Learn from my mistakes: Making vegetable scraps stock – Food waste mini-series #fail

Want to learn how to make vegetable stock from your kitchen scraps? Then don’t do what I did. In today’s article I’m going to look at what went wrong with my experiment, how to do it the right way, and how making mistakes is an important part of being an activist. (Right?)

I follow a lot of Eco Tips and Zero Waste pages on Instagram, and this summer I saw this post about making vegetable stock from kitchen scraps, which made me really excited. The idea of wanting to waste less food had already been bubbling through my mind, and whenever I was cooking it always made me sad throwing away the odds and ends of veggies that I felt must possibly have a use. So after weeks of saving up my scraps, I decided to give this DIY stock a go — only to find disastrous results.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

First, how do you make your own vegetable stock? According to what I’d read, you save your vegetable scraps (potato skins, bits of onion, carrot ends), freeze them until you have enough, and then boil them with water and strain them to make your very own vegetable stock. Seemed simple enough. I’d saved up for weeks, feeling a sense of excitement every time I set aside those rubbery bits of red onion, or big broccoli stalks, dreaming of the day I’d put them to good use. When that day came, it all looked good at first: I put my scraps in a big pot, along with some extra garlic, parsley, turmeric, and other spices to make it taste extra good.

But then I started boiling it, and wondered if I had gone wrong somewhere. The smell itself was pretty off-putting; it was like the whiff you get from opening your fridge which tells your sinking heart that something has gone very bad. I opened the window and carried on, not wanting to let weeks worth of saving go to waste.

Then the colour became kind of distinct… it went the same kind of brown you got as a kid when you mixed all your paints together to see what would happen. I hadn’t washed the veg before I stored it in the freezer, which I know seems crazy, but I figured I’d be boiling it anyway so it would be fine…

Then, as I poured the mixture into an ice cube tray to freeze and save, I thought maybe I should taste it, which was a BIG mistake. It tasted like a skunk had farted in my mouth. Worried this might be inedible, I brought my partner in to try it. After tasting it, even she was dubious about whether it was worth saving, and she hates wasting food. Feeling defeated, I looked up some articles on how other people had made this to see where I had gone wrong.

Firstly, you should always wash your vegetable scraps before you freeze them, otherwise it will make the stock go a bit, well, muddy. Secondly, although what I’ve read said you can pretty much save any scraps for the stock (as long as it isn’t mouldy), apparently some greens like kale or broccoli will make it taste kind of bad. I’m not sure why this is, I know broccoli is full of vitamins which is why I’d saved it, but that might have been what caused the skunk fart taste.

Also, maybe don’t go quite as overboard with the onions as I did. Me and my partner use red onions for everything, so I had saved up quite a lot of onion bits over time. This was probably was gave it such a strong smell and flavour.

But, defiantly, I did freeze some of the stock I made, and I do want to try and use it in a soup… one day. When my stomach is feeling extra strong. Stocks aren’t meant to be eaten alone anyway, maybe when it’s added to something else it will be… better? Even if this isn’t the case, I’m not giving up. I’ve started a new scraps bag in my freezer, knowing what to do now, and I’ve included some parsnip, carrot, and sweet potatoes skin to hopefully give it a sweeter flavour. Wish me luck on this attempt! If you want a good guide on how to make a vegetable scrap stock properly, this is the one I found helpful: https://ohmyveggies.com/how-to-make-vegetable-broth-with-kitchen-scraps/

Finally, why did I include this failed experiment in my food-waste series? Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to, since the series is meant to be positive ways to encourage us to save food and be more eco-friendly. But, I decided to in the end, because I think the best way to be a Climate Activist is to do it imperfectly. Trying to do good in the world is always better than nothing. For example, being a flexitarian and eating mostly vegan stuff, even if you can’t quite manage to give up cheese, will still save a lot more animals than not trying at all. Posting about climate strikes, even if you can’t attend them, still raises awareness. And admitting as a human race that we have made some huge mistakes for the planet, and that we need to try and change society in order to fix them, is a big example of how we recognise and learn from our mistakes to do good. No one is perfect. You’ve just got to try your best. Even if it means making skunk-fart soup.

