Household Waste Audit

Wow, It’s been almost a year since I posted anything in this blog. But anyway I am taking the Master Recycler class at Oregon State University. And our first assignment was to do a household waste audit. It’s a messy job, but highly educational.

We were supposed to weigh everything, but my household scale is so insensitive that I couldn’t tell any difference when I was holding the trash can or not. So you’ll just have to settle for pictures.

Our household waste is presorted into six components:

  • Totally useless crap that goes to the landfill
  • Deposit cans and bottles
  • glass
  • conmingled recyclables, including:
    • clean paper, magazines, etc.
    • hard plastic containers not polystyrene
    • cans
  • compostable food and yard waste for personal use, including:
    • soft yard waste, i.e. small weeds, grass clippings, leaves
    • vegetable food waste, coffee grounds
  • compostable waste for commercial composting, including:
    • Tree and shrub trimmings
    • Meat dairy and hard pits that don’t compost well at home
    • tough stems
    • brambles and other evil weeds

I’m going to go through these in reverse order and talk about how each is handled on the front (our) end, with pictures.

Waste Destined for the Commercial Compost
It is currently January, and our backyard is mostly under water. We are not doing much outdoor yard maintenence at this time. So for this particular audit, our contribution in this category is zero. Allied Waste Services provides this large bin (pictured below) for collecting this material to be sent to the Paific Region Compost Center. They will collect it any collection day that we put it out. I do not currently add any food waste to this (Food waste in the commercial compost has only been permitted in our vicinity for a few months). The main reason is that most of the food related waste we generate is vegetarian, and can go in the personal compost. I intend to designate a container for this material and keep it in the freezer. Meat scraps, bones, fruit stones, and any other material that does not break down well in our personal compost will go here. When the receptacle is filled AND it’s trash day, I will add it to our bin. I don’t feel comfortable potentially having meat scraps sitting around outdoors in our warmish Oregon winters for weeks and weeks.

Personal Compost
We have been doing personal composting for over 20 years. We are not very scientific about it. We have three compost areas. The black bin is allowed to have dog poop, and compost from this one never goes into the garden where we grow edibles. The “death star” compost rolling ball is supposed to be mixable by simply rolling on the casters, but in practice that doesn’t happen because it gets too heavy and simply can’t be rolled. In warm weather it does, however, compost quite quickly. The fenced bin exists because sometimes there is more material than the death star can hold. We just throw everything in the piles and at some point we start a new pile, let the old one rest, then work it into the garden. As a result of this, our garden is full of peach and other fruit pits. I don’t think they hurt anything, but I throw them out in the walkway between the garden beds as I find them when I’m weeding. We have used this cute little ceramic yuppie compost bucket for the past 8 years. A throwaway large yogurt bucket with a lid works fine too but it’s not as classy looking. The yuppie bucket came with some little odor filters but I find they are not really necessary. We take the compost bucket out approximately every other day. The bucket is approximately a gallon, so I estimate that we generate about three gallons of food waste per week. This is NOT post-serving wasted food. It is mostly preparation-generated, and includes cores, peelings, husks, seeds, bad bits, and other inedible parts of fruits and vegetables.

Conmingled Bin
I did not audit the conmingled bin, as it is fairly constant from week to week. Conmingled Bin We collect the recyclables in this red bin, and then throw them into the tan bin provided by AWS for collection day. We rarely fill the tan bin, and could probably have it picked up once a month, as we do not toss anything excessively dirty in this bin. Non deposit cans and plastics get rinsed before going in the bin. (Household rule.) The red bin typically contains a week’s worth of newspapers, cardboard, corrugated cardboard, and junk mail, probably a half a dozen cans, and low quality plastic bottles and other plastic containers that we can’t or choose not to reuse. We can’t reuse ’em all!! I would just as soon not get the newspaper, but that idea does not fly in our family. We have taken steps to reduce junk mail, but we haven’t done everything possible. We subscribe to very very few paper magazines.

Glass (non deposit)
The grey bin is for glass, as AWS requires this to be segregated. Glas Bin Luckily we don’t have to worry about the color any more. This bin typically receives 6-12 glass bottles and jars in a week. AWS is supposed to pick this up once a month but we often forget it, and sometimes they do too. We manually take glass to AWS ourselves when a bunch has accumulated and we’re sick of looking at it. AWS finds some uses for glass but it turns out that it does not really get melted down and turned into new glass, as it would in an ideal world.

Deposit glass and aluminum cans
The yellow bin is for deposit items. Bin for deposit items We are not big consumers of soda or commercial beer. We brew some of our own beer and we use recycled bottles. This particular week the yellow bin had nothing. When this bin fills up, we take it to Fred Meyer for store credit. If we don’t have time to do this, we leave it out for the guys who make their living collecting deposit items. AWS knows about this and leaves the bin alone for them.

