As we do our spring cleaning it is a perfect time to reevaluate our waste, especially in the kitchen. Our kitchens create the most waste. From food to packaging to utensils, you can fill your trash bin quickly. We are here to offer a couple of alternatives to kitchen waste, how to limit it as well as other uses for it.
There is so much that we could say about compost, here we will just touch on the basics. Composting provides vital nutrients for our gardens and keeps the food scraps out of our trash. There are many ways to compost. We have a compost bin, but you could use a plastic tote with dirt in it or even just dig a hole in the corner of your yard. The internet is full of simple composting options. Basically, you just want a way to break down the scraps and disperse their nutrients to the soil. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Use uncooked scraps. Keep seeds out of your compost or you may start growing crops, we are looking at you corn. Meat scraps go rancid and can accumulate maggots, yuck, so that is a no-no. Egg shells (rinsed), fruit peels, and vegetable skins and ends work perfectly. Put your scraps in a closed container in your fridge until you are ready to put them in the bin. That way there is no excuse to dump them in the trash instead. If you don’t have a garden or use for compost look into programs in your community. Here is Minneapolis we have an organics pick up program that will take kitchen scraps and make compost for the community.
Cook with the Extras
Another great options for scraps and extras is to cook with them. Hold on to onion and garlic peels, carrot and celery ends, herbs, and make a vegetable broth. The same can be done with animal bones and scraps for a chicken or beef broth. The carcass will eventually end up in the trash but at least you will pull all the nutrients from it and will have no need to buy a broth from the store, keeping that container out of the waste bin. Keep a container of scraps in your freezer until you have enough and pull it out on a rainy day to make delicious homemade broth. You can also use the odd pieces like carrot greens on a salad. The book Cooking with Scraps by Linda-Jean Hard is a great resource for finding a use for those extras.
Ditch the Packaging
This is not an easy task, but small steps in the right direction can make a huge impact. Skip the produce bags, buy in bulk and take your own containers, use reusable food storage options for leftovers, take your grocery bags, use cloth napkins instead of the paper alternative. These are all simple ways to reduce the waste. Purchase or make reusable produce bags or go without altogether. Going without on the small items like green beans is difficult, but we don’t need a bag for a couple of apples. Most grocery stores have a bulk section for grains, legumes, and nuts. Take your own jars or cloth bags, know their empty weight and tell the cashier at the register. Look around your community, there may be a package free store not far. Use reusable food containers or beeswax wrap for leftovers. This keeps your fridge more organized and your trash less full. No more half onions in Ziploc getting lost in the back of the produce drawer. Throw your grocery bags in the back of your car, no forgetting them this way. Another option is to say no to a plastic bag for only a couple of items. Switch to cloth napkins instead of paper. They last a long time and make you look fancy. We keep a basket under our sink for dirty rags. When it is full, we throw them in the wash.
Reducing waste is a great for our environment. If we use the scraps to the best of our abilities it is great for our gardens and wallets as well.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”
Remember every time we choose an alternative it is one less item going into our landfills. Take the small steps and make a big difference.