Composting with Bokashi

I love composting with bokashi. Okay, rewind. What is bokashi anyways? Bokashi is a way of fermenting food waste (including dairy and meat, which usually isn’t composted in the traditional way) so that when the fermented food waste is thrown in to a compost pile, it breaks down much quicker. Please note, composting with bokashi doesn’t lead to actual compost, but rather, a pre-compost of sorts. I recommend this method if you have a decent amount of dairy or meat scraps and a place to take your bucket of fermented food waste to (like a backyard compost pile). If this doesn’t apply to you — I recommend regular composting, either with a backyard compost system, curbside food waste pickup (if your city has it — jealous!), or food waste drop off (I have seen this at farmers markets; or in Dallas, check out Recycle Revolution).

If you’re interested in composting with bokashi — continue on!

Supplies
Bokashi
– 2 5-gallon buckets with 1 corresponding lid (from any hardware store)
– a drill or nail/hammer to create holes at the bottom of 2 of the buckets
– a place to dump your fermented food waste, such as a backyard compost pile
– any small container to collect food waste during the course of a day or two

1. Drill approximately 8 holes in the bottom of one of your 5-gallon buckets.

2. Stack the bucket with holes within the bucket without holes. Place lid on top.

That’s it for set up. Seriously. At this point, start collecting food scraps in an easy to access spot in your kitchen. Every few days, dump the food scraps in the bucket, and cover with a scoop full of bokashi. Once the bucket is completely full with food scraps, make sure the lid is on tightly, and let sit for about 2-4 weeks (less if it’s warmer, more if it’s cooler). After this “sit and wait” period is over, dump your pre-compost in to a compost pile. You’ll also find that some “bokashi tea” has leaked out in to the bottom bucket through the holes in the top one — this “tea” is great for indoor and outdoor plants. Pour it out in your garden. That’s it. A tip is to make another bucket system to have on hand so you have a place to continue dumping food scraps while the first bucket system is in the “sit and wait” phase. I personally keep my bucket system in the garage but you can also keep it inside the house or on your balcony or patio.

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How to Recycle Better

Disclaimer: I am basing this information off of what I learned while touring our local recycling facility. Your facility may be different with different recycling rules and procedures. The best way to find out is by contacting your local facility, going on a tour, or reaching out to your city’s green/recycling/zero waste initiative divisions.

Visiting our local recycling facility was one of the most educational opportunities I’ve had in a long time. It was fascinating how high tech the facility was but also how much we don’t know as a community on best recycling practices. So. I’m hoping to share out a few small things I’ve learned. First off, make the time to check out this video. This is the facility that I got to visit and it was absolutely fascinating to see how materials are sorted in a single stream recycling system.

And here’s what I learned — broken down by different types of materials.

  • Plastics
    • #1, #2, #5 — These recycled plastics have a good market in our area so I don’t feel too terrible about using them (i.e. if I do choose to use plastic for something, I try and make sure it’s one of these numbers). Check with your city to see which plastics are in the most demand in your area.
    • #3, #4 — Not as good of a market as the plastics above so I tend to avoid as much as possible. However, yes, these are still recycled.
    • #6 aka styrofoam — These are not taken by my city. We were told that even IF they are taken for recycling, the market is very low for #6 plastics. I avoid these as much as possible.
    • #7 aka mixed use plastics — Not a lot of curbside recycling programs take this number but ours does. However, this is done mainly to make the recycling process easier for the community — but, these products are not truly recycled. I find that a lot of skin and body care products use #7 packaging. I have been saving these to take to Origins but have also considered getting a TerraCycle Beauty Product Box just so I know the packaging is getting recycled in some way.
    • Other Plastic Recycling Tips
      • Black plastics (like the ones found with frozen meals) can be difficult to recycle because the conveyor belt that handles all the recycling materials is also black, making it difficult for the sensors to pick them out.
      • Certain facilities take plastic shopping bags/bread bags/dry cleaning bags/ziplock bags/air cushions (all bagged in to another plastic bag). If not, these can be dropped off at store plastic bag drop offs.
      • Plastics should be clean, empty, and dry when put in the recycling bin!
    • Glass
      • Broken glass cannot be recycled in my city. Some cities may take broken glass if contained in a paper bag or box.
      • Metal or plastic (all-non glass) lids attached to a glass container must be removed for separate recycling since the recycling machine is unable to separate out a non-glass lid from a glass container (see more on this below).
    • Metal/Aluminum
      • The best item to recycle! There’s a strong market and products are not “downcycled” in to less desirable items. The process is also incredibly fast.
      • Small pieces of metal (anything smaller than a size of a sticky note such as bottle caps or even can lids) are too small to go through the recycling system on its own as the pieces will fall through the machine (and ultimately get thrown away). I get around this by collecting all my small pieces of metal and storing them in an old can. Once full, I hammer the can shut (so the little pieces don’t fall out) and recycle as usual.
      • Aluminum foil can not be recycled.
      • Again — items should be clean, empty, and dry!
    • Paper
      • Small pieces of paper and shredded paper need to be corralled together so that the small pieces don’t fall through the cracks (literally). I collect all my small pieces of paper in a large brown paper bag and recycle when full.
      • Our recycling facility does take milk and juice cartons — even though they have that plastic coating inside + a plastic spout. They have a very cool system that separates out all the plastic from the paper carton.
      • Metallic paper (such as some gift wraps) can not be recycled.
    • Items That Cannot Be Recycled
      • Here are the items that the facility frequently finds in the system (even though they can NOT be recycled): diapers, dog poop, grass clippings, hoses, and hangers (this can really mess up the machinery, by the way! take your old hangers to the dry cleaners or donate them!).
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Zero Waste Wish List