Default: Utterly worthless rubbish that goes to the landfill
Anything that does not fit the above five categories goes into this category. I am so proud that only a small kitchen rubbish bin of this type of material was generated by our household in this week.
Here are pictures:
Our trash
Dumping out the trash bin

Paper that did not get recycled
Paper that did not get Recycled. Although there wasn’t really much of this, ideally we should recycle all recyclable paper.

Plastic bags, plastic wrap etc. We could reduce this component if we reduced our purchase of package and convenience food.

Wrappers and dirty containers
Food wrappers and contaminated cardboard containers. We could reduce this component if we reduced our purchase of package and convenience food. I have also learned that pizza boxes, ice cream cardboard containers, etc. can go into the yard waste bin.

Dick family waste audit.
In an ideal world, our weekly discard would be reduced to just about this much stuff.

Vegan Mexican TVP

Mex TVPThis was my first experiment with using the hRecipe microformat plugin. The plugin does not include a photo field, although the full hRecipe specification has provisions for a graphic. I failed to capture the moment last night when I made this, and this dish isn’t much of a looker anyway. The plugin seems to break the background gradient in my current theme, but I don’t care that much because this theme is getting a bit long in the tooth and I’ll replace it with a more up-to-date one some day when I have a couple of hours. (Don’t hold your breath!) The plugin did not automatically tag the ingredients, nor number the steps on my first go. I had to go back and edit the raw HTML, because I didn’t see a way to revise once you insert a recipe via the plugin. I’m guessing there is a way to make it do that in the first place and I should have RTFM. Oh well, I’m a very early adopter of the plugin, and it’s certainly better than nothing! Let’s see how the search engines like it.

Recipe: Vegan Mexican TVP


    • 1.5 C TVP 1/2 C fresh cilantro chopped fine
    • 2 tomatoes, diced
    • 1 onion, chopped medium fine
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 avocado
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 6 C water
    • juice of one lime


    1. Salt the water and bring to the boil.
    2. Meanwhile sautee the onions in the oil until carmelized.
    3. When water boils, add the TVP and cook until it softens and quits swelling up.
    4. Drain well.
    5. Add the other ingredients.
    6. May be served cold.

Diet (other): Reduced fat

My rating: 2 stars: ★★☆☆☆

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Every food choice has a ripple effect

I am not a vegetarian and I have no problems with hunting free animals.  However I do disagree with how meat animals are raised.  And more importantly, I care about others on the planet having enough to eat.  That is why I prefer that meat (when I use it) be used as a condiment or flavoring, and not served in huge chunks.  I also believe in giving thanks to the spirit of the animal whenever using meat.  Anyway, this embedded video explains and simplifies how your and my choices of foods and ingredients affect malnourished people in other parts of the globe.   It’s very well done, about nine minutes long.  Enjoy!

How to feed the world ? from Denis van Waerebeke on Vimeo.

hRecipe Plugin for WordPress

Continuing from my previous post about microformats, I went googling to see what I could find.  Lo and behold, there is a hRecipe plugin for WordPress (in case you hadn’t guessed, this blog sits on the WordPress platform.)  As you may know installing plugins in WordPress is ridiculously easy, and there is nothing to configure with hRecipe.  After activating the plugin, I was at first not even sure it had done anything at all.  But then I spotted it:  a little star icon in the blog post editor (circled in red).

WP Panel

This is what you see when you click the star:  a popup window with tabs where you can enter various aspects of your recipe.hRecipe Panel

What does this do for you?  A couple of things:  You don’t have to learn the hRecipe markup labels because it just does them (well at least some of them)  for you.   You can attach your own styles to the various classes if you want, and have a consistent look for your recipes.  (You could have always done that, but if you follow standard conventions, your work will be more portable.)  Software that is able to find and read hRecipe pages will be able to “read” and export your recipe.  Meanwhile, it just looks like an ordinary recipe.  All the special markup is invisible to people;   however, search engines will be able to find your recipe more the way you want it found.  And if you want your recipe shared, it makes it easier for that to happen.

hRecipe is relatively new.  There is only one application that supports it as I write.  A handful of forward looking recipe sites have marked up their recipes in hRecipe.  I don’t expect it to take off virally, as most of visitors this blog post have probably left by now, or if you  did get this far,  you’re saying, “huh?” because you skimmed it too fast.

What I’m saying is:  if you install the plugin and start using it, don’t expect to see huge jump in your Google analytics right away.  But microformats including hRecipe are catching on, albeit slowly, and the people who wrap their content in microformat   will be  well positioned when the Google crawlers evolve to be fully aware of them.  And anyway,  it’s a nice way to organize your content if you have a recipe blog.

My next post will be a recipe in hRecipe.  It won’t hurt, I promise!

Foodage, Geekage, hRecipe, and Sociology

oldschoolrecipesI am going to combine my foodage and my geekage in this post. Yes I know, I haven’t posted for a LONG LONG time. There are reasons for that, but we’ll dispense with the excuses.

