(Re-)Using Resources Wisely

Sustainable agriculture is all about (re-)using resources wisely. No project should have excess outputs – nothing should be considered waste. Your house, farm, college, community should ideally be a closed system. This means very few inputs (resources) and only profitable outputs. Sterling, the small college where I am currently taking a summer course, does a great job of reusing their resources. Let me give you an example.

The Sterling farm produces a lot of produce (fruits and vegetables) and meat (mostly pork and chicken). Most of the work of farming is done by the students, and it is the students themselves who choose what to plant and which animals to raise.

After students harvest, or participate in an on-farm slaughter, the food is brought to the kitchen. The students (with the help of a few kitchen staff) cook the meals, using food produced on farm, as well as food bought locally from the surrounding community (some even comes from an alumni’s farm).

When students are done eating, food is either saved for leftovers and served later in the week, or scraped for compost. Students scrape their plates into one of two buckets – one for chickens and one for plants – depending on if the food is acidic or fatty, consists of meat or vegetables, etc. This compost is then used on the farm, back in those gardens and pastures where the food came from.

Sterling also reuses resources in other ways. Around campus are large “free” boxes, where students give away things they no longer want. Most students air-dry their laundry. Scraps of wood get turned into art projects (or firewood, for the less artistically inclined). Some of the buildings on campus are powered by solar power. Whenever Sterling has an excess resource, they find a way to reuse it.

You can reuse resources too! A transition to this kind of lifestyle will not happen all at once – rather, you can make small changes to become more sustainable. Instead of using disposable plastic bags for lunch, get a lunch tin or reusable containers. Start a small compost in your kitchen. Before you throw away anything, ask yourself if you can repurpose or recycle it. And don’t forget that even if you can’t use it, there may be someone who can. Share within your community! For more great Earth Friendly ideas, see this BGSK College Earth Day Guide.

Cooking Tip of the Week: Fresh herbs can be frozen in ice-cube trays with water (make an ice-cube with the herb inside), or ground with oil as pesto. Fresh berries can also be frozen, by laying them out in single layers on cookie sheets to freeze, or by processing into fruit puree first, and then freezing.

Gardening Tip of the Week: Try to reuse your resources! Can that kitchen scrap be used as compost? That cardboard as ground cover to keep the weeds down in-between garden rows? Be creative!

Alexis ZK is pursuing her interest in sustainable agriculture and local food by spending the summer WWOOFing and studying at Sterling College, VT. During the school year, she studies French and Food Studies at NYU, and fulfills her addiction to farmers markets. Follow her internship here.

Originally posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

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