nurtureCreating a connection with yourself on an emotional and spiritual level will often be enhanced as you also connect with nature.  You may frequently be deprived of time to hug a tree, and it can be seen and felt within your body.  Your posture is one indication of this.

How much time do you sit in front of your computer?  As you stare at your screen, your fingers moving rapidly and smoothly across the keyboard, notice how you are sitting.  Your shoulders may be a little hunched and your head may jut forward a bit from your neck.

It’s almost like you are curling up within yourself, away from the outside world around you.

Your body and spirit need to be in nature.  And in doing so, you also see how you need to take care of this earth you inhabit.

One of the easiest ways to do that is by recycling, whether it be your glass bottles, or the reams of paper wasted from your printer errors.  You may also reuse your mug as you go in for your refills at your local coffee shop.

But there is another way that may be right in front of you and at your fingertips.

It’s the leftover food from your meals.throwing leftovers

How many times have you prepared your dinner plate, only to not finish it.  What do you do then?  Do you throw the scraps in the garbage?

I want to share some statistics with you about the enormity of a problem that may seem so small from your plate.

According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten.

In the USA alone, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills.  These landfills have become the largest source of methane emissions.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, a common fuel source. If methane is allowed to leak into the air before being used, it absorbs the sun’s heat, warming the atmosphere. For this reason, it’s considered a greenhouse gas, like carbon dioxide.

While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  This type of emission must be addressed if you want to effectively reduce the impact of climate change.

Another important statistic is that in the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.

I know you may not have thought about all of this while you dumped that leftover food away.

But there are things you can do to at least reduce your part in this.

Here are some ideas for ways you can reuse your food scraps rather than have them end up in a landfill.

Make your own vegetable stock

vegetable stockMaking vegetable broth is one of those things that you may not do because it sounds time consuming.  While there is some time involved, it’s mostly spent on the simmering of the vegetables.  You could even put it in your crockpot. I use this homemade vegetable broth in some of my recipes, and I think once you try it you’ll continue because it tastes so much better than store-bought.

I collect scraps in a freezer bag or one of my glass containers, then freeze them until ready to use.  When I have a few cups worth, I use them to make broth.  Some of the things I have used in the past are onion skins, sage stems, shallot skins, carrot peelings, green onion ends, celery leaves, and mushroom stems.  Test with the brassicas – I have found them to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

You can stir-fry up some garlic and onions first, and any other vegetables you want, then toss in the vegetables that you saved.  Cover with cold water – it usually ends up to be about eight cups or so.  Simmer for about 45 minutes or so.   This is where I sometimes just put it in my crockpot for a couple hours.  Then strain and freeze the broth.  I freeze it in 3-5 cup portions, because that is the amount I usually use.  You can do more or less, according to your needs.

You may now be wondering what you do with those strained veggies.  Never fear!  There are many things you can do.  Mash down the veggies, season them, and prepare as a thick stew. Maybe add some beans to give it back a bit of texture and increase protein. Adding things such as soy sauce (tamari or miso paste are even better) or tomato puree would help increase flavor.  I’m sure you can come up with other ideas.  Share with us when you do!

Juices and Smoothies

juices and smoothiesI usually de-stem my kale and other veggies that have woody parts to them.  Instead of tossing them, I usually keep a bag in the refrigerator, and then run them through my juicer.  I will also sometimes use that as the liquid in my smoothies.

You can do this same thing with other harder vegetables.  Many times after I juice them, I will put them into an ice cube tray and then freeze them.  Toss them into a container, and they are ready for when you need them.

As you go through and clean out your refrigerator, this is another great way to use fruit and vegetables that might be on their way out.  So many times we purchase our produce with great intentions, but life might have other plans for our day.

After you make a kitchen sink smoothie, you can make wraps out of them using your dehydrator.  Fill them with more veggies and sprouts, and you have an amazing nutrient-dense meal.

Lemon Peel Powder

lemon peel powderYou have probably already included lemon water in your day, and are now throwing away great quantities of the peels.  But wait!  There is something you can do with those peels that will help not only in your foods, but your household and personal care, too!  I want to send a shout-out to Elaina Love for teaching this great tip.

After you have juiced your lemons, cut the peel into thin strips.  You can then dehydrate them.  I will do them overnight.  After they are dried, run them through your blender or coffee grinder to pulverize them.  They are now ready to be stored in a glass jar.

This lemon peel powder makes a great low-glycemic sweetener.  Instead of more stevia, you sprinkle some of this on your food, and find your sweet tooth satisfied.

You can also use this powder with your tooth care.  It can be a great way to whiten your teeth.  Mix it with xylitol and baking powder for a great tooth paste.  It’s also a natural disinfectant and mix it with baking soda and white vinegar to clean your counters.  This will also help kill things like E. coli.

Infused Oils

infused-oilI have an abundance of different herbs that grow in pots, such as parsley and cilantro, plus in the spring and warmer months, wild edibles like plantain and comfrey produce in great abundance.  What to do to make great use of nature’s bounty?  Infuse some oil!

This is very easy to do, yet it sounds so impressive to say you did.  It also makes great gifts for weddings and other celebrations.  Fill a clean and very dry jar with your herbs.  Slowly fill the jar with the oil.  I use a chopstick to move the plants around so there are no air pockets.  Fill right to the brim of the jar.  Give it a little shake to move things around, then cover and store in a cool, dry place.  It usually takes about 3-6 weeks for the oil to be really infused.  I would also recommend having something either around or under the jar, because it has been know to leak a bit during the process.

When you feel it is ready, strain out the herbs, maybe even giving them a gentle squeeze to get all the goodness out of the herbs.  This will last about a year.  If you squeeze a capsule or two of vitamin E into the oil, it will act as a preservative, helping it last for at least another year.  Make sure to label what kind of herb you infused with it.

Compost

iStock-9013928_Kitchen-Waste-Composting_s3x4.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.1707Yes, the thing most people think of to do with the produce getting wilty or left over from meal preparation.  This can be a win-win for you and the environment.  It will be good for your soil, and in turn feed your garden plants with nutrients they might need.

You can purchase a bucket made specifically for holding kitchen scraps.  What I’ve done is gone to the hardware store and bought a big white 5-gallon bucket that has a lid that snaps securely on.

Every day I dump the appropriate food scraps in.  That means no meat or meat waste, dairy products, or grease.  They don’t break down into the necessary compost materials, plus they are also an attraction for rodents and other pests.  Yuck!

I usually dump the bucket 3-5 times a week into the compost pile, depending upon how much waste we’ve generated.  I have also found putting a damp paper towel on top helps to keep any gnat population down.  It can also help with any odor.

After you dump the bucket into a compost pile or bin, mix it all up and keep growing the good dirt!

I hope these suggestions have given you some ideas about how you can improve your connection to the world around you.  As you do this, you may discover new parts about yourself that you didn’t even know about.

If you are already using your food scraps in creative ways, please share so that we can all better improve ourselves and the world.