Kitchen scraps – a wasted opportunity

Today’s post is all about food waste.

While there are many ideals when it comes to dealing with food waste, and I will discuss some of them, there are also a couple of very easy things you can do instead of putting your kitchen scraps into landfill.

Did you know that even degradable and compostable items like paper and food cause issues in landfill? The environment in landfill lacks air, which is the key ingredient to items breaking down. So while you may imagine that you are doing no harm sending your food waste to landfill because it’s organic and breaks down anyway, the lack of air means that the plant matter actually generates methane gas when it decays – which you will probably know is one of the greenhouse gases.

So, what can you do? The simplest, easiest, and first step that I suggest is you take advantage of your local council’s green waste collection.

Fortunately, for those of you who, like me, live in metropolitan South Australia, your council most likely has a kitchen waste system that is very easy to adapt to.

Our local council, for example, simply requires its residents to register for the food scrap recycling service to receive free cornstarch bags to keep kitchen scraps in until they are ready to go into the green bin. They can also purchase a bench-top or under-the-cupboard bin for $5 to help in the process.

My husband and I began disposing of our food scraps in this way 4 years or so ago, and it is so easy. We probably empty the food scrap bin every 2-3 days so even in summer it rarely has a chance to get stinky. If you are particularly concerned about odours, you can also freeze your scraps in a dedicated container until the bin collection day. This is particularly relevant for those with meat scraps as they will rot in the bin!

ALL food scraps can go into this bin, as well as some other things you may be surprised by, such as pet poo (but not the plastic bags you may be collecting it in!)

When the green waste is collected, it is converted into compost.

But, why let someone else benefit from your wonderful food scraps?

There are a couple of ‘more ideal’ solutions than simply having your council’s waste service convert your food waste into compost.

Firstly, for the super-keen, why not try making stock out of your scraps? Vegetable peelings, trimmed off ends, leaves, stalks etc can make great vegetable stock that you can store in the fridge or freezer. For any meat eaters, of course you can do the same with offcuts of meat or bones (and presumably fish as well, though I’ve never tried to make fish or meat stock!). Any waste remaining after this can still go into the kerbside green waste bin.

Another alternative is to make your own compost. You don’t have to go as far as making a worm farm (though it’s certainly on my list for the future), but you can generate your own compost fairly easily and with a very low startup cost, especially if you are prepared to DIY. Do some research to find out which method is best for you.

Some items shouldn’t go into worm farms or compost heaps (particularly meat and dairy), and for those, there is still the green waste bin.

So there you have it. It is so easy to reduce the amount of methane your waste produces, just with a very small change to your habits in the kitchen.

According to “1 Million Women”, if 10% of Australians compost their food waste rather than send it to landfill, that will prevent 450 million kg of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere.*

Not in SA? Have different opportunities or options where you live? Jump online and research what to do with food scraps in your local area. Comment below if you have any information that can help others in the same location!

 

*Much as I have tried, I can’t find the original post they made about this, and found this statistic on a post by Biome Eco Stores (a highly recommended website for any low- or zero-waste supplies you might need!)… so I don’t know about the time frame of this amount of greenhouse gases – one year? one lifetime? Anyway, even if that’s over a lifetime, I think it’s significant enough to bother making a difference. I hope you agree.

Remember, small changes, bit-by-bit, can ultimately make a big difference.

Live better.

My first step: eliminating meat

Home-made fresh gnocchi
Becoming vegetarian gave me a greater appreciation for and understanding of flavours, and made me the foodie that I am today.

Despite the risk of putting off some readers (at this early stage, too! Am I crazy? Probably), I do feel that sharing my first step towards living more ethically is the best place to start this journey with you. Rest assured, non-vegetarians, that the aim of this post is a personal share. I’m not (yet, at least) trying to convince you to make a drastic change to your diet.

I took my first step towards living better at the tender age of 19, when I decided to become ‘vegaquarian’ (I didn’t know about the existence of a ‘pescetarian’ diet!).

I had always been picky with meats – but not in the way you might think. I refused, for example, to eat turkey because I thought they were weird to look at, had never eaten rabbit, had grudgingly tried kangaroo once but was not keen to have it again, and had always, since childhood, refused to eat anything that had even a drop of blood still visible. It drove my parents mad.

Despite this, I had always taken eating meat for granted, and considered it part of a normal lifestyle, until I began studying philosophy at Uni, and took a subject called ‘How Should I Live?’. While the majority of the readings were about Kant’s Universal Morality, or Utilitarianism, or whether there was such a thing as true Altruism when people gain personal satisfaction from their altruistic deeds, there was one chapter of my textbook that explained that the established moral theories about how people ‘should’ live dealt exclusively with how humans should behave towards each other, while not one mentioned how humans should treat animals. It followed, therefore (reasoned my text), that one could be an incredibly moral person, according to these theories, yet be cruel to animals. The chapter also detailed some of the living conditions of animals bred for meat and that was enough to convince me. I told my mother that day I was becoming vegetarian. She had, unfortunately, already defrosted chicken for dinner that night and told me it was fine for me to become vegetarian but I would have to wait until I’d moved out and was cooking for myself. Fearing a blow-up, I agreed, but couldn’t stomach the chicken she’d prepared. Once I’d made the decision, it tasted like rubber in my mouth and I couldn’t swallow it. (Unfortunately, since I have worked hard to not be a hoarder, I no longer have the textbook I referred to, so I can’t give you the reference to that reading. If anyone comes across it, please let me know via the ‘contact’ page.)

