Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Compostable : Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving provides us with a bountiful feast to be enjoyed by friends and family, but it also produces some of the largest trash days of the year and with landfills reaching capacity across the nation. With municipal budgets stretched to the breaking point, why not talk trash this Thanksgiving!
After recently discovering that a large portion of the trash from New York City travels to Virginia to be landfilled, I started to think not only of the environmental impact of trash itself, but of the costs and effects associated with transporting trash and saw an opportunity.

Okay, okay, I hear the murmurs already, how will people in New York compost if they are in apartment buildings ... well, for the record many of the boroughs have townhouse akin to the Cosby House with a real back yard, plus there are all those community gardens in the city. But the real wake up call for me was not the New York part, it was the transporting part that holds true for suburbs around the country. How many of us can afford a trip from New York to Viriginia once a month, let alone three or four times a week? So spend our money on sending our trash on that journey?

If you don't already compost yet, Thanksgiving Dinner, combined with all those falling autumn leaves, presents a great opportunity to start going green and get ready for next season's garden. So here's what I've discovered is compostable at Thanksgiving:

1. Butternut Squash Soup : If you are a purist and make yours from scratch, the peelings from the squash are compostable. Save the seeds to toss into your feeder mix for the birds in winter. If you have leftover soup, and it doesn't keep, it will break down rather quickly in the compost - its a much greener alternative to dumping it down the drain or toilet.

2. Mashed Potatoes. Potato peels are the perfect addition to compost, and since they are so thin they break down rather qucikly as well.

3. Stuffing. Seriously, if you have leftover stuffing, you've done something wrong! But as long as your stuffing isn't a sausage or oyster style (just bread, fruit, and vegetables) it's compostable.

4. Turkey. The turkey itself is not compostable - at least you don't want meat products in your compost, WAY too much trouble of all sorts of varieties, but there are things from the turkey preparation that you can compost. If you are one of those people who toss quartered onions and fruit into the cavity of the bird for extra flavorful drippings, those items can be tossed into the compost (the traces of turkey drippings will be negligible in comparison to the rest of your compost). If you are a fresh herb person, all those sage and parsley stems are were cut away during preparation are compatable too.

5. Cranberry relish. The only way to go with this is to buy the bags of fresh carnberries and make your own. Of course there are always some old maids in there that are turning bad. Don't toss them out - compost them.

6. Sweet potato pie. Yup, peelings. Lots and lots of peelings.

7. Pecan pie. If you are making pie from complete scratch, meaning you crack the nuts, toss those shells into the compost mix. They'll take longer to break down than other things but eventually will return to the earth from which they came.

8. Cocktails and cranberry juice. At the end of any good party there are always some things left in the drink glasses. Since compost bacteria need moisture to thrive and break things down, and I'm running with the assumption that you'll have a lot of dry leaves in your composter, those leftover drinks not only provide moisture, but the sugars just make those little bacteria guys party like crazy!

9. Green bean casserole. Making it from scratch, with fresh green beans? All those ends of beans you cut off are idea green matter for the garden.

10. Corn On The Cob. The cobs do take a long time to fully break down, sometimes I find that everything but the cobs are broken down when it's time to empty and use the compost, but that's okay, what's not fully broker down gets tossed in the next batch of compost. (So toss those corn cobs in there too!)

11. Bread, rolls, and pie crust. Why not take all those half eaten things and toss them into the compost too (or break them up and toss them out for the birds)

There no doubt are many, many more things from Thanksgiving that are compostable, and I am sure that each and every reader will have more. As we bask in the glory of giving thanks, it's kinda neat that we can enjoy the fruits of our labors, without placing an extra burden on Creation.