In absolutely no way do you need to buy things to reduce waste. Nor do I recommend buying things until you truly need to. HOWEVER — if you are in the market for something that could replace a more single use or non-recyclable/compostable item AND you don’t have an adequate replacement already (i.e. old cloth rags for cleaning, empty glass jars for storage, existing spoon/fork for your “to-go” kit, etc., more on that below) … read on!

For the house

  • Wool dryer balls for when you run out of dryer sheets
  • Compostable kitchen sponge and bamboo brushes (with replaceable heads) for when you run out of traditional sponges
  • Compostable toilet brush (but only after you’ve used up all your on-its-last-leg brushes)
  • Beeswax wraps for when you run out of Ziplock bags, saran wrap, and aluminum foil (it is possible to make these at home as well; I also will use old pillow cases to store bread in the freezer)
  • Silicone baking mats for when you run out of baking spray (or just use butter and flour to grease your cookie pans)
  • Evercare Lint Brush for when your lint roller runs out (a must in our house since we have 2 sheddy dogs)
  • J.R. Watkins Laundry Powder Detergent (biodegradable and in a cardboard box) for when you run out of the bottled, liquid stuff
  • Biodegradable dishwasher tablets (biodegradable and in a cardboard box) for when you run out of the bottled or plastic boxed stuff
  • Tushy Toilet Paper (made from bamboo and wrapped in paper; there are other paper wrapped alternatives out there as well) for when you need more TP
  • Compostable trash bags (we are required to have our trash bagged in our city so this at least allows for the bag itself to degrade) for when you are out of your traditional bags

For on the go

  • Keep Cup (got mine on Amazon’s Warehouse Deals) instead of coffee cups from your local coffee shop (an at home replacement is just using a mason jar or even and old jam jar)
  • Que Bottle instead of water bottles (again, you can use a large mason jar as a replacement as well but I prefer the size and weight of Que bottles when traveling)
  • Stainless steel straws instead of traditional straws (only if you insist on using straws… otherwise, just go straw-free!)
  • Cotton produce bags for stashing fruits/veggies/bulk items (these can also be made using old sheets and pillow cases)
  • Cotton grocery bags for shopping (however, I am sure most people have a wide assortment of these already given away at different events and stores — use them!)

For your body

  • Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream for when you run out of traditional antiperspirant/deodorant (you can even make deodorant at home but I don’t have time for all that! the baking soda free version is what works best for me but feel free to experiment!)
  • Bamboo toothbrushes for when you are in need of a new toothbrush
  • Safety razor (I bought a vintage one on eBay) and razor blades (recyclable) for when you are ready to take the plunge!

For fun

  • Pela Phone Case (compostable!) for whenever you get a new phone and are in need of a case (my phones are incapable of being case-less!)

Zero Waste Dallas-Area Resources

I will keep this list updated as I explore and learn more. Please let me know if you’ve found any other places that aid in a zero waste lifestyle!

