Fresh Start 2021: 5 Ways to Decrease Waste In Your Kitchen + Declutter

By Manasa Mantravadi



Time to Read: 10 min

Ways to Decrease Waste In Your Kitchen

Growing up in an Indian household meant we did things a certain way. We used stainless steel at the table and our serving sizes were on the smaller side, requiring you to refill only when needed. Glass Folgers coffee jars were reused to store spices. Oh and remember those little black film bottles to develop your pictures? Many Indian moms would fill them with crushed red pepper and have them in their handbags - just in case that restaurant meal needed a spicy kick. Much like many traditions, there is a method to the madness.

In India, the second most populous country in the world - the people are many but the resources are limited. On our summer visits to India I remember the routinely scheduled electricity shut offs, the weekly delivery of clean filtered water to homes and the evening trips to the market for fresh produce to cook exactly what was needed for dinner that night. As I grew older, I began to understand that the importance of reducing wastage in our home stemmed from my parents’ upbringing in a country that was forced to reduce wastage. There was no choice. Reduce, reuse and recycle wasn’t a marketing slogan - these concepts were ingrained in their way of life.

It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized how wasteful we are in the USA. We certainly have a culture of excess compared to other regions of the world. But Mother Nature is asking us to be more resourceful now. There is no choice. If we want a healthy future for our children, it requires us to reshape the way we see the world. The good news is that there are some simple, practical ways to get this fresh start.

I first started changing habits more than a decade ago when I became more aware of the environmental impact of plastic. Once I had kids, I became increasingly aware of issues related to their health and safety. I started to change my habits with even greater intention. Most recently, upon learning about the negative health implications of plastic, I rehauled the heart of our home: the kitchen.

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

Want to know more? Check out our story and our products

Kicking off our Fresh Start to 2021, I wanted to share with you 5 ways to decrease waste in your kitchen. 


Necessity is the mother of all invention. Enter the world of the environmentally friendly dehydrated household cleaners. The average American home will go through 30 single use plastic bottles in a year. One of my favorite brands and leaders in the clean product space (and a big inspiration for small brands like ourselves) just launched their refillable Clean Vibes kit. The Honest Company now offers pods with natural ingredients that dissolve in water to be used in the same single bottle. Founder Jessica Alba stood with Dr. Leo Trasande (one of our Ahimsa Experts!) to join the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition on Capitol Hill in 2011 and in 2016 - in support of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, which was signed into law. Thanks to these leaders - the movement of healthier and safer living for our families was further ignited. We should all feel empowered as parents to stay informed and advocate for our kids with our purchasing power and our voices to legislators.


With the growing evidence of chemicals like bisphenols, phthalates and melamine being harmful to human health, we should pay closer attention to the materials in our homes. While it’s almost impossible to avoid plastic in all aspects of our lives, there are a few key places to replace it - the most obvious one for us is at the dining table. Instead of having a mountain of kids' dishes that are constantly replaced, invest in safe materials recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics like glass or stainless steel. We prefer steel of course as children like to test gravity. It seems gravity always wins. 

By having fewer items that are durable (steel wins against gravity in terms of breakage) and lasts for generations, you are decluttering your cabinets AND saving landfills from storing your discarded items. Remember that less than 10% of plastic is recycled so most of what you think is being recycled is ending up in a landfill or in oceans as macro or microplastics. And while plastic does last (it takes more than 400 years to breakdown), we should invest in things that will last in our home for generations, not in a landfill for centuries. Our children eat and drink from the same stainless steel dishes that I did when they visit their grandparents! Just ask any of your Indian friends and they will likely share a similar story.  

Stainless Steel Swaps


I used to have so many containers and missing lids. They probably are with all those single socks - the mystery land where items go and never return - at least they are not lonely. And did you know those plastic sandwich and grocery bags are not recyclable at most community centers? Once I learned about the overwhelming footprint of plastic on our planet and our health, I invested in some key glass and steel storage containers instead. Not a mountain, just a few. Now my cabinets and drawers can breathe. I also feel better about decreasing my family’s exposure to plastic and contributing in some small way to decreasing plastic production one day. 


This was a game changing strategy that helped decrease spoiled food, too many leftovers and stress - it is so nice to have a plan and ingredients as mealtime approaches and family members get hangry. By buying exactly what I needed for the meals I knew I was cooking, I was able to save money and save food from being thrown away. Now we typically don’t have leftovers but if we do, it’s pretty minimal and so my few quality containers are all I need. We also started composting which is MUCH easier than you think. You don’t have to live in Denver, I promise. Although my friends from medical school who now live in Denver did introduce me to it - so I guess all roads point back to Denver. I'll discuss this in a future post- but it’s a great way to take your food scraps and convert them into nutrients your garden needs later in the year. 


Teflon. Much like plastic, the overwhelming evidence is that it is harmful to human health. So, ditch it and invest in stainless steel or cast iron. For my kitchen, I just started on one side and worked my way through the drawers and cabinets. Why in the world do I have 10 plastic spatulas and 4 frying pans? Well, because they came in that gift set and also in that second set, etc. Unless you are cooking and serving for an entire sports team on a daily basis, most kitchens need only 1-2 of each item. I made myself reassess what pots, pans and utensils we actually used and replaced plastic and teflon ones with quality items made of safe materials. Turns out you can really just buy less stuff and keep it forever (and actually use it consistently).

The natural next question may be - what is the eco friendly way to get rid of toxic substances like teflon and plastic? While I typically donate everything, I didn’t feel great about donating something that I thought was toxic to human health. You can call a metal scrap yard and they can remove the teflon coating from pans to recycle metal as usual (stainless steel is the most recycled material in the world). If you are unable to find a metal scrap yard, you can use services like the Kitchen Separation Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle - a social enterprise eliminating the idea of waste. They actually specialize in repurposing hard to recycle materials to prevent them from going to landfills. 

You don't need to do all of these things at once. I've been making small changes over a decade. I've learned that with each small change, my eyes are opened even wider to other ways I can contribute positively to human health and the environment. I will continue to learn and much like we do for our patients in the hospital, make evidence based decisions for our family in our own home. Now, if anyone has a non-plastic option to carry around some crushed red-pepper in my purse ... I'm all ears.  

Cheers to a fresh start!

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

More Stainless Steel Swaps

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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