Australians produce an average of 1.5 tonnes of waste per person each year, a figure that includes food and packaging. It’s scary to think just how long it will take for our waste to break down, especially plastic bags which can take up to 1000 years to fully decompose. While we can’t all live perfect, waste-free lives, there’s a number of easy things we can do at home to cut down on our collective carbon footprint.
Forget about buying vegetable stock – you can make an infinitely richer and tastier broth yourself using only kitchen scraps. Collect all your vegetable ends, peels, stems and anything slightly wilted in a medium size zip lock bag and store it in the freezer.
The beauty of this stock is that it will taste different each time you make it, depending on the scraps you’ve collected. Scraps of onions, carrots, celery, garlic and corn cobs will add heaps of flavour to your stock but you can add as many types of vegetables as you like. Keep in mind that too many brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower) will add a bitter taste, so it’s a good idea to lean towards sweeter vegetables. If you’ve got some leftover parmesan rinds, keep these too as they will add richness to the stock.
Once you’ve filled your scrap bag, tip it all into a large stock pot and fill three quarters with water. Cover, then bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes. Once it’s all cooled down, separate into containers and store in the freezer for future use. Note: about four cups of vegetable scraps makes about 1.8 litres of stock.
Roasting a chicken? Save the carcass and bones and add to the pot with the vegetable scraps for a nutritious, mineral-rich chicken broth. To extract the goodness from the bones, add a splash of apple cider vinegar and simmer on low for at least one hour.
Got an empty patch of dirt in the backyard? Start your own little garden by regrowing vegetables. Rather than starting from seeds, scraps from certain veggies can be nurtured to sprout, making them ready to plant.
Spring onions are one of the easiest vegetables to regrow. Buy a bunch and place them in a glass or jar. Fill the glass with enough water to cover the roots and a bit of the stem, then leave in a sunny spot inside. Cut what you need when cooking, then step back and watch as the onions continue growing. Change the water every second day or so. You can also plant your onions in the gardens and achieve the same results.
Bok choy is another easy one. Chop off the base of the bok choy (about 5 centimetres from the bottom) then place the base in a small bowl of water. Add enough water so that the bok choy floats before placing it in a sunny spot indoors. Change the water every two days to avoid mould and spray the middle of the bok choy (where leaves are sprouting) with water to keep it moist.
After about ten days, you should see a fair amount of leafy growth emerging from the centre, and roots sprouting. Transfer bok choy sprout to the garden and plant it almost completely buried so that only the new green leaves are visible. Give it lots of water and keep it moist (but not drenched) until it grows large enough to uproot and eat.
Starting your own compost is not only great for the environment and reducing landfill, it’s also an amazing natural fertilizer for the garden. First, choose a sunny space in your backyard to dedicate to your compost heap. Next, choose a bin that suits your garden (opt for a one with a good lid to keep the smell locked away and pests out). Once you’ve got the bin sorted, start adding green waste from the kitchen such as raw fruit and vegetable scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds and eggshells.
Make sure you add an even amount of ‘brown’ waste (wood shavings, leaves, old newspapers) to keep the compost healthy. Turn the mixture over every week or two with a shovel to mix it up (or buy a rotating composter). Compost should smell earthy and like dirt, rather than rotting food. Remember not to compost any dairy, animal products, carbs, cooked food, fats, oils or pet poo. Once your compost becomes soil, it’s ready to be sprinkled over the garden as a fertiliser.
Find out more about composting here or ask the friendly folks at Bunnings Warehouse to guide you through the process.
We’re already on board with reusable canvas and hessian bags – why not continue reducing our plastic waste when shopping for fresh produce? While the major supermarkets have now banned single-use plastic carry bags, plastic bags for meat, fruit and vegetables are still in use.
To reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill, consider bringing your own large paper bags to weigh your apples and pears or reuse existing plastic bags from home. When at the butcher’s, bring along a reusable container. To carry bread, consider buying or making your own fabric bread bag. When you get home, store the bread in an airtight tin or bread box to keep it fresh.
Bunnings compost bin, Big W Container, Kmart Spray bottle, Paper Bag Big W, Trowel from Bunnings Warehouse.