CompostableLA shares tips for reducing holiday food waste
story By Michele Robinson | PHOTO COURTESY of CompostableLA
Monique Figueiredo started CompostableLA, a woman-run community composting business, in 2019 because she saw a need for this type of service on the Westside.
“I wanted a convenient way to compost and it didn’t exist on the Westside, so I started it,” Figueiredo says. “Food waste is not waste, it is a resource. Nothing in nature is wasted. We can reuse it.”
CompostableLA, which Figueiredo co-owns with Jamie Renee Williams, is the only curbside compost pick-up subscription service that serves all of the Westside from Playa Vista to Pacific Palisades and everywhere in between including Mar Vista, Palms, Westchester, Venice and Culver City.
“The goal is to keep everything local,” Figueiredo says. “Keep these valuable resources in the community that produces it. From Westside to Westside. This way we give back locally.”
Composting is the most ancient form of recycling — using something to make a resource for something else. Composting works by using microbes or worms to break down food waste and the end by-product is compost. Once it is broken down, it becomes nutrient-dense soil, not dead dirt.
Composting is a great way to benefit the environment while giving back to the community. There are many benefits of composting including reducing greenhouse gas, creating healthy soil and growing more nutritious foods. The act of composting reduces greenhouse gases because when food waste is thrown away it produces methane gas due to the anaerobic conditions in the landfill. This gas is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide for approximately 20 years. However, when food scraps are composted, methane gas is not created.
Additionally, composting creates healthy soil, which has better water retention (it can hold five times the weight in water) and pollution filtration abilities (it can remove 60 to 95 percent of stormwater pollutants). This is powerful because it can maximize absorption and storage of precious rainwater in drought situations. Healthy soil also takes the carbon dioxide out of the air and puts it in the ground, which is beneficial for the plants and reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Healthy soil produces nutrient-rich foods because they come from the nutrient-dense soil. Compost is a soil amendment that restores microbes and serves as an organic fertilizer, which produces foods that are healthier for our bodies.
“Healthy soil, healthy food, healthy humans, healthy planet,” Figueiredo says.
There is a major difference between using organic fertilizer and synthetic fertilizer. Synthetic fertilizers gradually seep into the water supply and create ocean “dead zone” (an area in the ocean that is devoid of life), killing the animals and plants in that space. If you use natural fertilizer from compost, not only are living creatures not injured, it actually boosts the beneficial microbes that live in our soils.
“Replace artificial plant food with compost,” Figueiredo recommends.
Composting creates clean air and clean water, and community-based organizations like CompostableLA also support environmental justice.
“It’s free, it’s a natural resource,” Figueiredo says. “Instead of throwing our scraps away, we can save costs and benefit the environment by reusing them. Waste is a human invention, not a natural one.”
Holiday Tips from CompostableLA:
• Don’t over plan meals. Plan your meals according to how many guests you are expecting. Remember ‘less is more.’ Holidays are a time when people typically prepare too much food for their guests. Instead of overpreparing, you can offer a smaller selection. This will help reduce waste and overeating. “Remember it is a privilege and honor to have an abundance of food, try not to use more than your need,” Figueiredo said.
• Properly store leftovers. You can basically refrigerate, freeze or can almost anything. There is no need to throw away leftovers. For example, if you are preparing pie, you can make the pie filling ahead of time, freeze it and defrost whenever you’re ready to bake. Then afterwards, you can freeze the pie leftovers. Another tip is freezing milk. You can break it up into pints, freeze each container and then pull small amounts out of the freezer gradually. This can be done with bread and other items that people usually throw out when their shelf life has expired. For more tips on freezing
and canning, visit nchfp.uga.edu/tips/tips_home.html or for
recipes try pickyourown.org/
• Distribute the “wealth.” Offer your guests food to take home with them after the holiday meal. If you anticipate a lot of leftover food, prepare ahead of time by providing reusable storage containers or beeswax wraps. This way you can wrap it up like a present and your guests will not leave emptyhanded. Or you can share leftovers with your unhoused neighbors that may be experiencing food insecurity.
• Use scraps to make stock. When preparing meals, instead of throwing away your scraps, you can use those herb stems and carrot peels to make stock. Here is a delicious vegetable stock recipe: Collect herbs and scraps, roast in the oven on high heat until browned, move to a large pot, fill with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until liquid reduces by one half to two-thirds. Strain out remnants and add to your compost bin. Store stock in the fridge or freezer.
• Compost. After all other methods have been used, the last place for your food waste should be the compost pile. Composting makes soil, which can then be used to grow new produce. Use apps like ShareWaste and MakeSoil to find neighbors who have compost systems you can use. LA Compost has drop-off locations throughout the city or you can schedule a pickup with CompostableLA. “This year’s meal will become next year’s harvest,” Figueiredo said.