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DIY Natural fabric dyes – Food waste mini-series

In this article I’ll be looking at super easy ways to dye fabric with foraged blackberries, onion skins and turmeric. This is a super cosy autumnal activity that will leave you with a smile on your face.

It’s the second part of the food waste mini-series and I thought it’s time to get crafty. I love making things in Autumn — there’s something about creating in the cosiness of my own home that makes me really happy. And producing natural dyes from things I’ve foraged on my latest nature walk, or the scraps I gather in my kitchen after making a hot dinner, really makes the experience even more special. Plus, using botanicals to dye fabric means you’re not using any harsh chemicals, so this craft is Eco-friendly. As if you need any more convincing, let’s get into how to do it…

First, what will you need?

You can dye pretty much any materials made from natural resources. The twines pictured above are cotton, and I wasn’t sure what the second-hand cat fabric was made from (a bit of a risk) but this is what it all looked like before I dyed them, so you can see how the it goes. As well as your fabrics, for this craft you’ll need:

  • a cup
  • water
  • microwave
  • a mixing bowl
  • washing up liquid

And also blackberries, red onion skins, or tumeric, depending on which colour you want.

Blackberries – Purple

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Blackberries make a lovely purple dye, and the amazing thing about this season is you can get them for free! My great-grandmother used to say that ‘the devil lives in the blackberries come September’. And what I think she meant was, since it’s a little late in the season for this gorgeous fruit, they might be a bit off by now if you try to eat them. So if you’ve just spent your afternoon picking a bunch of blackberries only to find they taste bad, worry not, for instead of wasting them, you can dye them, with these super simple steps:

Step One – Gather and prepare your blackberries

Blackberries can usually be found all over the place in hedgerows. We have some in our back garden, but there are more in local parks and wild areas. Be careful when you pick them — 1. because they’re prickly and 2. because other animals also eat them. Whenever you’re foraging, remember to respect nature and leave some for local critters to enjoy. Once you’ve got about a cup full (or more if you’re planning to dye a lot of fabric) then you can wash them to get rid of all the dirt.

Step Two – Microwave them with water.

The guides I read suggested simmering the berries in a saucepan, but since I’m a bit lazy I decided to try and microwave mine to see what happened. And it worked! All you need to do is put your blackberries in a mug, fill it with water, and microwave it for a couple of minutes. When you take it out of the microwave, the water should look dark.

Step Three – Strain them

Use a sieve or colander to strain the blackberry juice from the pulp. I just used a little sieve and pressed the blackberries into it. The colour that comes from it is amazing.

Step Four – Add the dye to your materials.

I then put my twine in a glass and poured the blackberry juice over it while it was still warm. I left it to set for a couple of hours before taking it out.

Step Five – Wash the material

Now your material is it’s desired colour, you need to wash it. Since we’re using organic plant matter, we need to make sure it’s properly clean so that it doesn’t go mouldy. Pour some warm water into a mixing bowl with a squirt of washing up liquid and hand-wash your fabrics in this. You might want to do this a couple of times until the water is clear.

Last step – Drying them

Now you just need to leave your materials out to dry! I hung mine on the back of a chair for a day or so and it dried really well. Since I was using twine, I then wound up the string and admired the results!

Red onion skins – Pinky-purple

I had no idea that my food scraps could be used to create something like this, but with the beautiful pigment red onions have I guess it makes sense. I actually found this to be the hardest dye to make though, so it does take some patience, but in the end the sense of accomplishment of using something that would normally be thrown in the compost bin is pretty rewarding.

Step One – Save your red onion skins

When you’re cooking with red onions, save the skins that are leftover and keep them in the freezer until you have enough to use. It took me about a month to save all of this, but you’ll need less for less material.

Step Two – Microwave them

Like with the blackberries, all you need to do is microwave the onion skins with water for a few minutes. I used a huge mug for mine since I had saved so many skins, so I microwaved it in two minute intervals for about six minutes until the water had gone a reddish-purple.

