“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

– Dr Seuss, The Lorax

I am very passionate about cooking and have been out in the vegetable garden with my father from a very young age.

My favourite job was harvesting, pulling a fresh carrot out of the soil and eating it fresh after rubbing it clean.

I just love going out into the garden and collecting fresh vegetables to create delicious dinners.

Some of my favourite meals include a German potato salad, a fresh bean salad and even Jerusalem artichoke scones.

It’s wonderful to see how a seed turns into a vegetable, harvesting it, cooking it and then dishing it on a plate.

I just love going out into the garden and collecting fresh vegetables to create delicious dinners

There are so many things that you can do to make your garden more sustainable. I think the best way to make your garden/home more sustainable is by starting your own compost and by reducing your wastage of food.

Food waste

Worldwide, we waste on average one-third of the food that is produced. In Ireland, we waste around 100,000t of food per year. Our planet relies on a very thin layer of soil to produce our food. If we waste food, we also waste our precious soils.

When you throw your food “waste” into the household bin, you might think that it is OK, and it will just decompose. However, this is not true. When food ends up in a landfill site, it rots and releases methane and toxic sulfide gases. Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas, so by putting food in the bin you are gradually contributing to climate change.


Composting is the best solution. You can use all your uncooked kitchen scraps and garden waste and make it into a beautiful sweet-smelling compost.

Composting transforms your kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich food for the soil. It reduces the amount of food sent to landfill and it is a great way for children to learn how we can connect to the life cycle of food.

When food is put in the compost, it is turned into precious food for the next crop of vegetables. Waste does not exist in a garden. What some people may think of as waste is actually the beginning of new life.

How to

Start your own compost

1 Select a site and suitable compost container.

2 Collect suitable materials. You need green and brown materials. Green materials include grass mowings, fruit and vegetable peelings and uncooked kitchen waste. Brown materials include straw, cardboard, newspaper and autumn leaves.

3 Try to make sure that you have roughly the same amount of green and brown materials.

4 Layer your materials in even layers in your compost bin and always start with a brown layer. For example, start with a layer of dried leaves, then grass mowings, shredded newspapers and kitchen waste.

5 Keep filling up the compost bin like a lasagne until it’s full.

6 Once the compost bin is full, lift the bin and place it next to where it was and then “turn” the materials back into the bin. This will allow oxygen to get into the pile and will speed up the composting process. If it is smelly at this stage, add more brown material into the pile.

7 Leave the materials in the bin for a few months until it has transformed from the gunky mess to sweet smelling compost. You should see lots of worms enjoying their feast at this stage.

8 The original “waste” that you might have put in the bin now has magically been transformed into a beautiful pile of compost which will make your plants thrive.

Use the compost

Compost is like magic in the garden. One handful of compost contains more living creatures than there are people in this world – around 10bn of them. This includes tiny, microscopic creatures like bacteria and fungi as well as insects and worms. Compost makes the soil alive and will make your vegetables grow big and healthy.

I love to see this whole cycle of nature – where everything depends on each other, and waste does not exist.

Food waste is such a problem, that everyone can solve together by either cutting out waste or by starting their own compost.

Recently, I have noticed how much food is thrown away at schools and the lack of education about composting and food waste.

Food waste is such a problem, that everyone can solve together by either cutting out waste or by starting their own compost

I feel it is very important for schools to have a compost area to teach children how food waste can be broken down in a sustainable way. Also, if more households begin to have their own compost bins I think children would automatically get involved and rethink the next time they are tempted to throw a banana skin in the bin.

Thien Laitenberger is 13 years old. He hosts a YouTube cooking show for kids entitled Cut the Crap and Cook.

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