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Zero-waste kitchens with Johnnie Collins


Zero-waste kitchens
with Johnnie Collins

The global surge in ethical consumerism shows that more of us are blending fashion, food and lifestyle with our personal values to help limit the impact we have on the planet. But could we use our own sustainable efforts to help others?

London-based chef, Johnnie Collins, has been part of the ethical eating revolution for over 5 years. He’s a self-taught chef and head of Alex Eagle’s The Store Kitchen, first in Berlin and later in London and Oxfordshire. Johnnie grew up in the Oxford countryside where ingredients were homegrown and where food was all about family and friends.

Johnnie Collins on zero waste kitchens

We’ve been blazing the same trail at Timberland for over a decade, bringing recycled, renewable and organic materials into the footwear we make. With that in mind, we asked Johnnie why renewable materials are so important to him and he revealed that, after working in a zero-waste kitchen, he saw the obvious potential for it to come through into the mainstream.

Johnnie Collins: I spent some time in a zero waste kitchen and want to try setting up a space in the same way: no unnecessary packaging, working directly with farmers, growing your own ingredients on the roof. It’s great that big brands like Timberland are using their reach to work towards a more conscious approach to the crucial environmental issues.

Zero waste kitchens with Johnnie Collins

Here at Timberland, we’ve committed to reaching 95% waste diversion by 2020. Zero waste kitchens are driven by a similar philosophy – they believe everything can be used, reused and recycled, from their crockery and glassware to the produce they make or buy, the building’s facilities and the food waste they generate.

Far from being social suicide, committing to becoming zero waste has done little to dampen the popularity of these trailblazing establishments, which have been steadily popping up across Europe over the last few years. London opened the first of many zero waste restaurants in 2016 and Berlin launched a packaging-free supermarket back in 2014. The Netherlands opened a ‘Zero Waste Lab’ in 2016 and, in the wake of France’s 2016 food waste ban, hospitality establishments and supermarkets have all pledged to change their ways. These are just a few of the many examples of sustainable food initiatives changing consumerism and the community.

Timberland deck shoes

For Johnnie, the impact that zero waste kitchens can have on the community is part of the appeal. He grew up in a household where food was used to bring joy to his friends and family who always stopped by. He feels that food is one of the best ways to get people together.

Johnnie Collins: I [see] cooking as a shared experience that can bring a lot of joy to both the cook and the people eating the food.

Timberland pink jacket on Johnnie Collins

Johnnie isn’t wrong. In the UK, a Manchester-based pop-up ‘pay as you feel’ café has committed to a permanent residence after successfully serving up tasty, zero waste dishes for cash-strapped community members, all made from donated ingredients. A town in Italy’s Bologna has set up a ‘community fridge experience’ where they use a WhatsApp group to share food that won’t be consumed before the best before date. In Paris, France, a local government body collects extra produce from fruit and vegetable stalls to distribute in low-income areas.

The shared support that food waste projects encourage is important for Johnnie and he feels its reach can go much further.

Johnnie Collins: Feeding people and sharing food are the best ways to engage with the community.

Grey Timberland jacket on Johnnie Collins

Zero waste cooking isn’t reserved for restaurants and cafés. You can join the battle against food waste from the comfort of your own home and give your meals a flavour-boost in the process. Our tips will help you hit the ground running with your zero waste mission:

Everyday tips for zero waste cooking

    1. Turn scraps into stock

    Did you know that the skins, stems, and ends from your veggies can be used to make a tasty stock? Dump them into a pot with cold water and simmer for half an hour.

 2. Bulk buy

    Giant bags of rice, seeds and other dried goods will last in the cupboard for ages and can help you cut down on the amount of packaging (and money) you waste. 

 3. Always shop with a list

    You can cut down your food shop waste by writing up a week’s meal plan, then only buying the ingredients you need. You’ll stand less chance of wasting fresh ingredients and will be able to empty your cupboards before the next shop.

  4. Put your freezer to work

    Freezers are a zero waste chef’s best friend. Fresh favourites, like avocados, bananas, spinach, sliced bread, and leafy herbs like mint, tarragon and basil can all be frozen.

    5. Get composting

    Did you know that you don’t even need a garden to compost your waste? Check your local authorities to see what schemes are available in your area.

   6. Go straight to the source

    Local greengrocers and butchers have the fresh produce you need—just take along some reusable bags or containers and you’re good to go!

Johnnie’s zero waste kitchen mantra is proof that sustainability looks good, tastes good and does good. Just a few small changes to our daily routines can really make an impact, not just on our bank balances, but to the environment and the community. Definitely food for thought.