Food for thought from my friends at Dirt—a home for sharing stories and meals. Head to Dirt.com to explore more on sustainability, one mouthful at a time.
Enthusiastic twentysomethings aren’t the only ones getting wasted on a Friday night. Chances are, millions of carrot tops, zucchini heads, citrus peels, and potato skins are too.
The good news: it ain’t over yet. Right now, the average American sends 20 pounds of food to landfill each month. But there’s new life brimming for what was once just a humble pineapple head or a little old watermelon helmet; as the old adage goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
We’ve all heard about the benefits of composting—even in apartments—but that’s not the only thing you can do to make the most of your food cycles and contribute to more sustainable processes of producing, distributing and eating food. Your food scraps can be repurposed for anything from feeding happy pigs to growing new plants, and you too will be happier after downing a delicious cup of veggie broth.
01. Make a Veggie Broth
Here’s letting you in on a secret: effort level is LOW. Got some leftover carrot peels, potato skins, coriander stems, or anything else when you’re done making that delicious curry? Throw it all in a pot, add boiling water and walk away. Let it simmer covered for a few hours, add whatever spices tickle your fancy and voila—the cure for sniffles, office troubles, or finding out you can’t be a unicorn when you grow up.
02. Grow More Plants
Shuddering at the thought of having to mop the floor after some poor spaghetti bowl incurred the wrath of a two-year-old child? Plant carrot tops, shallot stems, pineapple heads, ginger knobs, or anything that comes with roots and you can play parent to some little plant babies instead. By helping your plants reproduce, you’re doing pretty much the opposite of wasting food—rather, you’re furthering the circle of life (cue music) and enhancing the availability of food to sustain life. Things like shallots, herbs and spinach grow so easily they’ll be shooting before you can say ‘ready, set, grow’.
03. Put 'Em to Bed
Slipping on banana peels? Try picking them up off the floor and putting them in some dirt instead. Not everyone is as enthusiastic about smelly Bokashi compost systems as this writer—but fortunately, you don’t always need to compost for plants to get a good hit of potassium and other nutrients. You can cut up banana peels and slide them into the dirt of a plant pot, and you can also feed plants eggshells, coffee grounds or green tea straight up for a little help to grow.
04. Feed the Animals
When it comes to scraps, our fellow earth creatures are far less discerning than we are. Rabbits don’t discriminate, birds appreciate your leftover grains, and as you may have heard before, dogs love bones. While individuals might be limited to feeding their pets or nearby birds, businesses can work with farms for a win-win situation. Rutgers University in New Jersey partners with Pinter Farms, which collects around a ton of food scraps each day from its dining halls to feed to hogs and cattle. It’s not only efficient, but around half the price of sending the scraps to landfill. (Pro tip: make sure you read the guidelines around feeding scraps to animals to make sure it’s safe for them.)
05. Eat More Cake (For Reals)
Juicers send a huge amount of healthy pulp straight into the trash or compost. Sure, they make some delicious juices, but they also waste a lot of nutritious food that could otherwise be used. Pulp may not be the most aesthetically pleasing when it leaves the juicer, but there are plenty of ways to incorporate juicer pulp into baked goods—like carrot cake, and beet brownies. There’s never been a better reason for procrasti-baking.
06.Up Your Tea Game
Ginger is one of the best things somebody decided to stick in a pot of boiling water and then drink. Seriously, ginger tea is amazing—and you can make it by crushing some of your leftover ginger peel and steeping for a few minutes. You can do the same with the peel of apples, lemons, and any of the essential tea staples in your pantry.
07.Garnish Like a Pro
Rind and peel is here to rescue and liven up your next home-cooked dinner. Citrus peels can be sliced in all kinds of ways to add a little zing into your old pasta recipe, while rind from juiced fruits can be mixed with balsamic or other dressings for a tart twist to salad dressings. Get experimental with cutting techniques, or keep it simple—either way, scraps are your friend.