Quick Tips for Reducing Food Waste



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Zero-Waste Popcorn


This recipe is just too simple and too good not to share again! The original idea/recipe comes to you from my friend Brittany, who made this delicious popcorn for one of our girls-night-happy-hour-chillouts. This easy to make, waste-free popcorn recipe is now my go-to afternoon writing snack.

So ditch that terrible/wasteful pre-bagged microwave popcorn and enjoy! Don’t forget to compost your additional kernels!

What you need:

  1. Large cooking pot with lid
  2. Organic coconut oil (about a tbsp.)
  3. Popcorn kernels (I buy mine in bulk at Sprouts or Whole Foods)
  4. Sea salt (optional)



  1. Heat oil and 1-2 test kernels over high heat.
  2. Once kernels pop, pour in enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pot. Cover and shake kernels around to warm up (about 30 seconds).
  3. Return the pot to the burner and then watch and wait for the magic.
  4. After about 2-3 minutes the kernels should be popped and ready to enjoy.



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Don’t Toss that Banana!

Today’s idea is a pretty common one for sweet overripe bananas…make bread. When I bought my ugly mangos, I also purchased this overripe banana for a whopping 5 cents, I believe. I can’t remember, but it was basically FREE.


I used the banana to make my version of Chia Seed Walnut Banana Muffins. Really, I just throw whatever I have left into the batter. This one was especially yummy– tell ya what I did!


Chia Seed Walnut Banana Muffins

Step 1: Preheat the oven 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat muffin tins with a little butter, or cooking oil. You can also use compostable liners like THESE.

Step 2: Procure an ugly/overripe banana, or two. I squish these up a bit while they are still in the skin to save me from having to do it once its in the bowl.


Step 3: Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Put this aside.

Step 4: Combine squishy banana(s), 3/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/3 cup melted butter in a large bowl.

Step 5: Fold in the flour mixed until the dry ingredients are combined, but don’t over do it. At this time add a handful of walnuts and several tablespoons of chia seeds (3 should do the trick). Scoop batter into each muffin tin.


Step 6: Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Let cool and then enjoy!


Once you have enjoyed your delicious muffins, be sure you compost your banana peel and be mindful of the waste other ingredients might produce, especially with packaging! I buy most of my ingredients in bulk and store them in jars like these:


When you purchase ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, chia seeds, and walnuts in bulk, you are significantly reducing the plastic and paper waste these products typically produce via their packaging.

Best of luck and send your ideas for reducing food and food packaging waste my way! I am always eager to learn.


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Ugly Mangos

If you’ve been following the growing movement against food waste you’ve probably heard of the new efforts to salvage food deemed “too ugly” to sell. If you haven’t heard of these recent efforts to buy, salvage, and ban food thrown out for their aesthetic appeal check out a few of these interesting websites and articles here:


Before “ugly food” became a trendy thing, I started purchasing less than perfect produce, as well as fruits and veggies at the end of their shelf life in order to save money. A lot of grocery stores have a bin or a special shelf in each section marked down up to 75% simply because the food is either not aesthetically pleasing or is nearing its shelf life. Take for example these wrinkly mangoes I found on one such shelf for a whopping 25 cents for the pair of them. Let me say that again, I purchased these two delicious wrinkly mangos for a QUARTER! To add a little perspective, each mango in their prime would have gone for $1.00-1.50.

Originally, I was going to make some yummy pudding with the wrinkly squishy mangos, but I started cutting and I made the mistake of tasting a piece. One bite led to another and BOTH mangoes were devoured, seriously, some of the best mangoes I have ever eaten. So instead of a nifty little recipe for “ugly mango pudding,” you get a gorgeous picture of what was left over. Mango waste. Food waste. Which brings me to the second half of this post. In observance of Zero Waste Week, I have committed to producing ZERO food waste for the week of this challenge. Thus, pretty bowl of mango seeds and skins.


If you already have a compost, all you have to do is chuck the mango skins and seeds in your bin or worm cycler! Easy! Done! You have successfully completed today’s challenge. If you don’t have one, check out these past posts for ideas for starting your own composting center no matter what your living situation is:

If you don’t have a compost and are not interested in starting one just yet, BUT still don’t want to throw these skins and seeds in the trash because, Zero Waste Week, then go outside and find a nice shrub, or area with soft soil, mulch, etc. Dig a shallow hole (6-12 inches) and place your food scraps in the hole. Cover with dirt and feel good about the rich nutrients you have just gifted back to the earth.

You can repeat these steps for composting/regifting food back to the soil so long as it does not have any animal fats, oils, or animal bi-products. Stick to fruits and veggie scraps, paper, and organic waste material so not to attract unwanted guests digging around your yard.


Good luck and stay tuned for more Zero Waste Week ideas!


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Zero Waste Week 2016 KICKOFF

It’s finally here!

Zero Waste Week has official begun and this year’s theme is reducing FOOD WASTE for an entire week!