Turns out I learnt to cook a lot earlier than I would have if I hadn’t made that decision – my mother refused to cook two meals so for the first 6 months I cooked a separate meal for myself. Eventually, mum got sick of us eating different things and started to prepare vegetarian meals for all of us (though I still helped her cook most nights).

While I have eaten fish on and off for the last 11 years, and have not yet managed to give up other animal products (though I have replaced cow’s milk with soy or almond for the last 6 years and my husband is building a chicken coop in order for us to have our own eggs), I know that just cutting out meat from my diet has made a huge difference to my personal impact on the environment. While one person’s habits may not be enough to shock the meat industry into refining their practices, I have at least spent the last 11 years feeling ethically comfortable with my diet choice. I don’t let people tell me I’m not making a difference so I may as well eat meat, or, conversely, that I’m not making enough of a difference so I should cut out all animal products. I am doing something, and something is always better than nothing. What’s more, because this choice works for me, it is something I can stick with. And something for 11 years is far better than everything for three months followed by nothing for three years.

We can all take small steps, bit by bit, to improve the way we treat ourselves, our bodies, and our environment. It’s about living better, and not living ‘right’. 

A final note:

My goal in sharing this part of my personal journey with you, as I said, is not to convince you to become pescetarian, vegetarian or vegan. Some of you may already be, some of you may be on the way to being, and some of you may be staunchly against the idea. This is one reason why I haven’t included statistics or gruesome descriptions of the inner workings of the industries in question. What I will suggest to all my readers is that you revisit your motivation for making small changes to your lifestyle. Are you motivated by a concern for the environment, or for the health of you and your family? Then, do your own research on how consumption of animal products affects that primary concern of yours. You are far more likely to stick with any changes you decide to make if they come from a genuine desire to change something.

 

Living better – not living right

It seems as though today there are too many barriers to living ‘right’. Modern society just does not make it easy to do the right thing. How often have you, for example, checked ingredients to be sure that what you are buying is gelatine-free, only to find palm oil listed? (For the vegetarians.)

There are so many battles to fight, and so many attitudes that need to shift if society as a whole supports a more ethical way of living. But until then, each individual can play their part. And it doesn’t have to be difficult.

While some people reading this may already be way ahead of me on the staircase to a more ethical lifestyle, others may be feeling overwhelmed by the number of issues, for example: reducing your water or energy usage, reducing your waste, avoiding harsh chemicals in cleaning or beauty products, reducing or eliminating your intake of animal products… all of which ultimately reduce your personal carbon footprint. But how can you tackle all of these? There simply doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day!

Though some of you may disagree, I strongly believe (and advise) that it is – for most people – unachievable, and perhaps even foolish, to try to do everything at once.

What is the point, for example, of ridding your house of plastic, before any items you have already purchased have reached the end of their lifespan?

So, I propose we all start the same way: with one step. Make one change at a time, and leave as much time as you need in between steps to make sure that each change can stick. If you try for too many things in one go, I see it ending in one of two ways: it is too exhausting and you give up, or you alienate your loved ones with your zealousness. If you make one small change at a time, and make it as easy as possible for your loved ones to fall in step with you, chances are in the long term, it will stick, and those you are encouraging on your journey with you will understand, appreciate and support your reasons for engaging in a more ethical lifestyle.

I’ve decided to start this blog to share my personal journey towards a more ethical lifestyle. While some of the steps I will write about I took long ago, I know there are many more that I wish to take. I hope that you will find my words a source of support, encouragement, perhaps inspiration at times and hopefully appreciate the healthy dose of reality every now and then.

I will tag each post so that you can search previous posts for particular categories, for example, at your stage in your journey you may be looking at ways to reduce waste (#towardszerowaste) or natural, home-made cleaning products (#cleaningproducts). Or, you may like to look at things room by room (#bathroom).

Whatever stage you are on – whether at the beginning or somewhere along the way – I encourage you to keep foremost in your mind your reasons for beginning and continuing on this journey. If things feel too hard, take a moment – or perhaps a day or two – to think carefully about why it mattered to you so much that you tried to enact a change in the first place. Was your motivation about our planet’s health? Were you concerned about the health of you and your family? Were you bothered by the harsh realities of the meat and animal product industries?

Whatever your reasons, if you feel like giving up, think back to your primary motivation. I hope this will give you the strength to try again – maybe with smaller steps.

We all need to do our bit to ensure a healthy future for our world. Start living better today!