Bulk Buying

  • Central Market: Buy fruits, veggies, mushrooms, (sometimes salad greens depending on the location), bulk flour, sugar, spices, nuts, granola, oats, candy, chocolate, tea, coffee, fresh bread all with your own bags. They do have bulk honey and nut butters as well — but I haven’t tried buying these with my own jar as I don’t know whether the cashiers can handle the whole tare process. I have brought my own jar for hummus in the olive bar section and used the scale there to tare + print my checkout label (which was a bit of a pain as it took a while to figure out). Unfortunately, they don’t have the same scale in the bulk section. Overall though, Central Market is the bulk winner based off of the sheer amount of items available in the bulk section.
  • Whole Foods: Buy fruits, veggies, mushrooms, (sometimes salad greens depending on the location), bulk flour, sugar, spices, nuts, granola, oats, candy, chocolate, tea, coffee all with your own bags. They also have bulk honey and nut butters as well. However — I have heard that it is very hit or miss as to whether they let you bring your own jars.
  • Sprouts: Buy fruits, veggies, some bulk flour, sugar, spices, nuts, granola, candy, chocolate with your own bags. Much smaller selection than Central Market but really good prices. I’ve noticed that they frequently have pre-measured bulk items available to buy in plastic containers (nut butters, candy, etc.) — which kind of defeats the purpose of buying bulk.
  • Market Street: This one was a bit of a surprise. My husband wandered in to the Market Street in Allen (Watters Creek) and noticed they had honey and canola oil in bulk. He asked the store manager whether they could handle us bringing our own jars and she said yes! We haven’t had to utilize this yet (since I stocked up on liquid bulk items at the AMAZING in.gredients store in Austin — highly recommend if you are driving through!) but will report back on if this works out.
  • Dallas Farmers Market (or any farmers markets in the area): Fruits and veggies. Especially a good way to get berries that aren’t packaged in plastic (more on that next).

Pick Your Own Farms

  • Berries. My husband loves them. I hate that they are always pre-packaged. Enter the pick your own farms. The winner here is Blueberry Hills Farm for amazing blueberries and blackberries. Last year, we picked 2 massive bags of blueberries (yes, they ultimately put them in a big old freezer bag, but I prefer that once a year to weekly plastic cartons). I used one bag to make jams and stuck the other bag in the freezer. We’re finally running out a year later but will be back to pick some more this June. There’s a new strawberry picking farm opening this year which I will check out and report back on!

Recycling

  • Recycle Revolution Dallas: Come here to recycle all traditional materials and electronics waste for free (if your city doesn’t have these services). They also take styrofoam for a fee — although, I would avoid styrofoam as much as possible.

Composting

  • Recycle Revolution Dallas: For a $1/gallon — drop off “fruits and vegetables (i.e. produce), meats, dairy, grains and carbohydrates, sweets, powders, compostable utensils and to-go bags.” A great option if you aren’t able to compost at home. For reference, I fill our 5 gallon bucket to the brim in 4-6 weeks.

Chemicals

  • Household Chemical Reuse Center (Plano and Allen residents only): Unused/unfinished chemicals (cleaning, yard, pest control, paint) that are picked up by the city are available for reuse at this center. And it’s completely free! I find it wonderful for spray paint and ant killer.

Styrofoam

Electronics

  • United Electronics Recycling: I visited this facility and was amazed by the sheer amount of electronics they process. I also love that they have zero landfill initiative. If an item has a plug or has used batteries — it’s eligible to recycle. They also take all types of batteries (not just rechargeable ones). In Plano, they have a weekly e-recycling drop off but also do one off events across the Dallas-area.

Miscellaneous

  • SCRAP Denton: Great for all those random items (mostly craft related supplies). SCRAP Denton takes different items at different times of the year so check their website periodically for updates. However, I have usually found that I was able to get rid of a lot of these items through FreeCycle. However, a great resource for those closer to Denton.
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Waste Not!: Veggie Scrap Edition

Making your own vegetable stock is so, so simple (I mean, it’s not even a recipe really) AND you get to utilize scraps before they are ultimately thrown in the compost AND you get to avoid buying a box of stock that would get thrown in to recycling. It’s a win all around. So let’s get started.

First, you want to collect some vegetable scraps. I have a tin in the freezer that I throw scraps in to — when the tin is full, I use it to make stock. Good veggies for stock are carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers,  leeks — basically, hardy vegetables that aren’t too bitter or starchy (so avoid potatoes, cabbage, too many leafy greens).

Throw the veggies in a pot, cover with water, and bring close to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for an hour (I left the pot uncovered during this time).

Note: I had just cut up a roast chicken before I made this so I threw in the bones/remains as well for some extra flavor.

After an hour, I took the pot off the stove and strained the veggies and chicken out with a mesh strainer. My yield was about 40 oz. I separated out the broth into 3 containers and stuck them in the freezer. Whenever I’m ready to use my broth, I’ll thaw it out and we’ll be good to go!