START Turning Waste into TN Gold

During this #GrowFoodChallenge season, here are a few ways to reduce food & household waste while building delicious, nutritious, soil – also known as Tennessee Gold!

The #GrowFoodChallenge is a call to action for individuals, families, schools, youth, & community groups in Northwest Tennessee to grow food & build soil.

From Saturday, April 13 – June 29, 2024, registered participants residing in NWTN may earn up to 6 prize entries through the START. GROW. HARVEST categories by submitting online photos of your growing food AND reducing food waste projects.

Learn more about photo submission forms HERE

Register for the #GrowFoodChallenge HERE


Creative Ways to Reduce Food Waste

Freeze food that is about to go bad. Go through your fridge every few days and take an assessment of what’s about to spoil. Then decide whether you should cook with it, freeze it, or compost it.

How to Freeze Fruits and Veggies

Cook with your food scraps. Don’t toss those potato peels! Save those onion ends!

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Grow food from kitchen scraps! Green onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, garlic, and countless other scraps can be grown in your garden or in a jar in your kitchen for free produce all year long!

15 foods you can regrow from scraps

  • Organize your refrigerator and dry food storage to use older items first. Learn more about food product dating.
  • Eat leftovers for lunch or another meal within 3-4 days.

Join #ComePostYourCompost

The Tennessee Environmental Council’s #ComePostYourCompost Program helps you know how to turn your food waste into healthier soils. Join the community of composters and help divert tons of food waste from Tennessee landfills!

Sign-up within your TN County HERE

Join the Facebook Group

What is Compost?

Composting is a natural process by which any organic material, such as food waste or lawn trimmings, is broken down by naturally occurring bacteria and fungus in the soil to form compost. The resulting materials—compost—is a nutrient-rich soil amendment that looks a lot like soil itself.

Compost Guide

How do I compost?

Compost will transform the food scraps (and other materials like paper and cardboard) into healthy, nutrient-rich soil! This is the basis for all life on Earth. By composting you are participating in the healing of our planet. 

Download the TN Environmental Council’s What to Compost

Download the TN Environmental Council’s Simple Steps to Composting

Trash Talk Video – #ComePostYourCompost – by the Tennessee Environmental Council

Learn tips on how and where to compost from the Tennessee Environmental Council.

Turning Yard Waste into TN Gold

As you clean-up your yards from leaves and clear out your garden beds of weeds, consider re-using these natural elements to the benefit of your wallet, your soil, and our climate. 

Recycling food and other organic waste into compost provides a range of environmental benefits, including improving soil health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling nutrients, and mitigating the impact of droughts. Composting can be done in many ways. It’s all about utilizing the power of natural decomposition processes, and turning yard scraps into Tennessee gold. My family composts by piling mounds all over our yard because we have lots of weeds – all over, and it’s a lot of yard waste to deal with. Instead of giving it away to a waste company, we give it back to the soil. 

6 Ways to Turn Yard Waste into Tennessee Gold

  1. Repurpose your Fall Leaves:  Add fallen leaves to your compost pile. The carbon in leaves is essential to a healthy compost pile by adding nutrients and keeping moisture. You can pile them up next to your compost and add them into your pile, gradually, all year. Don’t have a compost pile? Check out the Tennessee Environmental Council’s #Come Post Your Compost web and facebook group pages. 
  2. Use leaves in your potted plants: Mix dried leaves in the top two to three inches of soil. Overtime the leaves will decompose and increase nutrients, giving your potted plants a healthy start!
  3. Save your lawn by just mowing over your leaves: Instead of raking up your leaves, just go over your whole yard with your lawn mower, this will chop up the leaves, spread them out, and allow them to decompose throughout the winter. Shredded leaves are also a cost effective alternative to store bought mulch and will help protect grass, flower buds and seeds in your yard.
  4. Create Art Projects with your fallen leaves: Pick the most beautiful fall leaves to preserve and use for seasonal decorations. Leaves are a versatile art material. You can use them to stuff scarecrows, make a pretty wreath, and even for leaf rubbing art. If you would like to make leaf rubbing art, place fresh and/or dried leaves under a sheet of paper and shade over each leaf with a colored pencil or crayon – it’s magical!
  5. Gather the leaves and help the critters: Many wildlife species live or rely on the leaves to find food or make habitats. If you want to keep your yard clean, but help with wildlife then rake up the leaves and pill them up in a far corner of your yard. If you have a woodsy area on your property you can place them there!
  6. Save your cardboard & reduce waste in your neighborhood: Use cardboard in- between your garden bed rows and top them off with your neighbor’s leaf bags. It’s cheaper than buying bags of mulch and they decompose to create rich, luscious soil.

Use cardboard in-between your garden bed rows and top them off with your neighbor’s leaf bags. It’s cheaper than buying bags of mulch and they decompose to create rich, luscious soil. Make sure to remove any plastic tape the cardboard might have and the leaves are clean (with no garbage).

The combination of cardboard and leaves help the weeds stay blacked-out and not grow throughout season. Utilizing leaves around your yard builds your soil, protects from drought, and prevents pesky weeds from invading your pathways – saving you both time and money and protecting our earth’s natural resources: soil and water.

Read more: 7 Tips to Healthy Soil

Samantha Goyret
Local Food Network Team Blogger

LFN hosts FREE Virtual Meet-uP: TN Smart Yards

Join the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network with Celeste Scott for a virtual meet-up on Friday, May 31st from 12 noon to 1pm (Central). Register for free HERE.

Celeste Scott, Extension Horticulture Specialist in West TN, will give a presentation titled “Stewardship in Home Landscapes: An Introduction to the TN Smart Yards Program”. The TN Smart Yards education program teaches stewardship principles and practical actions for gardeners who wish to promote sustainability and stewardship that starts at home.  Attendees will learn about the 9 stewardship principles of TN Smart Yards and discover new educational resources.

Register for this free virtual event HERE.

Share this event on Facebook

Learn more about the TN Smart Yards Program on their website: https://tnyards.utk.edu/

Celeste is a native West Tennessean raised on a production row crop and beef cattle farm. Her passion for plants began early in life collecting plants from friends and family, working at local garden centers and managing a vegetable truck crop patch. Celeste attended Middle TN State University for her undergraduate degree in Plant & Soil Science, and obtained her Master’s degree from the University of TN Martin in Agriculture & Natural Resources.  Her career in agriculture began with TN Farmers Co-operative followed by service with UT Extension as a County Agent.  Celeste is now the UT Extension Horticulture Specialist in West TN. She is married, has 2 young children, and spends her free time with soil under her nails.

This virtual meet-up coincides with this year’s #GrowFoodChallenge from April 13th – June 29th. The #GrowFoodChallenge is a call to action for individuals, families, schools, youth, & community groups in Northwest Tennessee to grow food & build soil.  Learn how you can be a part of this challenge at https://nwtnlfn.org/grow-food-challenge/  

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.

~ Samantha Goyret
Local Food Network Team Blogger