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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.

IMG_0969
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.

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!

Chinese Omelette

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Chinese Omelette

Quick, simple, and delicious! You can make substitutions to suit …

See Chinese Omelette on Key Ingredient.

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A nice change from your Denver or Mexican omelettes. I nicked this out of a local free Australian food rag. A pinch of red cabbage I happened to have adds color.

Sweet Po-Tacos

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Sweet Potacos

I slightly modified this recipe from my friend marisuewrites at …

See Sweet Potacos on Key Ingredient.

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Serving suggestion: I served it with guac, nopales, lime, cilantro and salad. 4-09-003

Vegetarian Zuppa di Fagioli

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Zuppa di Fagioli

Another Tuscan traditional recipe that doesn't have refined white …

See Zuppa di Fagioli on Key Ingredient.

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A splash of cooking sherry adds just the right sweetness to this delicious, creamy and robust soup. I starch mine up with whole grain barley (a substitute for the traditional Roman farro, which is hard to find these days). A little Parmesan cheese is a great topping for non vegans, and I also fried up some Italian sausage as a toss-in for those in my family who think they must have meat.

Urge Obama to Green the Whitehouse

We have elected a president in 2008, I hope, who actually cares and responds to real people (unlike the current $%#$@#$#!!)  Let’s urge him to plant a national victory garden on the whitehouse lawn.  He might just do it!!

This Lawn is Your Lawn from roger doiron on Vimeo.

The Garden of Eatin’: A Short History of America’s Garden from roger doiron on Vimeo.

FREE ECookbook Limited Time

All the dorky sustainable and healthy recipes we’ve published on this blog from the get-go plus a few bonus ones we never got around to blogging are now coagulated into a handy dandy PDF and you can get it FREE for a limited time.    (See, now if you were a subscriber you would have been notified.)  After 31 Dec, we will, like every patriotic American, shed this seasonal goodwill  and recall that we also have to eat. And so we did. If you want the cookbook now you will have to blog a recipe on the blog. This doesn’t mean comment or email me a recipe for me to blog. This means you become an author on the blog, read the about page and blog your recipe according to our protocols. There is a glut of recipes. Blogging is a lot about presentation.

The food dork wants to wish everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009!

WP-Cumulus makes an animated foodie cloud

[WP-CUMULUS]
This is a bit of geekery that should really be featured on my Hot Dorkage Geek blog Ironically it doesn’t work over there. Both blogs run out of the same install of WordPress. Even more ironically, on Hot Dorkage it works in preview mode but as soon as you publish the post it tells you you don’t have the right version of Flash. Well then gee how did it just work in PREVIEW MODE 3 seconds ago? It’s a beautiful blue cloud that exactly matches my theme. And this is a lovely green food cloud that doesn’t really match my theme here. Because I hope to change it soon.

How not to BE the Thanksgiving Turkey

A friend of mine, for whatever reason, is having a vegan Thanksgiving. She told me that traditionally, a longstanding girlhood friend of hers has celebrated Thanksgiving with her and her family, but when the friend heard it was going to be vegan, she decided to do something else. It wasn’t one of those “oh do you think maybe she’s mad at me?” sort of deals. This friend told her straight up, “OK if you are doing vegan you can count me out.”

What is up with that? First of all, I was always taught that it is rude to ask anyone who is offering to feed you what’s on the menu. It is even ruder to announce, “Oh brussell sprouts? No thanks I’ll go to McDonald’s.” If you have a food allergy or a religious practice that limits your dietary choices, it is OK to inform your host, as in, “I have gluten intolerance so I am unable to eat bread or pasta or any product containing wheat.” On the host side, I was always taught that if you are having someone for the first time, it is considered gracious to ask them if they have any dietary restrictions, and accommodate those. If your host knows about your restrictions and still serve you a meal consisting entirely of food that you will not be able to eat, that is rudeness on their part. Food comes in an amazing variety. Surely any host trying to create a balanced and satisfying dinner for guests will offer a number of choices of dish. People can then help themselves to the dishes that they both like and are able to eat. If there’s any uncertainty about what something is, the host might say something like, “those are bacon bits for the salad for those who want them,” to alert their Islamic guest not to eat it.

I’m forever astounded at the number of people who get hot under the collar and feel it’s perfectly OK to rant if asked to forgo meat for just ONE MEAL! If I were to spout off when invited to a hot dog barbecue about how toxic hot dogs are and how much I hate them and how terrible it is to eat them, I would be considered rude. So what do I do? If I like the people, I accept the invitation, and I just eat the potato salad and skip the hot dogs and don’t say anything.

Come on people! It’s not like vegans or vegetarians eat boiled lumps of charcoal or slimy seaweed or dogs. And there is no medical condition I’ve ever heard of that requires a person to eat exclusively large slabs of a dead animal three times a day. Most vegetarian/vegan fare prepared in USA would be familiar to the average USA citizen: grains and potatoes, beans and nuts, mushrooms, salads, vegetables that you’ve seen before, fruits, and a dizzying array of delicious desserts. Any vegetarian worth their salt knows how to use high protein ingredients such as tofu or seitan. Seitan in particular can pass for meat if that’s what the cook is trying to do. There are some vegetarian meals where you wouldn’t even realize they were vegetarian unless someone told you. And heavens to Betsy there might be some unfamiliar food, combination, or method of preparation, and what is more, you might actually LIKE it! And if you really HAVE to have meat, pack a turkey sandwich in a cooler in your car, make a pretext of going out to get something, and slip out and nosh on it.

Having a meal with others is about spending time together and sharing. It’s not really about the food.

Warning: potentially poisoned Chinese Halloween candy

Even if none of this Chinese candy contains any melamine, it is still poor nutrition.
Is poison only something that will make you sick within 24 hours, or could sugar and transfats in high doses also be declared toxic because of all the diseases they contribute to over time. Halloween is national sugarbuzz day, I know, and I don’t want to be a big Scrooge about it. But please folks, be vigilant, and buy local, or at least domestic, whenever you can. We have the FDA in the USA, such as it is. Many other countries don’t have such an agency, or if they do it is in the pocket of some industrialist and is corrupt as all get out.

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