Thursday, October 29, 2015

Decreasing Wasted Food By Composting

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value" according to Thomas Paine.  The revolutionary era author was referring to freedom - but we think that Paine's statement may apply equally well to food.

As Americans, we waste about 35% of our total food - 240 pounds per person every year.  That's right - we throw away more than our body weight every year in wasted food.  Discarded food is the second leading use of landfill space.  Worse, decaying food in the anaerobic (oxygen lacking) environment of a landfill produces methane, which scientists believe is a potent greenhouse gas.  Why are we so wasteful, and what can be done about it?

First off, much food is already discarded before it gets to store shelves.  Few stores want to sully their image by having bruised fruit or limp vegetables in their displays, so they and their suppliers will discard these edible but unsightly items.  Also, since large scale produce is picked when ready regardless of whether there is a buyer - much is discarded when no buyer is found.  

Secondly, we tend to forget about produce hidden in the fridge.  We cannot count how many oranges we have had go bad while we complained about the lack of fresh fruit in the house.

So, how do we decrease the waste inherent in transport and storage?  Simple - grow it yourself.  While we cannot grow all of the produce we desire (I will never be able to grow my own bananas), we can grow a great deal in our own gardens.  When you grow your own food, you are much less likely to let it go to waste.  With each leaf of lettuce and each tomato, a gardener remembers the effort they took in planting, nurturing, and growing that plant (notice we didn't say watering or mulching- which can be accomplished with the Groasis Waterboxx).  For this reason alone, obtaining our food not "too cheap", we are much less likely to waste.

Also, no produce lasts indefinitely in the refrigerator - and the longer it is in the refrigerator the less appetizing it becomes.  Luckily, food still on the vine doesn't decay - so our garden offers us nature's storage cabinet.  We can simply go into the garden each day and pick what we want to eat.  If you plant the right things - you may find that you eat much of the food before it gets inside (this is an especially common problem with sugar snap peas).

Isn't gardening more work than going to the grocery store?  This depends on many factors.  Certainly there are methods of gardening (the old fashioned till the soil, plant in rows, water manually) method is more time consuming than stopping by the grocery store.  But here at Farm the Suburbs and Dew Harvest we want to make gardening as easy and enjoyable as possible.  To this end, we recommend most plants be planted in raised beds which don't require tilling.  We can also dramatically decrease (and perhaps eliminate) the watering plants need by using the Groasis Waterboxx.  Also, the Waterboxx prevents weed growth around your plant, allowing you to sit back and wait for the harvest.

Some food waste in inevitable - skins, pits, coffee grounds after use and the like.  For this we suggest composting.  We have a small, filtered compost pail we keep in the garage which we fill with our daily food waste.  All non-animal based food waste can go into regular compost (also egg shells).  Once a week we carry the contents of our compost pail out to our larger compost tumbler.   A tumbler allows oxygen to reach all parts of the compost pile, and prevent anaerobic (and methane producing) digestion.  After at least one summer (heat speeds composting and can kill weed seeds), you can add the compost to the soil in your garden - ensuring nothing is wasted.

A compost pail - a great place to store scraps until going out to throw them on the larger pile or in the tumbler.  

For animal scraps there is a method of composting called Bokashi which allows you to compost essentially all kitchen scraps (including meat and dairy).  This method produces no smell and can be done in a sealed bucket.  Kits are available for purchase online.

So, by growing your own, appreciating what you grow, picking only when ready to eat, and recycling scraps, you can greatly decrease wasted food.  And raised bed gardening and the Groasis Waterboxx will allow you to garden with less work than you thought possible.  Find out more at Dew Harvest.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on 

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