Just because we’re all stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun. Whether you’re quarantining in the country with plenty of space or in a tiny studio apartment, cultivating a green thumb is an easy way to put your table scraps to good use, grow some veggies, and even dye your own clothes and put on a fun fashion show.

Start your own kitchen garden—with leftovers!

As we’re all reducing the number of grocery store runs, there’s no better time to start your own kitchen garden and even pick up a new hobby. While the word garden might conjure up images of the quintessential country field, it’s actually not too difficult to grow things at home—even from leftovers. 

After preparing dinner this week, try out some of our favorite ways to repurpose veggie scraps:

Lettuce

  • Place leftover lettuce leaves in a bowl with some water on the bottom.
  • Place the bowl on a sunny windowsill.
  • Mist the leaves with water a few times per week.
  • Once you notice roots starting to appear, transplant the lettuce into soil.

Green Onions

  • Save your green onion roots and put them in a glass with enough water to cover the roots.
  • Change the water every 2–3 days.
  • In about one week, you’ll have fresh green onions, ready to eat!

Cilantro

  • Add a few stems of cilantro to a glass of water in a bright, well-lit area.
  • You’ll notice the roots begin to grow quickly. Once they’re a few inches long, transfer your cilantro to soil.

Broccoli Sprouts 

Broccoli sprouts may be small but they pack a healthy punch. Containing a specific sulfur-rich compound known as sulforaphane, broccoli sprouts support natural detoxification, boost brain function, and even help protect your body from cancer. Amazing, right? Even better, broccoli sprouts are extremely simple to grow from your kitchen.

To start your own broccoli sprout garden, you’ll need quart or half-gallon mason jars with wire sprouting lids. You’ll also need broccoli seeds, which you can purchase in bulk. Sprouting stands can also be helpful to have on hand, as your jars will need to be rotated—but you can also use a bowl to keep things simple.

  • Start by soaking your seeds. Place 2 tablespoons of broccoli seeds in your mason jar and cover them with a few inches of filtered water. Put on the wire sprouting lid.
  • Find a warm, dark location to home your jar for 8–12 hours. A cabinet near your dishwasher or oven works perfectly. If you can’t find a place that’s warm, you can leave the jar on the counter and you’ll still see results!
  • After 8 hours, drain the existing water and rinse the seeds with fresh, filtered water. After this point in the process, you won’t be adding any additional water for the seeds to soak in—you’ll just be rinsing them.
  • Next, rest your mason jar upside down—either on the sprouting jar holder or inside a bowl, allowing any remaining water to drain. Make sure that you keep your sprouts relatively dry. Too much moisture can result in them getting a bit moldy. (If in doubt, just give them a sniff to double-check!)
  • Rinse the sprouts 2–3 times each daily, placing the jar back into the holder or bowl after each rinse. If it helps to remember, try rinsing at meal-time!
  • Within just a few days, you’ll notice the seeds opening up. Continue with your rinsing routine until the sprouts are about an inch long. At this point, move them to indirect sunlight.
  • Keep an eye on your seeds for the next few days. Within 3–4 days typically, you’ll see dark green leaves and the sprouts will have filled up the entire jar. Your sprouts are ready to eat!
  • Add your harvest to salads, smoothies, or even as a fun and healthy garnish.

Bored with your wardrobe? Try natural dye to spruce up your clothing and fabrics.

Want to update your wardrobe at home with sustainable, organic materials? This is another great way to repurpose leftover food scraps from meals and put them to good use. If you have old, dingey t-shirts or dish rags lying around, consider giving them a makeover.

A few great options for homemade dyes include:

  • Avocado skins and pits: Soft pink
  • Marigolds: Light yellow
  • Yellow onion skins: Warm orange
  • Red onion skins: Grayish-purple

To get started, you’ll need fabric, a stainless steel pot, tongs, and a place to dry the fabric once dyed.

When dyeing fabric, you’ll need a “mordant”—this allows the dye to chemically bind to the fabric. A few household items you may have on hand that act as mordants include white vinegar or cream of tartar. Some products (such as avocado pits and onion skins) contain tannins, which act as a natural mordant—so you can skip this extra step!

  • To start the process, place your product of choice into a bot of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer.
  • Check it every 15 or 30 minutes for color—once you’re satisfied with the color, strain the colored “dye” into a new pot.
  • Submerge your fabric in the pot. You can leave your fabric in for a few hours or even overnight if you’re looking for a bolder color.

For additional resources on the art of natural dye, we recommend The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vegar, Natural Color by Sasha Duerr, and Botanical Colour at Your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos.

Pause for sustainable habits. 

Although social distancing may get exhausting and monotonous, you have the time to cultivate new habits and experiment with new ways of incorporating sustainability into your day-to-day routines.

Next time you make dinner and have leftover scraps, think twice before throwing them in the trash or recycling—instead, opt for starting your own garden or freshening up old dish rags or t-shirts with leftover table scraps.

Curious about something you just read? Feel free to reach out with questions! We’d love to hear from you. 

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