Pumpkin waste is seriously scary. In the United States, most of the 900,000 tons of pumpkin produced annually will be trashed, rather than used as food or composted. That’s unacceptable. Especially because those pumpkins, when sent to a landfill, will just release methane – a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 30x more potent than CO2! Instead of buying pumpkins just to carve em’ and trash ’em, here are six zero waste uses for pumpkins that will inspire you – and help prevent pumpkin waste.
6 Zero Waste Uses for Pumpkins
Why should I care about pumpkin waste?
Pumpkins – whether you love or hate ’em – take time and resources to grow. To think people just buy them only to dump them in the trash when they rot is a waste of all those things!
Here are some scary pumpkin stats:
- In the U.S., pumpkins add more than 1.3 billion pounds of waste to landfills every year.
- In the UK, 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin are thrown away each year – that’s the same as 360 million servings of pumpkin pie!
- Pumpkins need LOTS of water to grow (about 44 gallons of water per pound), so throwing them out also creates water waste too!
- Wasting pumpkins = wasted time, fertilizer, water, land, and labor altogether. And contributes to food waste!
How can I fight pumpkin waste?
Glad you asked! There are several ways to help reduce pumpkin waste – both in your own home and in your neighborhood.
I recommend keeping the design of your pumpkin simple. Don’t use any glitter or paint on it because those aren’t biodegradable (unless it’s plant paint). And please, do not bleach your pumpkin. If you’re going to carve it – carve it closer to Halloween so it stays fresher longer.
At the end of the pumpkin’s life – make sure to compost it. And get your neighbors and friends in on it too!
Consider sending a message to local officials asking if they can create a drop off location for pumpkins after Halloween. Then message local farms to ask if they’d be interested in letting their animals eat some mushy pumpkins.
What are some zero waste uses for pumpkins?
Before you compost your pumpkin, I definitely recommend getting the absolutely most out of it! If you know anything about the 5 R’s of zero waste, you know rot is at the bottom. That means you should definitely seek to reuse and repurpose before rotting (aka composting) your pumpkin!
Here are 6 zero waste uses for pumpkins.
1. Save the seeds, or roast them
We’ve all heard of roasted pumpkin seeds (which I highly recommend by the way), but what about saving them? Seed saving is so important because it helps us keep promote biodiversity and preserve specific plant species.
Consider saving the seeds of your pumpkin for growing next year. Just be mindful that the growth season for pumpkins starts long before October hits! So be sure to do research on how to grow pumpkins and when to sow them.
If you don’t have a garden, I highly recommend roasting the seeds instead. Zero waste chef has a tasty roasted pumpkin seed recipe here. I personally love seasoning them with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder!
2. Make a DIY facial
You can actually use the flesh inside of a pumpkin as the base for many face masks. Just make sure to puree it first! To easily puree your pumpkin, cut it up, boil it, then blend the softened parts. Pumpkin face masks can help brighten and smooth your skin while promoting new cell turnover.
Here’s how to make a simple pumpkin facial:
- 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Note: For very sensitive skin, like me, leave out the cinnamon and nutmeg. Trust me on this!
- Combine pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon in a bowl. Add honey and olive oil. Blend together and then apply to your face (add more honey if you need consistency to be stickier).
- Allow it to sit on your face for 15 minutes and then rinse with warm water and a washcloth. Or, just hop in the shower and wash it off in there (reduce water waste by actually showering too – not just washing off the mask).
3. Actually eat your pumpkin
Pumpkins are edible after all, and there are so many recipes to make. I’m talking pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter, pumpkin chili, pumpkin curry – the list goes on. Get creative and search up some pumpkin recipes that’ll please your palate!
Here’s how I make homemade pumpkin puree with minimal waste. It’s always fun to do, but you’ll want to set aside a couple of hours for it.
My personal favorite will always be pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. But pumpkin pancakes are a close third! I actually made kabocha squash pancakes recently and you can always sub it for pumpkin.
4. Use the guts for stock
Believe it or not, those pumpkin guts can actually be used to make a delicious veggie stock. Just mix them with other vegetables and seasonings! Here’s how to make zero waste vegetable broth.
5. Make pumpkin skin chips
Want to get really creative? Use a pairing knife to separate the skin of the pumpkin from the flesh. Once you’ve removed it, you can season it then dehydrate or roast it to make a delicious snack! Pumpkins have really thick skin so a vegetable peeler will likely not be successful – just a word of caution!
6. Fodder for animals
Don’t like the taste of pumpkin but like having it for some natural fall decor? Leave it out for furry and feathered friends to dine on! Just be sure to cut the pumpkin into small pieces so there’s plenty to go around. Once all the animals have had their fill, you can proceed by composting any remnants.
I personally really love this pumpkin bird feeder DIY – if I had my own place, I’d love to do it myself!
What do you think of these zero waste uses for pumpkins? Which one will you try?
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