Eco-friendly Crafting: 15 Creative Ways to Use Food Scraps
Looking for a creative way to use food scraps for crafts? Check out these 15 fun crafts from food scraps to reduce your food waste while having a little fun (and saving money on craft supplies)!
There’s a lot of chatter about food waste these days and for good reason. Firstly, eating is my favorite sport, so food waste is considered a tragedy in our home. While my husband screams at missed touchdowns, I scream at squishy avocados. Secondly, food waste is a massive environmental issue with far-reaching impacts.
What’s the big deal about food waste?
The USDA estimates that 30-40% of the food supply is actually rendered unusable food waste in the United States, which has far-reaching impacts on society and the environment that include:
- the loss of food that could have fed families in need
- excessive agricultural runoff generated in growing the now-spoiled food
- use of energy to grow, harvest, process, transport, package, and refrigerate the products
- cumulative economic impacts of purchasing food that ultimately went to waste
- spoiled food occupying landfills, where it is embalmed instead of breaking down (gross)
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to put a serious dent in food waste. You can compost your food scraps through a backyard composting system or curbside pickup compost vendors like WasteWell or CompostNow. You can buy less food as you assess your waste flow (I know, I know, this may also require breaking up with Costco.) You can also, and I’ll argue this is the most important option, challenge yourself to think differently about food scraps and food waste.
What do I mean? I’m talking about viewing food scraps as fodder for creativity and usable material instead of waste. That’s right, y’all. We’re about to think a little differently and delve into a world of kid-friendly, sustainable crafts that use lemon peels, coffee grounds, and avocado pits.
As a veteran eco-friendly crafting nerd, I’ve rounded up my must-try realistic sustainable crafts that will encourage bonding with your family, nurture your creativity, and help expand your perspective on the possibilities of reducing, recycling, and reusing food scraps before they hit the compost pile.
Note: You may have cocked your head at the word realistic. Did you? Let’s be real: the world of eco-friendly crafting includes some really bizarre corners of the Internet. I once stumbled across a blogger that encouraged using a kombucha SCOBY as an exfoliating face mask, which channels every scene from the Alien series that I’d rather forget.
Not to mention, can you imagine your kid walking in on you with a giant, fleshy SCOBY suctioned to your face? Who can afford that many years of therapy? Remember, just because you can doesn’t mean you should, people.
15 Sustainable Crafts to Try Using Food Scraps
Citrus Peel Garland
Citrus peels are a fabulous material. They’re a gorgeous color, they smell great, and they dehydrate beautifully. While most people are familiar with orange garlands that use whole slices of fruit, you can actually make a stunning, fragrant garland from just the peels, which is a more sustainable craft option. Next time you’re peeling a bunch of oranges for snacktime or juicing a bunch of lemons, hang onto those peels.
Grab a miniature cookie cutter (I love a star shape), let your littles go to town punching out some pieces, and string them along a piece of twine or hemp. Citrus garlands get a lot of love during the holidays, but they’re beautiful, aromatic, compostable decor year-round.
Get details here.
Tie-Dye T-shirts Using Avocado Pits and Peels
Food waste is just the pits, get it? Next time you’re making guacamole, reserve your pits and peels for this fun, thorough, and informative eco-friendly crafting project. You can store the avocado pits in a container in the freezer until you have enough to dye several shirts, hats, bandanas, or tote bags.
Natural dye projects can be notoriously tricky, but as someone who spent an entire day with her then 9-year-old niece trying all sorts of natural dye projects, you’ll be amazed at how kids will be fascinated by the creative possibilities that are hiding in their food scraps.
Walnut Shell Fairy Houses
Fill your day with whimsy. The hollowed-out shells are the perfect vessel for a tiny fairy realm, so grab some miniatures (or make your own from clay), some moss, a glue gun, and let your imagination run wild.
If this craft is a little advanced for your kids, try these walnut shell sailboats; they actually float, so you can make a race of it.
DIY Vegetable Water Color Inks
Have you ever thought about using what’s in your fridge to make the art that goes on your fridge? I know, we just blew your mind a little.
Skip yet another expensive trip to the craft store and make your own watercolor inks from food scraps. This no-shop eco-friendly crafting idea calls for water, a stove, a pot, paper, food, and a paintbrush, so you probably have most of these items on hand. You can grab whole veggies from the fridge, but it’s less wasteful to throw your beet stems and peels, turmeric trimmings, sad-looking berries, and soggy cabbage in the freezer until you’re ready to attempt this one.
Note: While cabbage gets a boring rap as a vegetable, it’s an incredibly interesting crafting material. Did you know purple cabbage is actually pH sensitive? The color will change based on the acidity of the water, so you can render two colors at once… or convince your nephew that you have magic powers to keep him in line.
Spent Grain Dog Treats
Is there a homebrewer in the house? This one’s for you. Turn your husband’s hobby into your dog’s delight by using spent grain to make dog treats.
Spent grain is normally composed of barley, wheat, rye, oats, and other grains. It’s about 20% protein and 70% fiber, making it a guilt-free treat, but remember that hops are deadly to dogs, so you’ll want to keep the malt completely separate during the homebrew process.
