Earth Day celebrations are still on hold in many communities due to the pandemic, but luckily, The Alestle found ways to celebrate the Earth day-to-day by adopting new habits.
Reducing food waste and upcycling containers for planting are just two ways students can lessen their carbon and food footprints.
According to EarthDay.org, a foodprint measures the environmental impacts of growing, storing, transporting and producing food. In the United States, about 40 percent of food goes to waste annually. The Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2018 that an individual produces 4.9 pounds of waste daily.
Every household, large and small, can decrease waste by changing their food habits, both in eating and purchasing. Consider purchasing dry goods in bulk and buying fruits and vegetables from a local farmer’s market weekly so food doesn’t go to waste. Litterless.com provides a list of Illinois grocers by location who offer bulk foods. Another way to help reduce the human impact is to plant a garden or container garden for small apartments and dorms.
Container gardening is easy and fun. Some farmer’s markets and most stores carry seeds. According to an article by Marie Iannotti for The Spruce, herbs, cherry tomatoes, a variety of salad greens and strawberries are some good options for apartments. Find an area that provides a good source of sunlight, such as a windowsill, balcony or a small table in front of a window. Herbs and some salad greens do not require as much sunlight and can be grown on kitchen counters.
Next, find the right containers. Seedlings can be started in a variety of ways that allow for other household items to be reused or repurposed. Reuse egg cartons to create a seedling box and don’t throw out eggshells because they can be reused as well. Rebecca Shinners for Country Living said eggs are a good source of calcium for plants, and once the seed sprouts, the eggshell can be transplanted into the ground or into a larger pot for indoor gardening.
Shinners said stale ice cream cones and citrus rinds can also be used as potting options. The peels of lemons and oranges are prepped by poking holes into the bottom for drainage. Fill them with soil, add seeds and then either directly plant into the ground or into a larger container. The rinds will decompose, adding nutrients to the soil.
According to Shinners, other items that can be reused that will compost into the soil and make great seedling starters are cardboard egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, brown packing paper and newspapers. Newspapers can be fashioned into individual planters or used in composting.
Shinners also said other items that can be reused before being tossed in the garbage are old ice trays, K-cups, milk jugs and any size soda bottle and make great alternatives to purchasing seed starter trays.
Not all containers can be used for planting because plastics can seep harmful chemicals into the soil over time. According to The Concordia Greenhouse, scratched and worn down plastic containers or those that have been exposed to long periods of sunlight should not be used. Plastic containers that are safe for seedling starters are food grade buckets, plastic totes and yogurt containers.
To identify which plastic items can be reused before being tossed out, check out the object’s recycling code, generally found on the bottom of an item. Codes 1, 2, 4 and 5 — which include clear plastic bottles, cloudy milk jugs, food storage bags, baby bottles and yogurt containers — are considered safe to be reused. Codes 3, 6 and 7 which include vinyl, polystyrene (common in take out containers) or polycarbonates are considered unsafe to be reused, according to The Concordia Greenhouse website.
Inside gardening doesn’t have to be expensive when reusing these common household items. Spruce up long-term gardens made out of old soda bottles and glass jars by painting the outsides or decorating them. According to sustainability blogger Merilin Vrachovska’s website Almost Zero Waste, use food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags in your soil but not meat, dairy or oily foods because they won’t break down in the compost. Vrachovska gives step-by-step advice for composting methods in apartments.
For a tutorial on how to make a self-watering seed windowsill garden out of soda bottles, visit Seattle Sundries.