Staying in and cooking at home is the new going out and dining. Which—let’s be honest—feels pretty great in a lot of ways, right?! We’re trying new recipes, honing our culinary skills, eating healthier, and hopefully saving a good bit of our hard-earned cash while we’re at it. But there’s one unwanted byproduct of cooking so much at home: food waste. Maybe that new recipe you found online doesn’t make full use of your produce. Or you got inspired at the grocery store by that veggie you’ve never tried, and now feel ‘meh’ about actually eating it. We’ve all been there.
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But considering food waste in landfills is the source of 10% of methane gas emissions, it’s important to find ways to cut down on how much we throw away in order to combat climate change.
Many restaurants and bars have started adopting zero-waste practices. In fact, some are even removing trash cans in an effort to significantly cut down on food waste.
While you may not be ready to get rid of your kitchen trash can just yet, here are some other easy ways you can start reducing your food waste. With any luck, you won’t be able to look at fruit peels and avocado pits the same way again.
1. Reuse avocado pits: Super boost a smoothie
Fun fact: that avocado pit you habitually toss out actually contains powerful nutrients including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. In fact, it offers more antioxidants than the avocado “meat” itself. Whoa. Simply (and carefully) cut up the pit into pieces and blend it while it’s still wet. Keep in mind that since the pit contains tannins, it tastes kind of bitter. If you use only half of it per smoothie (and save the other half for tomorrow’s blend), you won’t be able to taste the tannins at all.
2. Reuse apple peels and citrus peels: Clean cookware
The acid in apple and citrus peels can help remove stains and discoloration from aluminum cookware. Simply boil them in the pot you would like cleaned for 15-20 minutes, and the peels will break down those stubborn stains and—voila!—restore that aluminum to its original shine. If you have stained aluminum utensils, place them inside the pot as well! Not only will you have sparkly clean cookware, but you’ll also get a fresh-smelling kitchen!
3. Reuse apple skins: Make tea
Simmer leftover apple peels in a water-filled saucepan with a couple of cinnamon sticks for 5-10 minutes. These peels will create an autumnal-scented cup of comforting herbal tea. Any type of apple would be tasty here, but red apple peels give you a beautiful, pink-hued tea. If it’s still too hot out, you can also enjoy this on ice.
4. Reuse citrus peels: Make a bird feeder
Here’s a clever craft for all the bird lovers out there: Take the peel of that orange or citrus fruit you’ve eaten and turn it into a bird feeder. All you need is a piece of citrus fruit, a knife, yarn or string, scissors, birdseed, and a plastic knitting needle (optional). Take a scraped-out, empty half of your citrus fruit, poke holes to thread your yarn through four sides of the peel, and tie the yarn together in a knot. From this knot, you’ll be able to hang your bird feeder from a branch! Add birdseed, and wait for some delighted bird friends to drop in for a snack.
5. Reuse avocado pits and skins: Create fabric dye
An avocado’s skin and pit are holding another secret: chop them up, throw them into a pan with water, simmer for about an hour, strain, and — ta-da! — you have a beautiful pink dye to use on fabric! Just drop whatever cloth you want to dye in and let it soak overnight. Don’t believe us? Blogger Ruth Singer was actually able to dye several different types of fabric in the same dye bath over a week. According to her, silk will turn a rich pink while wool will become a softer pink. Natural beauties!
6. Reuse cucumber peels: Deter pests
Interesting fact: While cucumber smells lovely to us humans, insects (mites, wasps, and ants) are repelled by cucumber. Place cucumber peels in the parts of your living space that these insects like to roam, or infuse a handful of cucumber peels with water in a spray bottle and spray the same areas. The more bitter the cucumber peel, the more powerful it will be in turning away those pesky insects.
7. Reuse citrus fruit peels: Keep cats off houseplants
Citrus peels are turning out to be pretty handy, huh? Beyond making marmalade and freshening up your garbage disposal, you can also keep your cats off your houseplants with some simple peels. Don’t worry: The peels won’t hurt them, just simply annoy their delicate noses. Felines hate that bright, astringent smell, so just pop a few of the peels into the pots to stop them from coming around.
While these may seem like clever home hacks, they’re also cutting down on food waste, which is the number one way to fight climate change. (Project Drawdown) Doing your best to use every bit of your produce is a win-win proposition, especially when you get to feel extra creative with your reusing ways.
Want to learn more about how to waste less and save more resources?