How to Reduce Food Waste & Start a Compost!

A couple of days ago, I was listening to one of Mark Hyman’s podcasts, and in this particular podcast he talked about food waste, and how “40% of our food is wasted.” It’s a shocking statistic, aye? But, we can look at it as it inspiration to change.

If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd biggest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China.

FAO, Food Wastage Footprint report, 2013.

First things first…

How to Reduce Food Waste

Let’s begin by looking at parts of food we’d normally throw away which are, in fact, edible and highly nutritious:

1. Kiwi Skins

Now for me, I’ve always loved eating the kiwi skins. I’d eat a kiwi fruit just like you would an apple, really. I love the sour taste it adds to the sweetness of the kiwi. However, for some, the kiwi skin is considered “trash”.

Fun Fact: Kiwi fruit is actually a natural prebiotic (not probiotic), which means it’s a food source for the beneficial bacteria in our guts. It contains fibres which can’t be broken down by our digestive tracts, so it makes it way along to where our gut microflora live and gets eaten by them!

The fuzzy, furry skins contain triple the amount of fibre compared to the fruit, and by not peeling the skin, you receive more vitamin C (as most nutrients of a fruit can be found just under the skin). Note: Make sure to always wash the skin before eating it and choose organic when possible.

2. Broccoli & Cauliflower Leaves

Broccoli leaves are loaded with antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals in the body that are linked to cancer, speed up the aging process, and cause numerous other health problems. Boiling the leaves for a few minutes and then using them as a “wrap,” or chopping them up and sautéing them works wonders!

When it comes to cauliflower, the stem and leaves can cause digestive upset in some people, and tend to be tougher in texture. BUT, if you’re able to tolerate them, you can toss the leaves into some olive oil, along with some dill and garlic powder, then roast them in the oven at 200°C (or 400°F) until the leaves are crispy.

3. Pumpkin (Squash) Scraps

The skins are packed full of powerful antioxidants. When roasted (oven-dried), the skins were shown to contain higher levels of phenolics and antioxidant activity levels, perhaps due to increased bioactivity after being roasted it in the oven. So, unless your pumpkin skin has wax on it, you can leave it on. Organic pumpkin is recommended to avoid pesticide residues.

When it comes to the blossoms, a compound known as spinasterol has been found to contain possible anticarcinogenic properties. According to Dr. Axe,

The concentrated form of spinasterol applied to skin tumours in a mice study decreased the number of tumours by 65 percent.

These blossoms can be eaten raw in salads, or fried!

4. Lemon Peels

The zest from these citrusy fruits makes a wonderful addition in muffins, salad dressings, vinaigrettes, or even just as a seasoning. It’s been found that lemon rinds may have anticancer effects. Always choose organic citrus whenever possible to avoid toxic pesticides.

5. Any & Every part of a Dandelion

Dandelions are great for making detox teas, even caffeine-free “coffee”! The greens are rich in the carotenoid, lutein which helps protect the eyes from oxidative stress, and is also a natural prebiotic, too! The roots can be roasted and used to make latte’s or coffee, while the flowers and leaves make nutritious additions to salads, smoothies, or even super greens powders. While mostly considered a weed, dandelions have actually been used in herbal medicine for centuries to treat infections, bile and liver problems (being a wonderful detoxifier, it assists the lymphatic system and liver in removing metabolic waste and toxins in the body, and is also a natural diuretic).

6. Corn Husks & Silk

Always look for organic corn products. Non-organic corn is likely to be genetically modified, contain residues of glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup), a toxic herbicide that disrupts endocrine function in human cells. Also! if allergic to corn, avoid this edible food scrap (just compost it instead).

Now, the husks aren’t really edible, but that doesn’t mean you need to throw them away! Soaking dried organic husks in hot water makes them more malleable, so they can be easily folded into shape and used as a wrap to encase food that’s to be baked or steamed (also providing a mild corn flavour to the dish). Once cooked, remove the husk and compost it. Do not eat it.