Step Three – Put your material in the cup

I tried straining the skins, but the finishing product wasn’t as vivid as when I just put the materials straight in with the onions. So just put whatever you’re dying in with the warm onion skins in the water and leave overnight.

Step Four – wash your material

Now it’s time to separate your materials and clean them. Similarly to before, you just need to wash them with warm soapy water in a mixing bowl. If, when you’ve washed them, you’re not happy with the colour, then just put the material back in the onion skins cup, microwave for a few minutes, and leave it for longer before cleaning them again.

Step Five – Dry and admire the results.

As much effort as this took, I was quite pleased with the mellow pink and purple results. The cat fabric didn’t take quite as well, which probably meant it wasn’t made from all-natural materials, but since I had scrunched it up in the cup I liked the muted pink tie-dye look it came out as.

Turmeric – Yellow/ orange

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

Turmeric is a powerful natural dye, which you might have noticed if you’ve spilled some on your clothes before. (Like I have. Multiple times.) This is probably the easiest natural dye to make, and it creates a lovely bright yellow colour, or orange if you add bicarbonate of soda. I’m not going to explain these steps, as after reading the rest of this guide you’ll be a pro at making natural dyes now, and this one is especially straight forward:

Step One – Pour a few teaspoons of turmeric into a cup of water

Step Two – Microwave it for a couple of minutes

Step Four – Add your materials to the yellow water and leave it over night

Step Five – Wash the material in warm soapy water

Step Six – Leave to dry

I hope you enjoyed this guide. If you try any of these natural dyes and want to share the final product then please tag me on Instagram or Twitter so I can see!

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DIY Avocado hair mask – Food waste mini-series

In the first part of this food waste mini-series, I’ll be looking at a way to use overripe avocados that will make both your head and heart happy.

Avocado’s are popular among vegans and vegetarians, and it’s easy to see why – they are full of vitamins and minerals and are hailed by many as a super-food. They also taste amazing in guacamole. Sadly though, they can be pretty temperamental. There’s a small window between the fruit being under-ripe and overripe, and since they’re also quite pricey, there’s nothing more disappointing than opening up your avocado to see you’ve missed the window entirely. Chucking an avocado in the compost bin feels like an act of veggie heresy to me so I’ve been desperately searching for alternative things to do with it. And now I may have found a good solution for what to do when your avocado is past it’s prime…

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Avocados aren’t just good for your gut, they’re great for your hair too. If you suffer from split ends like me, then some overripe avocado might just be what you need. They are very moisturising as they’re full of natural oils and healthy fats that nourish your dry hair. All the good stuff they contain, such as vitamin E and complex B vitamins, are brilliant for healing your hair to make it nice and smooth and shiny. And luckily this hair mask is super easy to make.

All that you need can be found right in the kitchen. I simply use two ingredients: an overripe avocado and coconut oil. Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I add some almond oil too. If you don’t have any coconut oil, or you want to experiment with different kinds of avocado masks, then Healthline have some great suggestions: https://www.healthline.com/health/avocado-hair-mask#benefits

Otherwise, this is what you do:

Step 1. Prepare your avocado. This is super easy, as now that you have cut into it and discovered it’s all brown and mushy (oh no!) you just need to scoop it out into a bowl and mash it up with a fork so it’s ready to be put to good use (yay!).

Step 2. Microwave 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. You probably only need to microwave it for about 30 seconds, and then you can add it to the avocado bowl. Stir it up and you’re good to go. (Or you can add extra ingredients like a spoonful of almond oil or some honey).

Step 3. Storing it. If you’re not going to use it straight away, then cover up your bowl with a beeswax wrap or some tinfoil (remember to comment below if you want a tutorial on making a beeswax wrap!) and then you can store it in the fridge for a day or so.

Step 4. Now it’s time to use it! You put it on your hair starting on the tips and working your way up. It might feel kind of weird and cold and lumpy but I actually quite like the smell of it and you get used to it the more times you try it. Leave it in for 20-30 minutes and then shower it out. Wash your hair with a shampoo bar and conditioner like normal, and you’re good to go!*

Now you can enjoy all the benefits of your avocado-treated hair with a happy heart knowing you didn’t let this special fruit go to waste.

