Don't toss those pits, peels, and eggshells just yet.
preserved lemons
Credit: Johnny Miller

From planting the seeds found inside your produce in the garden to starting a compost pile in your yard, there are plenty of ways to get a little more out of your food. While there are dozens of ways to cook with what many consider to be food scraps (we love a good scrap stock!), there are some parts of your fruits and vegetables you simply can't eat. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't use these pits, peels, and shells. Did you know that certain fruit and vegetable scraps can be used to make a colorful range of beautiful all-natural inks and dyes? The peels of some fruits can even double as chemical-free pest repellents around the house, as well as natural soothers for minor skin irritations. Speaking of skin, we bet you didn't know that the leftovers of your favorite brewed coffees and teas can also be transform into indulgent beauty treatments.

But what we love most about these alternative uses for food scraps: They help reduce food waste and keep our air cleaner. When food ends up buried in landfills without oxygen, it releases harmful greenhouse gases, like methane, into the atmosphere as it breaks down. By preventing this organic matter from ending up in landfills-and either composting, cooking, or finding creative ways to repurpose it instead-you're helping to make the planet a little bit brighter. Read on for nine ways to use non-edible parts of food.

Avocado Pits

Once you've had your fill of avo-toast and guacamole, save the pits and experiment with natural dyes techniques (The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture shares a pit how-to here). Contrary to the fruit's bright green interiors, its pit can produce a spectrum of light pinks to deep reds, with more pits producing a bolder shade.

Egg Shells

If you don't have access to a composting system at home, your plants can still reap the benefits of using egg shells-packed with calcium and potassium-as a natural fertilizer. To make, boil a gallon of water and add 10 clean and dry eggshells (or up to 20), then let sit overnight and strain. Pour desired amounts on your houseplants for an added nutrient boost.

Dried Corn Cobs

Once everyone's devoured your buttery corn-on-the-cob at the next summer cookout, consider saving the leftovers to use as starters for a bonfire. Just be sure they are completely dry and clear of any kernels.

Cherry Pits

Who knew that some of summer's sweetest treats could also help make a homemade heating pad (great for sore muscles or soothing menstrual cramps)? Once washed, cleaned, and dried, cherry pits can be used to craft your very own therapeutic DIY in no time.

Banana Peels

Did you know these fruity peels can pack a powerful punch when it comes to polishing your favorite footwear? Simply rub the peel, white side down, on your shoe's surface as you would with a polisher and buff with a paper towel. The potassium-rich scraps can also help soothe an itchy bug bite thanks to natural anti-inflammatory properties; just apply the peel, white side down, to skin where needed.

Orange Peels

While they certainly make for pretty cocktail garnishes, orange peels also double as great natural pest repellents for ants and, according to recent studies, mosquitoes, too. Thanks to the limonene oil extract found in the peels, these fruity remains have been found to keep mosquitoes at bay around your home and yard. Place the peels around problem areas as is, or blend a few with a bit of water to form a paste and leave in a small container at the pest site.

Pistachio Shells

Don't let these nutty remains go to waste. Instead, scatter a handful around the bottom of your planters before potting to help add drainage for thirsty houseplants and increase aeration around the roots. They can also be ground up, or added whole, to garden mulch to help maintain soil moisture and block out weed growth-just be sure to rinse shells well first if you purchased them salted.

Coffee Grounds

Have leftover (unused) coffee grounds? Turn them into your own set of spa-worthy body products that smell delicious to boot. Not only will the grounds act as a natural exfoliant, helping to improve circulation throughout the body, but their caffeine properties can also help firm up your skin.

Used Tea Bags

Once you've finished steeping and sipping your favorite brew, consider saving your tea bags to help soothe a sunburn or bruise. If you caught one too many UV rays, try applying a used tea bag or two (black tea has been found to work best) to the burn to help calm inflammation. Stub your toe against the foot of the bed? The tannins in your steeped tea bag can also help stop the blood flow causing you to bruise.


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