January is Veganuary … a perfect way to kick off the year with a plant-fueled reset for your body. Whether vegan-curious or a veteran of plant-based eating, ZENB is encouraging an increase in your plant-based intake as a great way to super charge 2023. Our Veganuary blog series has gathered tips, trips, and insights from experts who are focused on plant-based lifestyles.
January can be a great time to try new things, especially for those looking to not only improve their health but the planet’s health too! Food waste going into landfills is not just a waste of precious nutrients, it also emits methane which actually harms the atmosphere.
Here are some easy ways to contribute to a more sustainable future — from trying out a plant-based diet to composting at home.
Buy Foods You’re Excited About
The first step to reducing your food waste is to buy products you’re excited about and in reasonable sized packages you can use up. Of course, plant-based foods, like ZENB, almost always use less resources to produce so this is a great place to start. Plus, plant-based foods are easy to compost (more on this below).
Choose organic and/or locally grown produce whenever you can. Starting with high quality ingredients, freshly picked, it’s hard for them not to turn out delicious. By going this route, you’re not only supporting local farmers, but you can usually skip peeling and use more of what you buy. You can also reuse scraps in sauces or stocks.
Even when we do our best to plan our meals and consume all the fruits and veggies that we purchase, some food waste is inevitable. That’s why the last step to reducing food waste is to compost what you can’t use.
An easy place to start is by going back to the source. Many farmers markets accept vegetable waste back, which is a great way to recycle the nutrients back to the source. Collect everything from produce scraps, coffee grounds and old flowers in a 1-gallon pail at home and bring it each week. Just make sure your scraps get plenty of air and you let things like coffee grounds dry out before adding to the bin.
If you don’t have access to a local farmers market but have the space and want to go DIY with composting, it’s not too hard! There’s an abundance of techniques and products to help you in getting started, but the most important thing to do is to not overcomplicate it. Sustainability is the key, so make it personally sustainable by finding a process you enjoy and that feels like an easy habit.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind when you start composting at home:
- No composting meat or dairy and keep oils and salts to a minimum. They can attract unwanted animals and rodents and make things smelly.
- Balance between high moisture items and low moisture items. Aim for a 50/50 split of food scraps, coffee grounds and fresh grass and leaves, fine mulch and newspaper shreds (just not glossy newspaper). Try your best with what you have available, just remember that you need low moisture items for your compost to get the air it needs.
- Layer your items in a pile with a thin dry layer on top and you’re off and running! You can keep adding to it, and all your friendly microorganisms will do their job of breaking down the food scraps.
- Keep turning your pile so it can get fresh air. This helps speed up the process. It may take months to finish, so at some point you’ll want to stop adding to one pile and start a new pile. If the pile gets too dry, give it an occasional spray of water.
- Once your compost smells sweet like good soil, harvest what you need and spread it onto other plants.
- Remember, composting is a natural process, so do some learning but also be intuitive, and realize that you’re just getting out of the way for nature to do its thing. Enjoy seeing this fascinating process run its course!
That’s it. Reducing food waste can be easy with a little planning, and the more people who participate, from conscious consumption to starting their very own compost, the better off our communities and the planet will be.
Art is the executive director of Urban Oasis Project, a non-profit supporting the idea that good, clean, healthy food should be accessible to all. A dedicated food activist on many fronts, Art believes food unites us across all cultures and backgrounds.