September is busy- back to school and hectic fall routines. This can cause a lot of food waste (ok, at least in our family) as we recalibrate. Although I’m thankful for my compost bin, I’m even more appreciative of my freezer right now. Browning bananas, extra muffins and bagels, grapes we’re not getting to, leftover tomato paste and an overabundance of homemade pesto- they all go into the freezer until I’m ready to use them. It’s like getting an extension on your homework! Write the date on the outside because who can remember that kind of stuff?
A grocery list, that is (but please keep singing!). Don’t scoff- planning at least some of your meals can have a bigger impact than you think. A part of the massive food waste in the US occurs in our refrigerators. Think about it: what food did you just throw out? For me, it was pizza dough (didn’t get to it in time). And pudding (now I know everyone hates butterscotch).
Think it takes too much time to keep track? My list keeps me moving quickly through the store and I usually don’t forget anything, which means fewer trips to the grocery (more time saving and less gas!). Keep a running list on your phone or fridge.
How do you rate? Do you…
o make a list beforehand
o use fewer one-use produce bags
o buy local
o buy in season
o buy less meat
o bring your own grocery bags
o buy less plastic/individually wrapped items
o extra credit: walk, bike, carpool to the store
Celery level (you checked 1-2): Great start! Try something else on your next trip!
Lime level (3-5): Pat yourself on the back and keep up the good work!
Zucchini level (6 or more) You’re amazing! Please share your tips with the rest of us!
Any other eco-ideas for the grocery?
The growing, processing, and shipping of meat (pork, beef, and chicken) requires huge amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, energy, feed and water, not to mention the waste produced. Eating less meat is not only healthier for the environment, it’s healthier for you.
If you’re not on the tofu wagon, think beans & rice, a veggie stir fry, pasta, or a veggie burger. Even once a week is a step in the right direction!
What’s your favorite meatless meal?
Some people (probably those who hate mowing) think big grassy yards are outdated. They can take a lot of water, chemicals, and fertilizer…not to mention time! This fall is a good time to consider adding native trees, bushes and flowers to lessen your grass footprint. You can always start small and add on gradually. If you do plant grass, look for brands with deep roots, which need less watering, or try clover- which will give you a different look (and bees!) and add nitrogen to the soil.
What happens to the plastic produce bags you bring home from the supermarket? You can reuse them (they’re great for covering half a melon, for example). Even better- go naked and don’t use a bag at all for single items, cucumbers, bananas, etc. Throw trickier veggies like green beans or tomatoes into a reusable nylon bag. They last forever!
Try to take a couple of bags with you each week- or go naked- and save hundreds of plastic bags a year!
The dog days of summer are here, and all we want at my house is a tall glass of something cold. Usually that means iced tea, flavored water or lemonade by the gallon- but we avoid plastic bottles by making our own (it’s easier than you may think). You can even find new “unsweetened natural flavor essence” for bubbly water machines. Mix your own flavors- I’m thinking lime mango. Home brew tea means you can control the sweetness, make it decaf, or add flavors (my favorite is peach). Or use a packet of drink mix- you can add them to your water bottle no matter where you are!
It’s National Pollinators Week! Unfortunately, honey bees aren’t doing so well– their habitat is shrinking, parasites and disease are rampant, and they’re exposed to harmful pesticides. Two things you can do:
1. Find native, bee-friendly plants for your garden (or a pot). “Old-fashioned” varieties are best–some modern blooms have lost their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen that attracts and feeds pollinators.
2. Pesticides that are really harmful to bees have special labels on them, so follow the instructions if you have to use them. Or don’t use them at all!
I’m going to celebrate by eating some honey.
Hearing more about carbon offsets these days and need some background info?
Basically, it means if you create carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas- one way (say you fly a lot), you make up for it another way (you might plant a bunch of trees. A bunch.). Some popular offset projects include:
- carbon capture: equipment that captures gases before they’re released at places with high emissions, like landfills and mines
- forestry: planting trees or protecting old ones (I forgot about the oldies!)
- using more efficient stoves: mostly a focus in developing countries
- renewable energy: wind turbines and hydroelectric dams, but also individuals’ solar panels and biogas digesters (do you have yours yet?)
Most people walk by trash on streets, athletic fields, in the woods- if they even notice it. Swedish folks actually have a word for jogging while collecting trash, called plogging (plocka upp means “to pick up” in Swedish, apparently).
Invite friends and family to join you on a trash walk today (or any day- we’re going this weekend). If you gross out at the thought of scooping up disposable masks and food wrappers, start with plastic bottles and aluminum cans, which are also easy to recycle.
It’s easy, and makes an instant difference. Happy Earth Day!