Earth Day can be meaningful only when we add sustainable ways to a year round project. Personally, I have taken to adding small ways of doing this to my kitchen routine. It gives me much satisfaction, though I would like to contribute more to our planet.
Welcome to the second part of our compilation on how to ‘Reduce, Recycle and Reuse’ to make a positive impact on our environment. As we have seen in Part I, we can surely do our little bit. Every family that joins to reduce kitchen waste can make an additional difference for our environment.
Part II: How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle—Raw materials from food
If you want proof of how every family can make a difference to Earth, just look at the amount of waste you generate in your house. See for yourself how much of that is from the kitchen. If every household continues in this manner, how are we going to face our kids/grandkids?
Read on and do add your tips to the wonders you can create by following the 3 R principles, spending 10-15 minutes a day, to reduce kitchen wastes.
Just about all fruits and vegetables are peeled before we use them. Before ruthlessly throwing them in the bin, think of these alternatives.
a. Citrus peels are great as deodourisers.
Use them in the fridge after cleaning the fridge. Put the fresh peel in a small bowl and place in a corner of the fridge to absorb odours.
If your microwave’s interior has started looking shabby and smelling odd, just pop a couple of these citrus peels in a large bowl, half-filled with water. Give it 2-3 minutes on high power. Discard, or repeat if necessary. It will now also be easy to remove all the smudges with a soft cloth. You can do on spot cleaning with this peel itself. Only for the toughest stains, add some mild cleaning solution approved by the manufacturer. A sparkling and clean smelling microwave is ready for use!
Citrus peels can also be dried. Just spread them on a plate in any dry spot till it is hard, away from direct sunlight. Coarsely grind and store in a box.
You can put this coarse powder in small plastic sachets with pin holes in them. Place strategically in spots that need help to smell fresh. The shoe cupboard and bathroom closets are good spots. Shower it in your potpourri.
You can try a variation by adding one inch of cinnamon, pounded coarsely. Distribute this in various nooks, in little pouches. Coupled with some candles (this can also be contained in orange peels for added effects on special days!) your home will look cosy and smell amazing.
If you use a pan for cooking both spicy and sweet dishes, there could be an aroma of say, ginger-garlic paste, that will infiltrate the sweet dish. To prevent this, boil water in the clean pan, put a teaspoon of the powder in it. Throw it out, rinse and now the sweet dish will be odour-free.
Pop it behind your dustbin to give the area a fresh citrus smell.
Since the powder is not synthetic, you will need to replenish the sachets often. But on the flip side, it has absolutely no side effects at all.
Best of all, use the peels for cleaning discoloured taps, stubborn grease in pots and also to remove strong odours from your hands.
If you have a small garden space, start a compost pit. When we lived in a house with a garden, I used to have one a foot deep, lined with some old broken pieces of ceramic and wood chips and sprinkled with soil and some manure. All I had to do was add the peels, discarded bits of raw vegetables, dry leaves, tea bags, straw, cardboard, egg shells etc. You can also add pieces of egg cartons.
Protein (meats, dairy products) or fats should however be totally avoided. If you want to add citrus peels, cut them into small bits. After every few inches of these vegetable wastes, toss some garden soil in. It is good to mix this up once a week.
When the pit is full, start on a new pit for the new vegetable wastes.Leave the original pit for 3 months, watering it now and then lightly.
After that, mix the black, rich mixture and dispense it in flower pots and beds.
It is more challenging to try this in a balcony, but still possible by using a large pot. And it does not stink if you keep mixing it up now and then and don’t let it become too wet. Vermiculture is another alternative, but if you are super busy, you may want to steer clear of that.
Two great resources that can guide you further regarding composting are
Coconut shell and its fibre 🥥
Everyone likes south Indian tiffin items like idli, vadai and dosai with a dollop of homemade coconut chutney (white, green or red!) especially when you realise making them is so simple!
Now, the coconut shells and the fibre that covers it are usually dumped in the dustbin without a second thought. Here are some easy ways to reuse them.
Try to salvage the bigger shells and use them as hanging planters for succulents and small plants. They look adorable. Use them as seeding pots. Break up the smaller shells into pieces to use to line a pot before filling it with soil.
You can also press the coconut shells in a row to mark off your flower beds.
As for the fibres on the shell, the most useful thing you can do with it is to use a clump of it as a biodegradable and disposable scrubber for your dishes. It does not scratch the surface and yet cleans admirably. And when you finish with it for the day, you just throw it out and take another piece of the fibre. How hygienic is that!
You can also dry the shell and fibre to use them in a bonfire.
Versatile and handy, eggs are used many dishes, savory and sweet. But the egg shells have a good amount of value in them.
Start collecting the egg shells, dry them in a corner of your balcony. Shells from boiled eggs are best. When you have around 20, soak them in a detergent solution for an hour. Rinse it off, and now soak them in a litre of water with 2 tbsp. of any disinfectant (like Dettol or Savlon). Drain after a few hours. Rinse thoroughly in plain water a couple of times. Dry completely…you could pop them in the oven at 120° C for 20 mins on a tray if the weather is wet.
- Crush these well into a powder and mix into soil, to add calcium content for plants
- Crush the shells coarsely and divide into batches. Colour each batch with some food colouring. Stock up for the projects that kids may bring home from time to time, or for the holiday season when they are bored. All you need to do is to draw a figure and spread glue on it. Cover the area with coloured egg shells to get a unique craft project. Suggest to the teachers to use this instead of working with synthetic dust and glitter all the time.
Ginger peels, Cardamom/elaichi peels:
When you use ginger, you use a spoon or a peeler to remove the peel. Don’t discard it as a kitchen waste. Instead, save it in a box in the freezer. Add a bit of this to your tea to infuse it beautifully with a gingery flavor. Specially powerful when you have a tickle in your throat!
Similarly, when you peel green cardamom (choti elaichi) pods to pound it for the amazing burst of flavor that you add to your gajar halwa, or kesari, don’t dump them! Add the cardamom peels to tea to get a wonderful cardamom flavor. It is fine and just a matter of taste to mix the ginger and cardamom or to have them separately.
We will be continuing this discussion in part III, How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle—Other kitchen wastes
Meanwhile, what are some more things that are discarded without thought?