What I am going to do in this post:

  • describe a problem that we foodies have, and a lot of us don’t realize it
  • convince you that it is, in fact, a problem
  • give examples of other similar problems and how they have been solved
  • propose a solution to our foodie problem
  • muse on why this particular problem solution has not gotten very far, so far

Here is the problem: I have many friends who are happy to send me recipes. The method they invariably use is email. I have told them that they can become registered on the blog and post recipes directly, but it is a barrier! The capability is there but the FACT is that foodies who don’t have their own food blog are intimidated by technology and don’t want to do this. It’s taken them 15 years to get comfortable with email for God’s sake!

Why it is a problem: Now, when I receive these emails, what do I do (presuming I like the recipe and want to publish it)? I have to tweak it up to fit the format this blog likes. Why is that a problem? Because it doesn’t scale and it wastes work. My friend has already sort of formatted the recipe, usually into a list of ingredients and the instructions blurb. But I have to edit it more. Yuck! I’d rather be cooking!

A similar problem and its solution: Several years back there was a similar issue with calendar data. Joe needs to publish his day planner so his secretary can schedule appointments for him. Or, you go to the calendar from your favorite venue and you would like to add Thursday night’s jam session to your personal calendar. You’re more likely to do that if it doesn’t involve a lot of needless make work. The best solution is you just click a button and boom it’s on your calendar. What that button click actually does is exports the calendar data to a common format that is understood by your calendar application. Then your calendar application imports it and converts it to whatever internal format it uses.

A solution for recipes: OK, now I’m gonna get a little geeky here, but bear with me and keep your eyes on the prize, the prize being: the ability to grab a recipe from some recipe website and put it in your favorite personal recipe collection with a single click, just like you can for calendar events. You KNOW you’d love that! It’s worth the geekiness, believe me. There does exist such a solution, and it’s called hRecipe. The only problem is that not too many people use it. It was the same problem when these open calendar formats were introduced, but people started to use them because the benefit was very clear, and so they have gained wide acceptance.

Why has hRecipe not caught on?: I think that it’s due to mental blockage common to foodies. The same reason my friends will email me but they won’t join my blog and post directly: They lump it into the category of “geekage” and they put themselves in the category of “non geek” so they step aside when they see it coming and continue to do things the old comfortable labor-intensive (to me that equals TIME WASTING) way. It’s completely irrational. Think about it.

I don’t have 20 minutes to learn a skill that would save me weeks and weeks of time in the long run.

Balderdash! You’re not afraid to try new recipes or new kitchen gear. Why should a format be any different?

What you can do:

  • Help make people aware of hRecipe and websites that use it.
  • Use the links at the bottom of this post (e.g. Stumble Upon etc.) to spread it around.
  • Agitate on your favorite website that they use it if they don’t.
  • Comment on your experience with hRecipe.
  • Find places where you can share hRecipes.
  • Agitate for foodie desktop applications to recognize it.
  • Follow Dork Chow to keep up with anything I do to push open recipe formats.
  • Step out of your mental block and do something geeky. This is the information age. We’re all geeks, like it or not!

Coburg action for

melbourne, australia

Originally uploaded by

350 made of veggies at Coburg Civic Centre, in the township of Moreland (the near north suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.) The white leaves are cabbage. It is a shame there were no rooftops to climb on to get a good angle on it and alas, Melbourne is flat and this district is pretty urban, so no green hillsides either. I gave a little schpiel on plarn at this do. (Search blog for plarn if you don’t know what that is.) Beyond Zero Emissions gave a very nice schpiel. Australia is a huge exporter of coal so there are a large number of anti-greens because they think of all the $$$ they will lose in the short run. But think about it! Australia uses only a tiny percentage of its own coal. It’s not about them, it’s about their CUSTOMERS! Many of their biggest coal customers are making great strides to reduce THEIR carbon, ergo use other fuels and reduce their coal. Australia would do better to anticipate this and come up with some alternate plan.

Vegetable Orchestra Video

Heheh. This combines my love of music with my love of vegetables. What a hoot. Literally.

Bram Pitoyo’s Mushroom Risotto

Bram Pitoyo’s Mushroom risotto

Tasty Risotto

See Bram Pitoyo’s Mushroom risotto on Key Ingredient.

Tasty tasty rice dish. I guess I would call it Asian-Italian fusion style cooking. All my other risottos are more Italian in spices. Anyway Bram was kind enough to tweet this recipe to me on twitter so there you go.

Super Sushi Sydney

Mega Japanese
Here is our mega Japanese sushi/tempura/sashimi platter from a Sydney Japanese restaurant. This platter easily satisfied the three of us. High marks for presentation. Definitely enough food. I hadn’t had tempura in years because I never order it. Between sushi and tempura there is just no comparison in my book, either nutritionally or taste wise. But I gotta admit, tempura sweet potatoes and eggplant are tasty, once you get the dipping sauce correct.

Paella at Doyles’

HPIM4337 Here’s a quickie from our trip to Sydney. We had this delicious paella at Doyle’s in Watson’s Bay. The innovations were two: 1) The rice is apart and not cooked into the paella which gives you a much better appreciation for its delicate saffron taste. 2) There is no chorizo or sausage or any of that evil pig stuff.