The holiday season is a very busy time of year. Grocery stores are crazy busy. I especially dread the parking lot. I will often times go to the store at 5 a.m. (thank you 24 hour grocery stores!) just to avoid the crowds. Our fridges are full of food for special dinners. My mother-in-law makes the most amazing breakfast dishes with French bread, cream cheese, cinnamon, and blueberries. I like to pre-make quiches and put them in the freezer for emergency use. As I run around buying all of this food and wrapping presents and decorating my house, I sometimes wonder what our trash folks think of us. Usually our trashcan is one little bag a week. Around the holidays, it is full. I dread sending all of that waste to the landfill. This year I determined to break the cycle. Here are some ideas that I am going to try:
1. Only use recyclable or reusable bags when going to the grocery store.
- I do normally but there are times I forget my bags or do not have enough. Not this season! I am going full bag lady! I am even going to use re-usable bags in the produce section.
2. Avoid items that have too much packaging.
- Yesterday I noticed a banana wrapped in plastic. Why? Bananas are born with their own special packaging, the peel. I vow to avoid items that are packaged unnecessarily.
3. Wrap gifts in recycled paper.
- I am going to get creative this year and use paper bags and have my kids decorate them with their markers and crayons. I have a basket full of yarn from knitting projects, hello wrapping ribbon!
4. Be strategic with my food waste:
- Orange peels can have many lives:
- Orange zest
- Placed in a bag of brown sugar to help draw the moister away
- Eaten: dip in chocolate or boiled in sugar to make orange peel candy
- Start a fire
- Orange Tea
- Clean greasy surfaces
- Clean my garbage disposal (the one time that my orange peels do not go to the compost bin is when I need to freshen up my garbage disposal)
- Air Freshener – boil to freshen the air in the kitchen. Add a cinnamon stick to make it more festive
- Add to my vinegar cleaning solution
5. Compost what can’t be eaten
- I have a worm (vermin) compost “condo” that much of my food scraps go into. They are actually very easy to manage. I highly recommend getting worms. They quickly recycle those food scraps into plant and garden food. It’s basically golden worm poo for your garden! Trust me! Your plants will love you for it.
- I have two compost bins in my garden that take bigger items, yard trimmings; cardboard boxes (yes even the ones from Amazon!). Compost bins are easy to create yourself. Composting has become more and more popular recently so you can now get any size, type at a reasonable price.
Over the years, I learned a lot in my goal to zero waste. Here are a few tips:
- Keep a large bowl next to your sink or cuttingboard
- Once your bowl is full, empty it into a five-gallon bucket outside the door.
- Once your bucket is full, empty it into your compost bin or vermin bin. Worms don’t like citrus so I recommend using your citrus peels in creative ways rather than placing in your compost bins.
This may seem like a lot of work but it actually is not. Especially when you think, about how much work it takes to drag a giant trash can out to the curb. And think about all of the space you’re saving in the landfill. Rather than sending a carrot to a landfill to become a mummy, you are creating wonderful nutrient dense food for your plants.
Corey has degrees in nutrition, photography, and journalism. She enjoys adventure triathlons and hiking. She is currently working on a master’s degree in public policy and management with a concentration in environment and sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs while working full time and caring for her husband, three children, three cats, a beagle, two geckos, and one goldfish