So, its day three of Zero Waste Week and so far so good with my pledge to do “one more thing” and go zero food waste with my fruit and veg scraps. It helps that I have a more than average appetite, and generally polish off every last scrap of food in my kitchen anyway! Over the last two days I have been using up ALL of my fruit and veg; either by juicing it (then using the juice pulp) or by thinking outside the box with my left over peelings. The theme I’m spotting is creativity and curiosity with food; all of which takes little time or effort!
But before I go further, I thought I would check in with the experts and see how they tackle waste. I have mentioned before that I work at a pretty amazing environmental and educational charity – the Eden Project – whose stunning captive Rainforest and Mediterranean biomes attract millions of visitors to Cornwall every year. But Eden doesn’t just encourage people to think about the impact we have on our planet, and how we can collectively protect and conserve its resources. They also put their money where their mouth is operate as zero waste as they can.
A Journey toward Waste Neutral
When Eden was first built, less than 15 years ago, a target was set to become completely ‘Waste Neutral’. Similar to being carbon neutral, the aim was to balance what was sent for recycling and disposal, with what was bought in as recycled products.
A huge on-site composter was put in place to convert all food waste created onsite into a nitrogen-rich soil enhancement; which Eden’s gardeners could then use to feed their impressive collection of plants. During the 80-day composting process, the contents reach more than 60 degrees C, and result in a potent material which travels back onto to feed the beautiful plants!
Eden Project horticulturist Darren Topps says: ‘Using compost made from waste to grow new plants is a great illustration of the Eden philosophy and, from a horticulture perspective; we’re really pleased with the results we’ve seen’.
5 Steps to Neutral Waste
Eden has adopted a Waste Neutral philosophy; aiming to make sure any food which doesn’t feed human visitors, is reused to feed their plants. This zero waste approach extends across all their operations. Here are their 5 steps to being zero waste, along with my ideas for using them to reduce food waste in the home:
Eden audits operations to check what they are wasting the most and regularly changes processes to factor in their findings.
At Home: it’s a good idea to keep a note of the food you seem to throw away the most, and look into either buying less of it, or coming up with new ideas to use it.
Eden work with suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging brought on to site; using returnable crates instead of boxes and collaborating with producers on product design to reduce the amount of packaging.
At home: If you’re shopping for ingredients to cook for that day, take the plunge and buy the saddest, most bruised looking veg you can find. These little guys may never find a home, and you’ll feel happy knowing you are reducing the huge amount of waste that happens in shops before people even take things home.
Eden’s on-site waste and recycling compound is where everything sorted. This means that the maintenance and design teams can pop in and look for things that they can turn into something else; like fun and engaging exhibitions onsite.
At home: You may not have the space to build a whole recycling centre at home (!) but setting up a recycling corner in your kitchen, or treating yourself to some nifty gadgets, can help make reusing odds and ends of food much easier. A juicer or mini food processor are invaluable tools to using up food scraps!
Eden make sure, wherever possible, that what they buy can be recycled at the end of its life; and team up with other local businesses to make it economically viable to send a small amounts for recycling.
At Home: Teaming up with friends or neighbours on veg boxes is a great way of sharing things out, and don’t be shy to offer up something nearing the end of its life, if you don’t think you can munch it in time. Someone else might have a use for it even if you don’t!
Eden reinvests in the recycling industry by buying recycled stuff, from toilet rolls for visitors, to the gifts they sell in their lovely shop.
At home: Invest your money where you think it is deserved. Buying from local suppliers means you are investing in your local economy, as well as getting some of the freshest – and therefore longer lasting – produce around!