(Extra tip, wash and store the pip in the freezer… In a later post I will explain why.) I hope you enjoyed this first edition of the food waste mini-series. Remember to subscribe with your email to get updates on when I post the next ones!

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*(Remember, if you are allergic to any of these ingredients then do not apply it to your hair. If you apply it and it feels sore or itchy then wash it out immediately and maybe call your doctor.)

Creative ways to avoid food waste – A mini-series

Food waste is a much bigger problem than you might think. Not only does it burn a hole in your pocket, but it negatively impacts the environment as well. A lot of energy goes into food — water, materials, labour, and transportation all go into producing it, and energy goes into storing and disposing of it too. Despite this, we waste about a third of food that we get, and when that goes to landfill, the food rots and causes methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

I’m in no way innocent when it comes to wasting food (my partner could tell you), but I’ve been trying to get a lot better at it recently, and I’ve even had some fun with it. That’s why I thought I would make this mini-series of articles on creative ways to avoid food waste. This series is going to include making natural plant dyes, face masks, and some awesome community projects you can get into. I’m really excited to take you on this journey, and I hope you are too!

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

A fore-warning though, I’ve recently moved house (and country) hence why I haven’t been so active lately, and I’m starting up a new job, so basically… there is no planned schedule for when these articles go up. It might be all clumped together or quite irregular, so please bare with me! To tide you over, here are some simple things you can do right now to help the environment when it comes to food waste.

Composting is a clear option, as it’s better than food going to landfill and causing greenhouse gases. You can also save your leftovers for the next day in Tupperware containers or simply in a bowl covered by a beeswax wrap. (If you want a DIY article on how to make a beeswax then comment below!) If you’re really excited about this like I am (yes I am an environmental nerd) then here are some links where you can learn more about the topic: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/food-waste

https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/fight-climate-change-by-preventing-food-waste

I hope this helps and I look forward to posting again soon.

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Cheap ways to avoid fast fashion

Fast fashion is a big issue, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculating that it causes 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions each year! On top of that, it also uses about 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the fashion industry exploits underpaid workers in the process of making their clothing lines. So there are many reasons to want to avoid fast fashion, but how do we do it when more sustainable clothing brands can cost quite the pretty penny? Well, I have a few Eco-friendly suggestions that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

  1. Charity shops

My favourite places to shop are charity shops. You never know what you will find — some of my favourite, most unique clothing items are from Age UK or the Red Cross. And all the money you spend on your second-hand items are given to a good cause instead of fuelling fast fashion. What’s not to love? We’re lucky to have a lot of charity shops in the UK so why not look around, browse and have some fun. The only thing is that it is quite difficult looking for something specific. If you’re searching for a winter coat you might have to try a few different shops before finding one that’s your size, style and within your budget. So if it’s something specific you’re after, then that’s where Depop comes in.

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

2. Depop

I only just found out about Depop a couple of months ago and I am already hooked. If you don’t know what Depop is, it’s an app that allows you to log on and see all sorts of people selling their clothing items for often quite affordable prices. This is a great place to find second hand clothing which is tailored to what you’re after. You can even adjust the settings for your size and price range, and save items to compare them later on. All of this is wonderful, but be wary as some sellers buy new items to sell on, and sometimes you might not even get your order, so make sure you check out the seller’s profile beforehand, looking out for their reviews and what they’ve previously sold. There’s no point buying from Depop to avoid fast fashion when the seller got their wares from Primark yesterday.

3. Making & fixing clothes

This is the most sustainable thing you can do when it comes to clothing. If you have a hole in your leggings, why not take out your sewing kit and patch it up yourself? This can be a bit daunting if you’re not used to it but there are tonnes of tutorials on Pinterest and Youtube that can help you out. And going a step further, why not re-purpose or make your own clothes? You could tie-dye an old shirt with some natural plant-based dyes, or even go a bit extra and watch more tutorials to learn how to make a skirt.

