of it? When we hear the term ‘food waste’, our mind goes straight to leftover food from the previous meal. But wastage begins at the preparation stage itself, in the form of parts we end up discarding because we do not think they are edible or we do not know what to do with them. In my research, I found that almost 33 per cent of food waste at home comprises peels and trimmings. Therefore, use everything. Even peels and cores.

You will be surprised to know that many of the discarded parts have more nutrients than the actual fruit or vegetable itself or, in some cases, are just better in taste and texture. If something cannot actually be eaten, it often has great flavours and health benefits that can be extracted before it is discarded. Potato peels are not used most of the time, even though they are so easy to cook; orange and lemon rind require a bit of processing before being used in a recipe to improve the texture and get rid of the bitterness. Seeds and stems of many fruits and vegetables can be used in various dishes, and peels of some fruits such as pineapple and pomegranate can be used to make beverages even though they cannot be eaten. Not just that, this way you also get your money’s worth. Imagine buying a kilo of oranges for juice when just the peels account for about 600 grams or a kilo of cauliflower where you lose around 120–200 grams when you throw the stems and leaves away. It is an exercise worth doing in your kitchen to see how much food is trashed before it even reaches your plates.

Generations before us did not have the luxury of access to food the way we do today, not only in terms of quantity but also variety. We have access to ingredients from around the world and find seasonal ingredients throughout the year. They made the most of what they had; nothing went to waste.

All inedible food is not waste

If they knew it was edible, it was used in cooking. Things that were inedible found other uses around the house or could be fed to animals. Very little ended up in the bin. Our generation seems to have forgotten such practices or does not have the time and bandwidth to think about them in our fast-paced lives. Using all possible parts of fruits and vegetables is not a new concept or fad; it has been the norm in many cultures around the world for decades, India included.

It is the need of the hour to learn and practise reducing waste from our homes and kitchens. The trick is not to look at it as waste, but instead think of it as a new ingredient and treat it like you would some exotic vegetable or fruit that you came across while shopping or saw online in a blog or video. Find creative ways of incorporating it into your daily cooking routine, learn more about the nutritional value and health benefits and calculate how much money you save in the process.

Potato skin soup recipe


Skins from 3 or 4 potatoes, washed well and soaked in water until ready to use.
1 tbsp olive oil.
1 small onion, chopped.
1-2 cups vegetable stock, corn-cob stock, water with stock powder or plain water.
¼ cup milk (dairy or plant-based).
Salt to taste.
Pepper to taste.
2 tsp of any one or a combination of fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano.
4 tbsp boiled corn kernel.
Chives, spring onion greens or parsley, chopped, for garnish.


1. Heat oil in a pan, add the chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent.

2. Add the potato skins, salt, pepper and herbs, and sauté for 5-7 minutes or until the skins are softened.

3. Add milk and cook for 2 minutes. Cool and blend until smooth. Add stock depending on the desired consistency of the soup. Add the boiled corn and heat once again before serving. Garnish with chives or parsley.


You can add assorted chopped vegetables such as carrots, beans, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms and peas. Crispy potato skins and croutons can be put in for an added crunch.

Excerpted with permission from The No-Waste Kitchen Cookbook: 75 Recipes to Begin Your Zero-Waste Journey, Arina Suchde, HarperCollins India.