Day 2: No Impact Experiment: Stop Making Trash. Reduce it. Reuse it. Recycle it. (my additions: Recover it. Respect it.)
Just because we know what to do to stop making so much trash and start saving the planet, doesn’t mean we do it, right? It’s never too late to start making a difference, and the kitchen is a certainly a great place to start.
Buying, preparing, storing and disposing of food is a tremendous source of trash and waste. And, takes some thoughtful effort to change your behavior. I know I have a quite a ways to go to clean up my act in the kitchen and all this trash talk has me thinking. Thinking a lot.
Here are a few easy places for me to start -- small things add up. How about you?
Low trash shopping…
Plan ahead and make a list so you buy what you need and no more. This week, I put some scrap paper in the desk drawer so when it comes time to write a list that I use scrap not new paper.
Buying unprocessed whole foods is easy for me – these foods tend to have less packaging than processed foods, but where I fall down is with items like nuts and cereal and, as you all know, WATER!
I’m going to pre-weigh reusable container to bring to Gary Nulls Whole Foods near me so I can buy from the bulk bin and reduce packaging waste.
I won the Soda Siphon on Ebay so I can break myself of the imported sparkling water habit. I also want to drink tap water and, when I’m on the go, store cold New York City's delicious tap water in a stainless steel container.
Last week, I realized I wasn’t going to use the carrot tops from the farmers market and was happy to give them back to the farmer for compost. I'm embarrassed to admit I, the lighthearted locavore, haven't started to compost yet.
So many times, herbs come in plastic or Styrofoam packages and frequently go to waste. I’m going to bring some herb plants from my house on Long Island and snip as I cook.
Take a cloth bag, backpack, boxes or other containers and previously used plastic bags to the store --- avoid taking new plastic bags home. I know the hardest part for me is to remember to take the bags.
Select bottled beverages that are in recyclable containers or can be reused. Better yet, buy a siphon and make your own soda.
If you must use paper towels, buy brands that are made from recycled paper and don’t contain bleach
Low trash cooking…..I’m an expert in this area because I can’t stand to waste food.
Only cook what you know you will eat. Store leftovers in tightly sealed containers so they don’t spoil. Meat, fruit and some cooked dishes freeze well and made delicious meals reheated. (and cooking once so you can eat 2 or 3 times saves on energy).
What you don’t use ask yourself if you can use it for another recipe (e.g, lemon peels for lemon zest, chicken bones for stock, vegetable peels and trimmings for broth, ripe fruit in a smoothie) before you throw it away. If you don’t have time to make a stock, throw the bones in the freezer.
Experiment with leftover or overripe ingredients – a fun way to come up with delicious, new recipes and a great way to get mileage out of your food budget. Think creative sandwich wraps, smoothies, soups, casseroles.
Save day old bread for homemade bread crumbs – bread stores well in the freezer until its ready to use
Reheat a meal and give it to someone who is hungry. Remember to include a napkin and utensils.
Reuse…My motto is if you don’t recycle it reuse it.
Containers are handy for freezing food, leftovers, picnics, taking food to work, storing grains, beans, cereals and the life.
Save glass jars and lids for homemade jams, beverages, drinking glasses.
Stock the kitchen with cloth towels for cooking and clean up – save trees and reduce or eliminate paper towel use.
Ziplock bags. I find it really hard to break the plastic bag habit which I want to work harder to do. If you buy sturdy zipper bags, be sure to wash them and reuse them.
Buy a kitchen compost crock either new or used and evaluate composting options for precious food scraps.
If you are motivated and have a use for super nutritious soil, learn how to compost fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells with vermicompost systems designed for apartment living or if you have a yard invest in outside composting bin. For a selection of composting equipment check out new equipment at at this site or search ebay.
If you don’t need soil but want to recycle your organic food scraps, take them to participating farmers markets or community gardens in NYC. Check out the list here.
Bag plastic trash bags and start using biodegradable bags made from corn starch such as BioBag brand trash bags
Stay abreast of local curbside recycling rules -- NYC doesn’t recycle everything.
Remember your trash is ofen someone else’s treasure. Before you throw something away or buy something new, consider the “secondary market”. Can you buy it or sell it on craigslist, ebay or at a thrift shop? Is it a gently used book that would make a great gift or libarary donation.
Learn about programs in your area, such as New York City Department of Sanitation’s STUFF EXCHANGE and learn about where to donate, buy, sell or dispose of kitchen appliances and other hard to dispose of items,
Be a role model in your stewardship of the environment -- for yourself, for your children, for your neighbor, for our future.