Corn silk on the other hand contains proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, alkaloids, saponins, tannins and flavonoids (with new research finding anti-fungal properties as well!). You can chew on the corn silk strands or use it to make tea (it’s a diuretic though, so always consult with your doctor to make sure it’s the right fit for you and won’t interact with your medications).

7. Onion Skins

Onion skins are a great addition in homemade veggie or bone broth recipes, and even health tonics!

Quercetin and other compounds found in onion skins may potentially help:

  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve insulin resistance
  • Reduce risk of blood clots by thinning the blood

8. Bolting Lettuce, Kale, Spinach and Other Leafy Greens

For leafy greens that have begun to bolt (when the plant cycle has come to an end, and it transitions into blossoming-mode, sending up a thick seed stalk), cut off the lighter green leaves before they turn bitter. This thick stalk from Cracoviensis lettuce can be chopped up and added to soups and stir-fries.

9. Edible Flowers

Edible flowers like purslane, French marigold, pansies, viola, nasturtium, native violet, pumpkin (squash) blossoms or okra leaves make wonderful additions to salads, and may contain vitamins A and C, riboflavins, niacin, calcium, phosphorous and even iron.

10. Strawberry Stems

The leaves can be tossed into the blender when making smoothies, or sprinkled on top of salads, and provide a huge hit of anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Kaempferol has been found to inhibit cancer cell growth and induce cancer cell death, while appearing to preserve normal cell function and health.

11. Watermelon Rinds

Citrulline, a precursor for the amino acid arginine (which has been shown to improve circulation), can be found in watermelon rinds! Some ways to utilise the power of the watermelon rind include using it in chutneys, Indian curries, as a replacement for cucumber in cool gazpacho, or simply pickling or candying it.

We have two GIANT compost bins out the back of how home (they look like this ^^).

How to Compost

Once we’ve used up as much of our edible food waste as possible, what do we do with the rest? Compost it! Composting is one of the biggest ways we can reduce our food waste.

One of the huge reasons behind why food waste impacts the environment is that when food is thrown into the garbage bin and scooted off to landfill, it isn’t able to decompose properly. In landfill, buried under layers and layers of waste, without any access to light or oxygen, food waste isn’t able to decompose as it should because it’s surrounded by inorganic material. It’s estimated that around 40% of landfill material is organics.

When you compost, organic material (such as food and plant waste) are able to break down and become organic, nutrient-rich fertiliser that can be used to grow more plants! By composting, vitamins and minerals left behind in the food can be recycled back into the soil, where they’re absorbed by new plants as they grow.

It’s an easy choice to make but what a lot of us get stuck on is where to start? Here are some easy steps to creating your own composting system at home!

1. Decide on Your Process.

As the environmental, economical and physical benefits of composting are becoming more well-known, many households and communities around the world are separating their organic waste from other types of rubbish.

Kerbside Collection

Some cities collect organic waste from homes, schools, businesses, and restaurants. They then process it and return the finished product back to local farmers and gardeners to use on their plants. To find out if this service is available to you, call your waste collector or enter your postal code at findacomposter.com. Other wonderful composting services available include:

  • We Compost – They’re a New Zealand-run company who can collect everything that is compostable, straight from your doorstep, event venue, or restaurant back door. Food scraps, compostable packaging… anything. (see here for more about We Compost)
  • ShareWaste – Connecting people who need to compost their scraps (donors), with those who have a compost available (hosts)!
  • Positive Waste – Are an Australian food waste recovery initiative designed to help households, councils and organisations dispose of the food waste properly. If you’re a household joining, they provide you with a kitchen caddie and compostable corn starch bags, and once full, you pop your scraps bag in your food waste wheelie bin and they’ll come and collect it!
  • Community gardens – These places will often take your food scraps to use as fertiliser for their plants! (Just inquire beforehand). You can find the nearest community garden to you by searching on Google (or Ecosia).

