Before You Compost, Check This Out!

by Dalit Holzman

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Within the last decade, the focus on recycling household waste has become a higher priority within both urban and rural areas. Where I live, in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, Friday morning begins with the sound of the recycling truck making its rounds. Plastic containers, glass bottles, paper products and newspapers are whisked away from our curbside, dreaming of the clean reincarnations that await them. In more forward thinking places, even more stuff is recycled. Styrofoam containers, mattresses, compostable food matter, and yes, it's true, even diapers are recycled. On the other hand, out in the boonies it can be a pretty tricky finding the curbside, let alone finding someone to pick up recycling.

In either case, rural or urban, recycling should begin at home. The less we burden the system (if there is one in place), the less we burden the budget, the less we burden the planet.

I've begun to find ways to reuse the organic waste my family produces in and around our home. Rather than throwing everything into the compost heap, which still remains a viable alternative, I reserve certain items for slightly brighter futures!

In the garden

  • Your roses will go bananas for old banana peels. High in potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, they can help keep rose plants healthy and strong. Bury a couple of chopped up peels underneath new rose plants or add to the soil surrounding existing plants.

  • Nitrogen-rich coffee grounds (and even the used paper filters) can be sprinkled on the soil around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons.

  • Eggshells are a great source of calcium for your garden. Spread washed, crushed shells around your plants in place of lime (calcium carbonate).

  • Grind up fully cooked meat bones and turn into your soil. High in phosphorus and calcium, bone meal is a popular fertilizer amongst most gardeners. (As E-Coli and salmonella are very dangerous threats, be sure the bones have been cooked through after the meat has been taken off of them.)

  • Keep the seeds/pits of eaten fruit for next year's crop. (If you have too many, share them with your friends.) In the case of squash-variety seeds, like pumpkin, roast them with a bit of soy sauce for a delicious, healthy snack.

In the home

  • Citrus peels can be turned into extracts for later use in recipes. Bring one large, diced peel (of lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit, etc.) without the white to a boil in 1/2 cup of vodka. Let the mixture steep for at least two weeks in a vacuum-sealed jar.

  • Leftover pulp from freshly extracted veggie juice can be turned into a yummy, unique salad with the addition of some nuts and your favorite salad dressing!

  • Use the leftover juice from canned fruits to sweeten your home-baked goods. And as with vegetable peelings and stalks, save the juice from canned vegetables to add to your soup stockpot.

  • Create the look of antiquity by dying your writing paper in hot water colored with spent tea bags.

  • Throwing out that old cheese wax not so gouda? Consider melting it down for reuse in your own cheese or candle making endeavors or for sealing letters of correspondence the old-fashioned way.

  • Believe it or not, but that bacon, beef, goat and sheep fat you've been saving for a rainy day can be transformed into some incredible soap! Pick up my favorite soap-making book ever, Soap Recipes: seventy tried-and-true ways to make modern soap with herbs, beeswax and vegetable oils, by Elaine C. White for instructions on not only how to turn these drips into suds, but also how you can incorporate ground nut shells into your soap and scrub creations.

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