A Journey to Zero Waste Living

October in Review:
Compost More, (Food) Waste Less

Above: My stainless steel compost container for the Kitchen. I found it at the Salvation Army for $6.

 

All opinions and recommendations are my own. This blog post is not monetized or sponsored by any of the brands or websites I link to below. I am sharing information and products based on positive personal experience.

 

Part 3: Organic Waste (Composting)

 

Thanksgiving Day in the USA, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s…these holidays and more are rapidly approaching. We all know what that means: joyful gatherings of family and friends, celebratory meals, giving thanks for the blessings in our lives, exchanging of gifts…andddd a significant spike in food waste! (Oh, the irony.)

As much as 40% of food produced in America each year ends up in the landfill. FORTY PERCENT. That comes out to around 60 million tons of food waste per year for the US alone. When the holiday season rolls around, the amount of food waste jumps significantly. WorldWatch Institute stated that Americans generate three times more food waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s versus the rest of the year. Let that sink in.

With the amount of people who go hungry every day around the world, along with the harm that organic waste causes the environment by being trapped in landfills and unable to break down properly, our food waste problem needs to be addressed both on a global scale and an individual level. I believe it is each person’s obligation and duty to reduce their personal food waste. This can be done by composting, meal planning,  prioritizing leftovers, food swaps, and donating. Let me tell you, reducing food waste doesn’t have to be complicated or smelly or expensive. It simply takes commitment.

 

What I Compost in a Month

Above: I filled my counter-top composter 3 times in October.

 

Let’s start with composting, as it is the #1 way to fight food waste globally. I couldn’t bring myself to keep all my compostable waste from October in the freezer, only to take a detailed photo in my driveway that showed you every single peel and skin and scrap. My neighbors think I’m weird enough…

In October, I produced approximately 3 gallons (11 liters) of organic waste + miscellaneous compostable items. I don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, or drink coffee (bleh!) That means I was composting fruit and veggie scraps as well and the occasional grains leftovers and bean leftovers. The non-food compostable items were waste that I didn’t expect to receive (i.e. at restaurants or work events) or waste that I declined but received anyway: cocktail napkins, toothpicks, parchment paper. Other compostables included paper cupcake / muffin liners, two paper sandwich wraps, and a paper chip bag: all purchases that I made consciously. There were times that I knew I didn’t have a waste-free option for meals, so I chose food options where I could compost all the waste.

AboveHorrible picture, but all of my non-food compostable waste from October.

 

Composting  ≠ Gross, Dirty, or Smelly

Let’s be real: the word ‘compost’ can have a dirty, unpleasant connotation. Maybe some of you think of an unsightly, rank, infested pile of old food decomposing in the backyard… because that is exactly what I used to think of whenever I heard the word ‘compost’. I babysat for a family as a teen and that’s what their compost turned into: an open pile near the back door piled high with old food that never seemed to break down, smelled to high heaven, swarmed with all sorts of flies, attracted critters. While compost piles can be a very effective method, the family wasn’t tending to their pile properly so the food wasn’t decomposing. And I wanted nothing to do with composting after that.

When I discovered Zero Waste in 2015, I quickly realize how crucial composting was to a zero waste lifestyle: it redirects waste out of landfills, reduces harmful methane emissions from improper food breakdown, and returns valuable nutrients back to the Earth. Compost soil can be used in a backyard garden or for indoor potted plants, which saves money and reduces plastic waste by eliminating the need to buy bagged soil. Your local planet thanks you!

For a year, I kept my compost in the freezer and dropped it off at a local grocery store. Then, last spring, I decided to build a compost barrel and garden in my backyard and I have been composting at home ever since. I collect food scraps in a counter top container in the kitchen and deposit the waste into my compost barrel 1x a week. I combine food waste, dead leaves, grass clippings, and paper to ensure proper breakdown of the organic materials. I have no issues with rodents or smell, and the waste is processed inside of 5-gallon barrels. My food waste from April – November has produced around 10 gallons of finished compost soil for next spring’s garden.

If you are on the fence about composting at home, let me assure you that it is an amazing process that doesn’t require a lot of time and it does SO much good for the Earth and all of it’s inhabitants. And did you know that when tended to correctly, a compost pile will not smell?

 

Want to Start Composting?
    • Want to know which home composting method best fits your living arrangement? Find out here and here!