DIY Composting

If you have the room in your backyard, you can create your own compost! Here’s how:

Choose an outdoor bin

Select a bin that works best for the area you’ll be composting in. I personally like tumbler bins as they’re much easier to manoeuvre (and make aerating the compost a breeze). However, if you’re looking for a cheaper option, you can create your own compost bin using wood pallets.

If you don’t have a backyard, that’s okay. You can use a worm bin as an alternative for recycling food waste. Here’s a great guide for making your very own worm bin.

How to Compost:

  • 1 part green material (e.g. fruit and vegetable scraps, tea leaves/bags, or coffee grounds, weeds, freshly cut grass)
  • 4 parts brown material (e.g. paper towels, napkins, soiled cardboard or newspaper, dead plants, stale bread and crackers, junk mail (ensure there’s no plastic coating on the paper), dry leaves, straw sawdust)
  • A dash of water

Pour these materials into your compost bin, and turn occasionally (to aerate) – this is the compost turner I use. Alternatively you can use a shovel or pitchfork to bring the bottom layer to the top (but it can be A LOT more challenging). If you’re using a tumbler bin, spin the bin 2-3 times.

Your compost may take anywhere from 1-6 months until it’s ready to use on your garden (depending on what’s being broken down in the compost – onion peels, citrus rinds and wood take longer to decompose). It will depend on the proportions of your ingredients and how often you turn the compost (1-3 times a week is enough).

2. Know What to Compost

Not all waste is compostable. Understanding what you can and can’t compost is very important.

Kitchen Waste

The following materials are usually* safe to compost:

Green Material Waste

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps, tea leaves/bags, or coffee grounds.

Brown Material Waste

  • Paper towels and napkins, soiled cardboard or newspaper, dead/wilted plants, stale bread and crackers, or junk mail (ensure there’s no plastic coating on the paper).

*If you receive kerbside collection, double-check with your service provider to see what materials are accepted.

Yard Waste

Green Material Waste

  • Weeds (avoid weeds with seeds), and freshly cut grass.

Brown Material Waste

  • Straw sawdust, and dry leaves.

How to know whether something’s commercially OR home compostable…

If the item says:

Compostable: assume it’s only able to be commercially composted.

Home compostable (will have a certification symbol): pop into your home compost after you’ve cut it up into small pieces.

Biodegradable: this term is often used in greenwashing (a form of deceptive marketing used to give a false impression that a product is “eco-friendly” when it really isn’t). Unless this word is paired with a description of which environment it can biodegrade in, it’s most likely greenwashing. When something is labelled as “biodegradable”, it simply means it can break down. Everything can break down (even plastic, into small pieces), so being ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t mean it will break down into organic matter (compost). Unfortunately, the item must go to landfill.

3. Form a Process – from Kitchen to Compost

Determine how you’re going to get your scraps from your kitchen to the compost. Some people take their food out to the compost after every meal. In my household, we collect it in a container on their countertop and empty it when it gets full. An alternative is to store food scraps in the freezer until you run out of room, then, either use to make veggie broth, or pop in your compost bin.

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products, or making any new lifestyle regimes. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction to it.

Have you composted before? How did you start? Share below in the comments!

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Sources:

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Hess, Kristen. (June 28, 2018). 3 Simple Steps to Start Composting. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/12376/start-composting/

Prakash, Sheela. (December 1, 2015). The Winter Squash Skins That Are Edible (and Those That Are Not). Epicurious. Retrieved from https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/peel-winter-squash-skins-article

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Allen Y. Chen, and Yi Charlie Chen. (December 28, 2012). A review of the dietary flavonoid, kaempferol on human health and cancer chemoprevention. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601579/

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Edible Flowers. (June 10, 2017). ABC. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/edible-flowers/9440422

How to Process and Eat Your Incredible Edible Pumpkin. (October 8, 2018). Tyrant Farms. Retrieved from https://www.tyrantfarms.com/diy-how-to-process-and-eat-your-incredible-edible-pumpkin/

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