This sustainable craft from Crafty Beer Girls calls for 4 cups of spent grain, flour, peanut butter, eggs, and adorable cookie cutters to make it fun for the littles. (They also include drinking beer as a DIY step to make it fun for you, so kudos to them on that one.)
Make Your Own Potato Stamps
I always thought all carbs were my friend until I found out very recently that green potatoes can contain naturally occurring solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison. Anyway, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve developed a nasty habit of overanalyzing my potatoes every time I cook, leading to more potato food waste than most (rational) people. Call me crazy (I probably am), but I refuse to go down by Death by Potato.
GREAT NEWS! Questionable potatoes still make excellent stamps with the help of a cookie cutter and a chef’s knife. If crafting with kids and knives makes you anxious, no problem. Take the easy and equally adorable route and make these DIY potato-stamped aprons for kids.
Spent Tea Salt Dough Ornaments
On a rainy day, make yourself some tea (preferably a colorful herbal blend), and hang onto your tea waste: there’s an eco-friendly crafting opportunity afoot. The leaves and herbs will make gorgeous, boho salt dough ornaments. Mix your tea food scraps right into the dough or press them into the surface of your ornaments along with leaves and flowers or stale spices.
Egg Shell Planters
When it comes to eco-friendly crafting with food scraps, eggshells are a winner. They’re incredibly versatile and functional. Home gardeners will love these zero-waste DIY eggshell seed starters, which are rich in calcium and biodegradable. No green thumb? We’ve got you. You’ll love this chic and colorful Egg Shell Succulent Planter DIY, which would also be perfect for air plants.
Coffee Ground Exfoliating Soap and Sugar Scrub
Mama needs a spa day, so hang onto those spent coffee grounds for a sustainable crafting day that doubles as a self-care opportunity. Coffee grounds 1) are directly responsible for getting me out of bed in the morning and 2) make an excellent exfoliant. After you’ve made your cup(s) of joe for the day, let your grounds dry out and then add them to a DIY soap recipe or body scrub. You may want to add some extra fragrance like vanilla or coconut since you’re using spent grounds.
Pickled Watermelon Rinds
One man’s compost is another woman’s tasty treat when it comes to pickled watermelon rinds. Though it may sound questionable to the newly informed, I promise I’ve eaten many a pickled watermelon rind at fancy Charleston restaurants and liked it. I love this craft because it’s edible, it stretches your budget, and it further closes the circle on food waste. Recipes for pickled watermelon rind abound on the Internet, so scroll around until you find an ingredient list that suits your palate.
Citrus Peel Candles
Citrus is the gift that keeps giving. Make a batch of fresh-squeezed OJ or feed the fam grapefruit for breakfast, then turn the peels into decadent citrus peel candles. Use eco-friendly soy wax or beeswax, and enjoy an 8-10 hour burn time, depending on the size of your peels. As a word to the wise, never leave a candle unattended, especially a homemade one.
Pistachio Shell Succulents
Raise your hand if you’ve ever killed a succulent. Now there’s a brilliant, easy way to make your own artificial succulents from pistachio shells!
Save up your pistachio shells, rinse them, let them dry, and grab a glue gun: you’re just minutes away from a gorgeous sustainable crafting experience.
Are your kids too young to be entrusted with a glue gun? Handle the heavy (heated) lifting portion of the DIY, and then let them paint the succulents with bright colors and patterns.
Get details here.
Blown Out Egg Ornaments
I grew up making blown-out egg ornaments with my mom, and we still break out my childhood Easter eggs and Christmas ornaments every year. (I’m 35 now if that gives you an idea of how long these food-scraps-turned-works-of-art will last.)
Draining the egg whites and yokes does require a bit of patience, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Make some omelets or a pound cake while you wait for the eggs to dry, and then let your kids go to town with sharpies, paint, or stamps.
Suet Bird Seed Treats
There are some really questionable uses for leftover bacon fat on the Internet (for example, an alternative to WD-40), but this ISN’T one of them. Rendered animal fat, otherwise known as suet, makes a high-calorie treat for birds that can benefit their rapid metabolisms, particularly in the winter months. Learn how to use beef fat trimmings, lard, and bacon drippings to make bird seed treats, and if you’re really feeling crafty, make your own suet bird feeder.
Regrow Your Own Veggies
The idea of regrowing your own veggies recently took Pinterest by storm, and for good reason. With a little patience and a shallow container of water, you and your family can witness the incredible power of plants as you regrow carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, onions, celery, and even romaine lettuce from food scraps. It’s a fun, fascinating, and edible science experiment, but don’t expect to quit visiting the grocery store anytime soon.
Are you feeling inspired and ready to renew your battle against food waste? Honestly Modern has a wealth of composting resources for the eco-curious.
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About the Author
Reese Moore is a photographer, content creator, and pickle connoisseur who divides time between Charleston and Lake Lure. When she’s not behind the lens shooting stunning images for Reese Moore Photography, Reese loves to spend her time wandering the woods with her dog Gatsby or adventuring with her husband Logan in their Airstream Basecamp.
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