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Can’t Compost? Transform Produce Scraps into Homemade Stock

Posted: 3:26PM May 7th, 2015 | Comments

When I started interning at Sustain Dane in February, I was presented with the question of what I would do over the course of the next few months to live more sustainably. I grappled with the question for a bit, because I feel that I already lead a fairly sustainable lifestyle—I don’t take long showers, keep lights off when possible, relentlessly recycle (and constantly correct my roommates’ recycling mistakes), and shop as locally as possible. One thing that has bugged me since I’ve moved from my parents’ house four years ago is the difficulty of composting without a garden in which to use the combination of dirt, worms, and fruit and vegetable scraps.

This year especially, I pursued my passion for cooking. An ex-vegetarian, I place a lot of importance on incorporating vegetables into a meal. I found myself having to empty the trash more often than ever, mostly due to the accumulation of vegetable scraps. Raised by a father who is a composting enthusiast, I felt a tinge of guilt each time I tossed old coffee grounds or an apple core into the garbage. It was only fitting that finding a more sustainable way to deal with food scraps would be my Sustain Dane Resolution.

I started off by contacting Hypatia Cooperative House, located just a couple doors down from where I live. However, when that plan fell through because their compost bin is already overflowing, I realized I would have to get a bit more creative with my food scrap conundrum.

I decided to take a culinary route, and merge my interests in living sustainably and cooking by making homemade vegetable stock. In no time, I had a gallon-size bag filled to the brim, to the point of being difficult to zip, with carrot tops and peels, onion skins, celery chunks and leaves, and even the less traditional addition of ginger, among scraps of other random vegetables I have cooked with recently.

Although after making the stock, I was still left with the problem of having so many natural ingredients that I hated to throw away, using old vegetable scraps is at least a way to reuse compostable food. Through making my own stock and not having to buy it from the grocery store, I have been able to save money and avoid the waste associated with food packaging. For my current living situation, a method of recycling vegetables in this way suffices, and I anticipate my next opportunity to be able to compost properly. 

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