Archive for the ‘Zero Waste Households’ Category

Urban Composting

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If you live in an apartment or other highly urban setting, chances are composting might seem tricky or impossible. Lack of outdoor space may prevent you from being able to have a compost pile, and composting indoors might not seem like the most intuitive process. Fear not! It’s indeed totally feasible to save those scraps from the landfill by composting indoors, even in a small setting. Outlined below are two ways to have an indoor compost without odor or mess:

Counter-top (or under sink) Composting

Counter-top composting can be done by putting leftover kitchen scraps, newspaper, coffee grounds, and other organic material in a container that lives on the counter or under the sink. On average, whatever you put in should break down in about 45 days. Keep in mind, with this method, you shouldn’t add things like dairy, meat, or cooked food. The compost doesn’t get hot enough to fully break them down. For more information on what to add to your compost and how to manage it, check out Apartment Composting Tips.

For this method the container you pick is crucial. You’ll want a container that’s not too big (think about how much kitchen scraps you will actually accumulate – it’s usually not that much) to keep things manageable. Also, as composting’s an aerobic process (meaning it requires air), the container needs to be ventilated. And finally, to minimize odors, a carbon filter is quite nice for indoor composting systems. Not to discourage DIY’ers in any way, but for these reasons, buying a container designed for composting may be a better way to go versus just using an old container of some sort. Check out some of the kitchen composters available through Amazon – many of these look like great options, and start at about $20.

Bokashi Composting

Alternatively, there’s the Japanese method of anaerobic (air-free) composting that requires an air-tight container and a starter culture of Effective Micro-organisms (EM), and wheat bran. Using this method, you can add almost anything to your compost, including dairy, meat, bones, avocado peels, and other notoriously hard-to-break-down stuff. The reason for this: the EM/bran mixture jump starts the anaerobic fermentation process, which is quicker and heartier than aerobic decomposition. Learn more about this from Bokashi Composting.

Bokashi composting has many advantages. When done properly it’s odorless, quick, and tidy, making it ideal for an indoor environment. Not to mention, you can really reduce the quantity of outgoing garbage you have since you can put practically anything from your kitchen into the system.

Things to consider with this method, though, include that you pretty much have to buy a specially designed “system” (also available on Amazon) in order to do it since the container needs to be air-tight, and drainable. You’ll also need to purchase the EM/bran mixture on a regular basis, or otherwise find out how to make it yourself, because you have to add it in continuously to keep things breaking down.

Ultimately, whichever method you choose (and these aren’t the only ones!) will have you on your way to reducing waste and improving soils. So go forth and compost!

(image: That Bloomin’ Garden)

Written by jmalsky

December 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm

6 Ways to Use Overripe Produce

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Before you take those be-speckled bananas to the compost pile think how nice some warm, homemade banana muffins would be. As it turns out, the soft consistency and strong flavor of overripe bananas make them the best to bake with. You probably already knew that about bananas – maybe you asked your mom or your grandma why they always put questionable looking bananas in the freezer and made the connection several months later when presented with a slice of banana bread after school. Oh moms! There’s method in their madness…

But did you know you can do the same with zucchini? A little overripe zucchini or yellow summer squash would never hurt a coffee cake or tea bread, promise! What about apples? Those apples that are passed their prime for snacking have not missed their calling to be saucy!

And don’t give up too early on  tomatoes or cucumbers either, they could still be great as soup (or pasta sauce) or relish.

So that’s five ways right there to make use of produce before giving it back to the earth. Here’s one more just for good measure:

Especially great as a holiday season dessert, if you have a bit of overripe fruit, try making a gelato! This is a base recipe that works great with any kind of fruit, so you can get really creative. Think of all the possibilities: cinnamon-pear, pomegranate, pumpkin spice, vanilla-orange, persimmon-pecan. These and so many others would make great seasonal gelati!

(image: Earth911)

Written by jmalsky

November 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Zero Waste Living Spotlight: Amelia Raley

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This feature’s the first of a series of spotlights on Austin residents who’ve decided to “go zero waste,” and have agreed to share their story so our community can learn and gain perspective on how reducing waste translates to daily life.

Amelia Raley:

Vegan since 2007, Cherrywood resident, soon-to-be co-owner of new Eastside vegan ice cream parlor.

I was thrilled to meet Amelia, our first zero waste interviewee, on an obviously hot August morning. Her Cherrywood home was remarkably peaceful – windows open, curtains waving in the breeze, clothes drying on a rack. As I’ve talked to zero waste households (via in.gredients) I’ve been excited by how different zero waste looks for different people. The lifestyle and the family mold to fit one another in a new, unique way. Amelia takes on zero waste from an angle I hadn’t encountered before our interview – the old-fashioned way. Enjoy!

Brian: “So, how’d you decide to pursue zero waste?”

Amelia: “I lived in intentional communities for the past five years. It was during that timeframe when I began pursuing zero waste. Bulk foods helped spark the idea – some of the first things you’d notice in the kitchens I lived in were giant containers of pasta and rice. When I was there I learned a lot of what I was buying could be bought in bulk, without all the packaging – and that it’s actually cheaper that way.”

Amelia's "transforming" pantry.

Brian: “Were there any other ‘sparks’?”

Amelia: “Well, perhaps not a spark exactly, but I grew up in rural Arkansas, where I’d go camping a lot with my family. It was interesting to go out to the wilderness with only a few things. When you needed something, we used what we had to get the job done. Going zero waste sometimes incorporates that resourcefulness and inspires you to use or re-use what you have.”

Brian: “What was the mental transition to zero waste like for you? Was is easy, hard…?”

Amelia: “It was quite a transformation. It’s really hard at first because it’s such a big adjustment. Being zero waste forces you to be creative and resourceful, and to re-arrange your time. You’ll spend more time cooking, to be sure – but the way I see it, what would you have done with that time otherwise?”

Brian: “Tell us about your zero waste life now – what does it look like?”

Amelia: “I take a lot of my cues from the Great Depression. When you think of all the things you have in your house, just remember that most of the stuff didn’t always exist. What did we use before dishwashers? Or before dryers? I think of the 1950s as the rise of obsolescence. Before then, getting things done required a great amount of ingenuity. I wash my clothes in my bathtub, and hang them to dry on an old-fashioned drying rack. I also try to live without electricity one day a week.”

Antiques in Amelia

Brian: “I love your furniture. Where’d you get it?”

Amelia: “All of the stuff in my home is either from the trash, antique shops, or left behind by previous inhabitants. It’s a rotating cast of characters.”

Amelia's "rescued" couch, covered with a quilt.

Brian: “What advice would you give someone thinking about taking the plunge?”

Amelia: “If you’re going to do it, don’t do it all at once. That may cause you to be paranoid about all the waste you’re still taking in to your home. I’ve been at this for three years, and again, it’s really hard at first – but keeping at it allows you to align your living behaviors with your ethics.”

Written by Brian Nunnery

August 17, 2011 at 9:59 am


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