5 Things I Learned in Quarantine: A Series on Sustainability

Sustainability Keep Truckee Green

What do you love about visiting Truckee? Is it the way the evening alpenglow lights up the mountains? The crystal clear alpine lakes? The possibility of seeing wildlife like black bears and coyotes? Moments like these are powerful. They’re why I’ve chosen to make Truckee my home and why so many people love to visit. Places like this are worth protecting, which is why during my quarantine I dove into sustainable green projects. I planted a garden, adventured close to home, and found easy ways to incorporate sustainability into my everyday life. Read through this series to find out what I learned about sustainability and Keeping Truckee Green:

Vegetables Sustainability Keep Truckee Green

#1 Reducing food waste is an easy way to reduce trash destined for a landfill.

With everyone quarantined at home and cooking more than usual, our trash bags were filling up quickly. Banana peels, celery ends, coffee grinds, pepper seeds… It was starting to really add up. After some research, I settled on these 3 easy ways to use up kitchen scraps and reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away:

Make Homemade Vegetable Broth – Find a container like a gallon freezer bag or coffee can and collect everything from onion skins to carrot tops. Store your vegetable scraps in the freezer. When the container is full, follow the recipe below to make flavorful homemade vegetable broth from scratch!

Vegetable Broth Recipe from Tahoe Mountain Sports

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon bag full of frozen veggie scraps
  • Water
  • Optional extras: garlic, onions, parsley, peppercorn, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, etc.

*Do not add cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, wet vegetables like tomatoes & eggplant.

Directions

  1. Place vegetable scraps in a crockpot or stockpot and fill with water. For crockpot cooking, turn on and cook on low up to 10 hours. For stockpot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
  2. After cooking, use a ladle and mesh strainer to strain the broth into a bowl.
  3. Pour broth into reusable containers [link to container post]. Store in refrigerator or freezer.
  4. Cooked veggie scraps can go into your compost [link to compost post], or you can drop off your compost at the Town of Truckee.

Regrow Vegetables from Scraps – this is a bit of science experiment for me, but so far it’s working! I was inspired by this article to start regrowing fruits and vegetables from scraps. Find a spot in your kitchen for your veggies, put them in water, and watch them take off.

Turn Food Waste into Compost – Composting at home is more involved than the previous two options but can still be done in any size space. Keep Truckee Green outlines the different types of composting and provides a helpful guide to what can and can’t go into your compost. Not ready to compost at home? Check if your town has a compost drop off. If you are in Truckee, you can drop off compost at these locations.

mason jars sustainability keep truckee green

#2 There are endless creative ways to reuse plastic and glass containers.

Reusing containers is a better alternative to recycling. It saves energy, water, and gives them a new life in your home. Here are some creative ways I started reusing containers during quarantine:

More tips on ways to Reuse from Keep Truckee Green.

Urban Garden Keep Truckee Green

#3 No matter how small your space, everyone can plant a garden.

Does planting a garden sound daunting? It did to me, especially living in Truckee where it can snow any time of the year and wildlife like bears, bobcats, and deer roam the backyard. But after a visit to Villager Nursery, I was ready to try.

I read through the Villager Journal and downloaded their Garden Resources to learn about growing plants in the mountains. Then I headed to the Villager Nursery and Ace Mountain Hardware and Sports to stock up on seeds, soil, and supplies. Today my tiny deck garden is bursting with arugula, kale, sage, basil, and more. Here’s what I learned along the way:

No outdoor space? No problem – The most popular types of indoor gardens are on windowsills or in small containers. If you have a spot that gets good natural light, you can grow many herbs and leafy greens.

How to plant a windowsill garden.

Grow plants in containers – Container gardens are a mobile solution that takes up a lot less space plus you can move them around so that your plants get the perfect amount of sun. And surprisingly, a lot of plants can grow in containers. My tiny deck garden is full of containers with kale, carrots, broccoli, peas, flowers, and more.

How to plant a container garden

Create an urban foodscape with raised beds – Feeling ambitious? Try gardening in raised beds. These are simple to construct and offer many advantages to planting straight in the ground.

How to plant a garden in raised beds

Next time you’re in Truckee, be sure to stop by the community garden in the Truckee River Regional Park! It’s the perfect place to get your hands dirty and learn about gardening in the mountains.

Truckee hiking views

#4  Sometimes the best adventures are close to home.

Normally in the spring and summer, I’m planning ski or backpacking weekend trips. But COVID-19 put a quick end to my travel plans. So instead of packing up the car, I started staring at maps of Truckee to find new trails and adventures close to home. Here are a few tips on how to plan a “backyard” adventure.

Find backyard trails with Caltopo – I learned that my backyard was full of quiet trails by browsing Caltopo, a Truckee based online mapping tool. Explore the map to find nearby city paths, trails, and dirt roads. You might be surprised to discover new places to explore, right in your backyard! 

Leave your car at home – There is something so satisfying about setting off on an adventure while your car stays parked in the driveway. It’s fun to explore what’s within walking or biking distance, and even more fun to combine your favorite activities for a multisport day. 

Plan a multisport adventure – Another fun backyard adventure is to create a “triathlon” with your three favorite activities. Here’s my favorite: Start your day paddleboarding on Donner Lake in the morning, then go for a trail run in the afternoon, and cap the day off by rollerblading on the Legacy Trail in the evening! 

Sustainability Keep Truckee Green

#5 How I made sustainability a habit, and you can too!

New habits are hard to form. Here are tips that helped me commit to Keeping Truckee Green and stick to previous sustainable practices:

☐ Start small

Start with sustainable projects that are easy and manageable for your day to day.

☐ Do what you like

Love riding your bike? See how often you can bike instead of drive. Love getting crafty? Try creative projects that reuse or repair. Love gardening? Try growing staple crops to cut back on grocery runs.

☐ Commit to 30 days

There’s no magic number for how many days it takes to form a habit but 30 days will give you a good idea if you’ll be able to keep it. 

☐ Connect it with another habit

Example: Water your garden while you drink your morning cup of coffee. Pull out your vegetable broth food scraps bag every time you cook dinner. Pack your bulk containers with your reusable bags for the grocery store.

☐ Be imperfect

Remember that every little action helps, it’s okay to be imperfect!

Keep reading: Here are 5 projects you can do at home to go green!

Siobhan Kenney

About Siobhan Kenney

Siobhan traveled the American West as a National Park Ranger before setting down roots in Truckee. Outdoor adventure is her bread and butter and most days you can find her skiing, trail running, or backpacking.  Follow along with her adventures on Instagram @siokenney.