Everything that comes in your weekly share is usable. Really.
Alongside the edible pleasures of being a CSA member is the sustainability pleasure. The amount of waste involved in a single-dinner shopping trip is atrocious. From bagged vegetables (or often Styrofoamed, then Saran-Wrapped vegetables [see Trader Joes’ red peppers, for example]) to bagged then boxed grains, to plastic milk containers, it’s nearly impossible to shop responsibly. Since a CSA is a community-oriented project, participants can actively reuse everything they make use of.
When greens come in plastic bags one week, the bags are eagerly anticipated to return the week after. Same with fruit containers and egg cartons. Some CSAs deliver your food in boxes and your job is to bring the box back every week. But for those that use bags, the grin you get from bringing your own and handing the plastic right back is well worth remembering one.
Try using your leftovers for stock. Stock is a very strongly flavored broth, and having it around will save a lot of dishes that are lacking in punch. It’s easier to make than you’d think and keeps well frozen in ice cube trays. The base for stock should be water with two parts onion, one part carrot, and one part celery. To this you can add virtually anything, but leave out the nitty gritty bits, like roots. Throw in your kale spines, carrot tops, mushroom stems, almost anything you find you’re not using that might have flavor. Then simmer. (We’ll be doing a stock soon and will happily explain in depth then.)
And compost, compost, compost. I know it’s tricky in the city, but if you don’t want to purchase a tight-lid compost container to keep in your kitchen, clear a space in your freezer and dump all your vegetable leftovers in there. Find a local garden and ask if they take compost, or ask neighbors with outdoor space if they’re interested. There are drop-off spots all over New York where you can leave your carrot greens, beet greens, potato peels – anything that comes off a plant. Composting is important because it creates nutrient-rich soil from food scraps that would otherwise be wasted in landfills. And plus side to NYC composting is you’re far less likely to find bears rummaging through your compost pile than if you’re in the outskirts.
If you return your bags, fruit containers, and egg cartons to your CSA weekly and compost and/or turn your vegetable remains into stock, your footprint will barely resemble a foot – maybe just a pinky toe.