Zero Waste Week was started in 2008, and has grown into an annual awareness campaign to reduce landfill bound waste.

Follow yours truly as I explore ways to help you SAVE MONEY and PRESERVE precious resources.

Join me September 5th- September 9th and see just how much food you can keep from ending up in the waste bin!

View my official pledge HERE:

“Stephanie is interested in the equitable ways diverse communities might imagine themselves (and participate) in waste-conscious movements, which are often very white and upper/middle class in orientation.”

Along with access and diversity in waste-conscious movements, I am also passionate about reducing food waste through composting specifically. If you are just getting started, check out a few of my past posts on composting below:


Thanks for supporting the Waste-Free PhD and for giving Zero Waste Week a try!

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Overnight Oats


This “fall” in Los Angeles we’ve been experimenting with easy, healthy, and filling grab-n-go style breakfasts that are cold since until recently its been still topping off in the mid-90s all through September and October. On these hot fall mornings we’ve been grabbing these easy and delicious overnight oats. By the grace of God, this week we’ve enjoyed the more standard fall temperatures of 50-60s, so I’ll probably post my crockpot version of steel cut oats in a post to come.

By for now, here is what I do to make this yummy breakfast…

What you’ll need:

  • Organic bulk rolled oats
  • Coconut milk
  • Chia Seeds
  • Vanilla
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Dried fruit of choice chopped (apricots, tart cherries, cranberries, prunes, etc)
    • Fresh/Frozen fruit is good too! (Berries, apple chunks, bananas, etc)
  • Nut of choice (I like pecans or walnuts in mine)
  • Xylitol or Stevia to sweeten (optional)

What to do:

  1. Grab a few medium size/single serving jars. For ideas on where to get “free” jars, read THIS and start hoarding jars today!
  2. Honestly, I just eye-ball this now, but add about a cup  organic bulk rolled oats– to fill each jar about halfway.
  3. Add about a tablespoon of chia seeds to the jar,  a dash of cinnamon, and the sweetener of your choice. I usually use about 1/2-1 teaspoon xylitol. Stir dry ingredients together.
  4. Stir in fruit and nuts. I use a small handful of each.
  5. In a separate measure cup I usually mix a few splashes of vanilla (1-2 teaspoons?) to about 2 cups of coconut milk.
  6. Pour coconut milk over dry mixture in each jar until oats are just covered.
  7. Seal jars with lid and give it a good shake.
  8. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, I usually top my oats with another inch of coconut milk and sometimes some fresh banana slices or more dried fruit and then enjoy right out of the jar as I check emails!


Overnight Oats

Trash-Free Bathroom: Face Cloths

Check out this great post on reusable face rounds! Easy way to reduce a year (or a lifetime) worth of wasteful one-time cotton rounds. If you don’t have time to make them yourself, check out Etsy for dozens of retailers.


To wash my face in the morning and evening, I have made several reusable cotton washcloths. I made them from the scraps of one of my cotton dresses in the Compostable Wardrobe Series. I used pinking shears when cutting them out so the edges don’t unravel and sewed the sides up with 100% cotton thread.  […]


Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and the guilt has been setting in. Guilt for not being further on my dissertation, guilt for not using my blog as a creative outlet, and now guilt for spending the last week traveling and NOT being more waste-conscious.

But…baby steps.

I thought I’d dedicate this post to all the things I wish I did better while traveling. I have a lot of ideas, but this time, I just dropped the ball. To make up for it, I’m putting a few waste-conscious vibes into the atmosphere.

Here’s what I will be doing the next time I travel.

Five Steps for-2

  1. Give yourself TIME and PLAN ahead.

If you are a last minute travel planner/packer/organizer, waste-free travel will be a difficult transition. As it is, you are essentially adding a few extra steps to your “to do list,” so be easy on yourself and start to think about how you can reduce waste before you start packing your bags the night before.

Also, the kind of traveling you will be doing will change your waste-free plans. Whether you are traveling for work, school/research, family, or vacation etc., I am convinced that you can greatly reduce your waste.


Being thoughtful of what you pack is essential for waste-free travel. Based on the kind of travel you will be doing, anticipate what your needs will be. Here are some things you can bring that will reduce waste and save you money right off the bat:

Snack Bags copy

  • Water bottle

A water bottle is essential. This is something I did bring on my last trip, and I am convinced it saved me and my travel buddy at least $100.00, and the environment a lot of plastic. I scoped the price of water at the airport and then again at a few convenient stores around New York, and bottled water ranged from $2-5! With a reusable water bottle, we were able to fill up wherever their was a fountain, or at coffee shops and restaurants all for free!

  • 1-2 reusable shopping bags (the kind that fold down or are not as bulky)
  • 2-3 reusable snack/food bags (you can fill these with snacks before you leave/see below)
  • 1-2 cloth napkins


Obviously one needs to eat and stay hydrated while traveling. Well, with a little waste-consciousness, you can also save some money too. This takes a bit a forethought and planning (see above), but it is well worth the effort if you are strapped for cash and are trying to reduce your waste.