 

    • Not eager to compost at home? Look into compost drop-off options at local farmer’s markets, community gardens, plant nurseries, or grocery stores. You can collect your food scraps in a paper bag in the freezer until drop-off day (no smell!) This is a great option if you don’t have space in your home to compost or don’t have a use for the finished soil.

 

    • Want quick and easy? Consider paying a compost service to pick up your food waste at your curb each week. In Washington, D.C., this service costs about 7$/ week, or $1 dollar a day. It’s not the most affordable option but it can work well for a busy individual or family looking to do their part without doing it at home.

     

 

Reducing Food Waste Goes Beyond Composting

Let’s cut to the chase: there really isn’t any excuse for allowing perfectly good food to go bad in our kitchens, only to be dumped in the trash or the compost bin. I do not say this as a smug, pretentious onlooker but as a guilty party. (Hi, it’s me, Guilty! *waves*) There are still times when I find food in my fridge that has gone bad because I forgot about it, I bought too much, I didn’t meal plan properly for that week, or I decided to eat out instead of eating leftovers. Did you know that on average, an American family of 4 loses nearly $1,500 each year in wasted food? Think of what you could do with that $1,500… yeaaaaaa, a lot of nice things. Like a bathroom remodel. Or a vacation. Or enough bulk almonds to make almond milk for a year. Or designing your dream zero waste pantry.

While my backyard composting system can handle nearly all of the organic waste that made because I eat a plant based diet, I often end up composting ‘just gone bad’ produce that I should have eaten but I just…didn’t. (Yup, guilty.) This past month, I forgot about a few sweet potatoes, a couple avocados, and a block of vegan cheese (to name a few items) and they all went bad right under my nose. So I’m working on a plan to help me send less food to the compost bin…

 

My Food Waste Reduction Plan
    • Make a detailed grocery list during the week as I run out of food items, rather than making a list as I run out the door.

 

    • Plan all my meals for the week before I go to the grocery store, so that I know exactly what to buy and don’t make any impulse purchases. (Meal planning is not my strength, so this is a tough one.)

 

    • Keep a detailed log of what food goes to waste each week, so that I can make adjustments to my grocery list before I go shopping again.

 

    • Rethink what I consider ‘waste’ by finding uses for parts of a plant I would normally compost. I no longer peel produce like potatoes or carrots, I turn mushy apples into apple sauce, and I eat the skins of kiwis or the greens of strawberries in smoothies. Next on my list: using carrot greens to make pesto!

 

Apps to the Rescue

If you want extra help to reduce food waste this holiday season and beyond, there are a some great apps available for free. Be prepared for dinner parties and family gatherings by tackling food waste pitfalls ahead of time.

 

    • Save The Food just launched an app called The Guest-imator that helps reduce food waste by accurately predicting how much food will be needed for your dinner party. Check it out. This app arrives just in time for the holidays.

 

    • Olio is a food sharing app that helps you trade food with neighbors. Olio allows you to reduce food waste by sharing surplus food with your local community before the food goes bad. You can also browse your local community to see what food is available for free, saving you money on a food item that was on your grocery list.

 

    • Evernote is a great app for making grocery lists (bullets + #s), meal plans, and a food waste journal. It is not specifically designed for meal prep or reducing food waste, but it’s a free, simple, streamlined word processor that syncs between your phone and your laptop or tablet. You can link to a recipe online within your meal plan, take and attach photos of a handwritten recipes or lists, and more.

 

What is your biggest area of food waste?


How do you plan to tackle this problem?

 

As individuals & communities, it’s time to tackle our global food waste problem head-on. Are you in?

 

 

October’s Landfill Waste

If you are curious, here is all the landfull trash I created in October. It consists of a broken toothbrush holder (I’m a klutz), fragile stickers that the airport put on my suitcase, a checked bag sticker, a shipping label, a Lara Bar wrapper, rouge straws that I refused, assorted plastic bottle seals, produce and jar stickers, and receipts.

 

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2 comments so far.

2 responses to “October in Review:
Compost More, (Food) Waste Less”

  1. Faith Roberts says:

    Great post! You are inspiring!

    • janefrancescrosby says:

      Thanks so much, Faith, for your continued readership and supportive words! It means a lot.😊

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