Sustainable, eco-friendly, reusable – we hear these terms often and know how important it is to take steps to be environmentally responsible in our everyday lives. Thankfully, there are many opportunities in the produce category to reduce our carbon footprint without much hassle. Making small adjustments can help with long term habits to encourage a cleaner tomorrow.
Small steps lead to big changes:
- Buy Bulk
- Recycle or Reuse
- Zero Waste Cooking
Bulk fruits and vegetables are commonly found at grocery stores depending on the type. Some items such as potatoes or apples are easy to find in loose form, however more delicate fruit, such as berries or stone fruit, may need to be packaged to protect them during shipping. Many organic items are also packed to ensure the credibility of their organic certification and food traceability. Even though not all produce can be readily found in bulk, there are still plenty of opportunities to stock up on unpackaged options.
If you’re planning on purchasing bulk, don’t forget to bring your own produce bags instead of grabbing the single-use plastic available in grocery sections. Good choices include, functional and Canadian made, Credo Bags, colour coded Flip and Tumble reusable produce bags and if you’re looking for something stylish with good ventilation. the Ikea, Kungsfors mesh is for you!
Recycle or Reuse
Many of us have been recycling for a long time, but do we really know exactly what is and is not recyclable? It is estimated that a staggering 90% of plastic is not recycled in Canada, some of which could have been. (The Weather Network, 2019) Appropriate recycling can make a sizeable difference in what materials ultimately end up being re-purposed versus sitting in a landfill.
Plastics can be the trickiest to understand as some of the differences between what makes them recyclable or not are very minor. It should also be noted, that anything placed into your blue bin must be clean or it can taint other items waiting to be recycled. When contamination happens, all objects impacted are sent to the junkyard.
Recyclable Plastics Checklist:
- If the plastic or wrap stretches, then it’s recyclable. You can test this by attempting to stretch the bag with your thumb. Many recycling plants also prefer if you group all your plastic bags together in one bag. I.e. Potato Bags, saran wrap, grocery plastic bags.
- Plastic clamshells commonly used for more delicate produce items are recyclable. I.e. Peach & Nectarine clamshells
- Certain produce trays can be recyclable, and this trend continues to grow. ‘PETE’ plastic and a recyclable symbol on the back means that the produce tray is safe to put into your blue box. I.e. Hot Pepper trays.
If the packaging isn’t recyclable, it doesn’t mean you need to throw it away! Wash and reuse non-recyclable goods for other purposes to cut down on expenses of purchasing food storage packaging and breathing new life into your plastic item!
Use thick, non-stretchable, fruit and vegetable pouches to store sandwiches or other snacks in for lunch. Save bread tags, rubber bands and twist ties for when you need them. Mesh bags are handy for storing garden fruits and vegetables in as they have great ventilation.
Zero Waste Cooking
Unnecessary waste can be created from throwing away parts of fruits and vegetables that are fully edible, and many times, taste delicious. Although produce remnants can be composted and will eventually biodegrade, using them in the kitchen helps reduce household waste and adds more bang for your buck when buying fruits and veggies. Zero waste cooking can be easy to apply and will make you feel good too!
Broccoli Stalks – When preparing broccoli, we tend to focus on the broccoli crown (top) and throw the stalk away, which is tasty to eat. The whole broccoli can be steamed, roasted and sautéed exactly like the crowns. Your broccoli will take you further if you use the entire vegetable!
Kiwi Skin – Did you know you can safely bite into a kiwi, exactly like you would an apple? Say goodbye to cutting it in half and spooning the flesh out. If you can stomach the coarse and fuzzy texture of kiwi skin, then you’re in luck, as the brown peel packs a huge boost of Vitamin C.
Citrus Peels – The rinds of citrus such as, lemon, orange and lime have numerous uses instead of ending up in your compost. Grate any of these citrus fruits and add into smoothies, yogurt, cereal or use when cooking meats like chicken or fish. Citrus flavour is fresh and great for lightening the flavour in a meal, it also has a pungent flavour where a little can go a long way.
Onion Shells – Hold on to onion scraps! They are nutrient dense and contain rich flavour content. When making a soup or stock, add large pieces of onion shell when cooking and remove before serving. The flavour and nutrients will be absorbed.
Carrot Tops – The leafy, green tops of carrots are safe to eat and can actually be used as an herb in cooking! Their flavour is on the bitter side, so if this doesn’t fit your pallet then you can add it to a soup or stew for extra flavour.