October 20, 2009

Zero waste ethic catches on

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From Seattle to San Francisco and beyond, Western cities and parks are beginning to align their recycling policies with a simple fact: we as a society send too much usable stuff to landfills.  And we’re paying through the nose to do it.

New York Times reporter Leslie Kaufman describes the zero waste ethic as “simple in concept if not always in execution.”

Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can.

Though born of idealism, the zero-waste philosophy is now propelled by sobering realities, like the growing difficulty of securing permits for new landfills and an awareness that organic decay in landfills releases methane that helps warm the earth’s atmosphere.

With the economy in shambles and landfill space at a premium, companies such as Honda are getting past the problems to implement zero waste recycling policies, trimming their costs in the process.

Here’s a tip — that saves money and the earth — straight from my zero waste kitchen to yours: stop throwing away perfectly usable food.  I am not referring to moldy leftovers that deserve nothing more than to be composted.  Things happen, leftovers get ignored.

What I am referring to are chicken and beef bones and carrot tops and ends and all the other vegetable bits left over from making dinner.  Take them and freeze them as you go about your day to day business.   If you know you’re not going to get to all the veggies in your bin — for example, if you’re going away for the weekend — freeze rather than dump all those greens.  When you have filled a gallon-sized freezer bag, put the bones and/or veggies in a pot, cover it all with water, bring it to a boil, and then let it all simmer for anywhere from one to three hours.

What you get is delicious stock that can be used to make soup, rice or couscous, or reduced into a sauce, or used to substitute for water and pump up the nutrition and flavor in almost any savory recipe.

Investigative advice?  Perhaps not.  But it is plain good sense.

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