Pack your own snacks. Period. For a small bag of nuts at an airport snack stop (complete with extra salt, fats, oils etc. and wrapped in plastic) you could be paying the upwards of $5-10. Do yourself and the environment a favor and go purchase some bulk nuts, trail mix, whatever suits your fancy and pack in your reusable snack packs. Veggie sticks, fruit, and chocolate are also great airport or road trip pick-me-ups. Whatever you usually like to snack on, purchase or make beforehand and then pack for the trip. Once you are finished snacking, you will have empty snack bags to refill once you reach your destination.

Snack Bags

Another thing I wish I did was keep a collapsable mug, or small mug in my backpack. I have never been to a coffee shop that wasn’t happy to fill a clean mug. That being said, I had coffee several times a day when I was traveling and felt sad every time I had to toss the cup, lid, and heat protector in the trash each time….next time I will do better. In the summer, you can pack a variety of reusable cups with stainless steel straws–I have never done this, but I don’t see why they would have any problem if they are willing to refill mugs.

Eating out– when traveling one does not always have the luxury of handpicking and preparing their own food. Again, be easy on yourself! These suggestions I realize are not completely waste-free, but they are waste-conscious–which is a start.

When traveling with a companion, split meals…that way there is no wasted food and no need for to-go containers.

Try to shop or eat at places where you can sit and enjoy the meal on their regular/reusable plates, silverware etc. While usually cheaper, grab-and-go establishments are heavy on the packaging. Where you can help it, ask the sandwich shop if they can simply give you your sandwich (or at the very least wrap in paper, which is more easily compostable).

Refuse the bag when grabbing a pastry, or other items that you can either carry or put in your own reusable pack. If you are not in a hurry, sit a moment and enjoy your food without all the extra to-go packaging, napkins etcs.

Pack a simple set of utensils. Most places you are eating at will have their own for you to use, however, if you happen upon a place that only offers plastic or some one-time use variety, whip out your own and enjoy!

4. Ditch the Paper

Ditch the Paper

Today, traveling and shopping of all kinds offer paperless options. For example, most airlines and trains now offer online boarding passes that you can download on your mobile devices. Also, many stores are moving toward e-mail or text receipts. Take advantage of these options in order to save paper and avoid contact with receipts, which researchers have recently linked to high levels of BPA exposure.

Finally, if you pack 1-2 cloth napkins, you can avoid reaching for those paper take-out napkins.

5. CHOOSE Attractions, Entertainment, and Sightseeing Wisely

There are many  wasteful things travelers could indulge in in any location and on any trip. Try to avoid things that require extra gas (vehicle emissions), food/package/paper waste, or attractions that exploit natural resources, animals, or human beings.

For me, this means that instead of that fancy tour that includes lunch and a bus ride around town, I opt for self-guided tours where I can walk and choose my own dining option. Apps like “Field Trip” and “Google Maps” are great for exploring new areas on foot. I’m sure there are other out there too!

Instead of spending money on tickets to a zoo or similar attraction, I’ll visit a local nature conservancy or park (usually free) and make a donation. Or, instead visit a free public institution like an art museum, historical society, or nature/science museum.

Rather than go four-wheeling in the mountains or when we visit tropical locations, I prefer kayaking or a non-motorized water-activity, or hikes.

When you travel, you “vote” with the choices you make when spending money and/or producing waste. Each time you choose a more waste-conscious option/solution, you let cities, airlines, and other businesses (like hotels) know that you prefer options that are less wasteful. If you are a frequent traveler on a particular airline, or to a specific location, think about ways you can encourage those business you frequent most to reconsider their waste production as well!

Enjoy Free (waste-Free)Adventures

LATE: Waste-Conscious Mother’s Day Card

Mother's Day Card

I know, I know! This post is a little late, but here is what I did this year for Mother’s Day. Instead of spending $2.99-$6.00 EACH on Mother’s Day cards for four women, I decided to take out some old crafting paper and my watercolors and get to work!

In the midst of dissertation writing and the end of semester scramble, this project was quite therapeutic and only took me about an hour and a half to do all four.


Here is what you will need:

1. Paper (recycle/upcycle or use paper you have around the house)

2. Water colors, markers, colored pencils, crayons, whatever you can get your hands on!

3. Pencil and pens

4. Envelope (recycle, or fold your own out of paper)

Here is what I did:

1. Fold paper into the card size of your choice.

2. Use pencil and a ruler or straight edge to outline your text. On two of my cards (one for Corey and one for me), I outlined the word “MOM.”

3. Fill in the outline with a color, shape(s), or pattern of your choice. I chose flowers, vines, and leaves.

4. Once your card is dry, erase the remaining pencil lines.

5. Include a letter or note with your design and send! Viola!


Happy Mother's Day