4. Car boot sales & Vintage fairs

Car boots and Vintage sales are again places where you can discover amazing second-hand items for a good price. Car boots often have things going very cheap and you don’t know what gems you could find there. Vintage sales might be a bit more pricey, but sometimes you can nab a bargain. I got an embroidered plaid shirt from a vintage sale for £5 and I’m still wearing it five years later.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

5. Clothing Swaps

Clothing swaps are an amazing eco-friendly initiative where you don’t have to spend any money. The main premise is that you bring some clothes along and add them to a table or clothing rack which you can then explore and find other clothes you want to take home. If you haven’t heard of any going on where you live, why not start one yourself? It’s probably not the best time to host one in a pandemic, but when all this has blown over, what’s stopping you? You could talk to your work, university or local council and see what they say. Alternatively, why not swap things on a smaller scale among friends? You might all find you something you want and you get to remember where it came from with a smile.

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5 ways to be sustainable on a budget

Here are 5 great hacks on sustainability for when you’re on a budget!

The pandemic has hit us hard in many ways. Jobs are scarce at the moment and a few of us are on a shoe-string budget. Sometimes it can feel like you have to be rich to afford some of the products in Eco Shops (who can afford a bamboo razor for £17!?) but when my friend asked me for some tips on affordable sustainability it made me think of some of the hacks I’ve learned as a student fighting for the environment.

  1. Eco Swaps!

You don’t have to pay lots of money on bespoke Eco products when something a lot simpler will do the trick. Use your imagination and see what you have around you that can do some good. For example, last year I bought some cute eye-make up remover pads for about £6 which fell apart in days and got bits of fluff in my eyes. I’ve since discovered that a simple £1 face cloth from Home Bargains will do just the trick. Or instead of buying expensive beeswax wraps for keeping food fresh, why not use jam jars, takeaway boxes, or even a bowl covered with some tinfoil instead? (Remember to rinse and recycle the tinfoil after.)

2. Growing Food

Organic fruit and veg can be expensive, so why not grow some from seed? Seed packets usually only cost a couple of pounds (the usual price for an organic punnet of strawberries) and you can grow loads of produce yourself! I’ve grown cherry tomatoes in my window with enough leftover to give some to friends and family. Also, some foods you can regrow, like spring onions. Save the bottom bit of your spring onion in a little jar of water, changing the water every couple of days, and watch it magically regrow itself! Saving money and waste.

3. Save plant seeds for next year

If you’re a plant lover like me, you’ll enjoy getting your fingers green come spring-time. Plants are great for the environment too, they help purify the air, and you can grow insect friendly plants to help our pollinators thrive. Something simple you can do to be thrifty is save your plant seeds for next year. I hadn’t even thought of this until I was dead-heading my Marigolds and discovered lots of little bits underneath the petals which looked just like the seeds that had come in the packet. I ended up with hundreds of seeds from just a few flowers and I can’t wait to grow more next spring.

4. Have a Stay-cation

This is kind of a no-brainer with the pandemic going on, but why not have a stay-cation instead of going abroad? Air travel is one of the biggest polluters and can be the reason why your own carbon footprint is huge. So instead of spending money going to Ibiza this summer, why not stay in the UK and go to a B&B in Cornwall or camping in Wales? Wales also have some free bus services on the weekends, although always remember to wear your face-masks and social distance.

5. Upcycle

I’m a big believer in up-cycling things. I save all my glass jars and use them as flower pots, a container for my shampoo bar, or I make bath salts in them for Christmas. I also save plastic tubs to keep my plant pots in, or I keep broken cardboard boxes to make into placards for Climate Strikes. Speaking of which, on a last note: activism is free.

It doesn’t cost any money to share environmental posts on your Facebook page, to borrow books from the library on the climate crisis, or to go to a climate strike. So be an activist to your heart’s content without having to dip into your wallet.

— This blog post was inspired by a question from my friend. If you have any Questions on environmental or sustainability things then go ahead and ask me on my contact page and I might just make a blog post to answer it. Also follow my Instagram where I’ll share more information and regular Q&A opportunities. —

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