PICKAWAY – Picking pumpkins and gourds to decorate your yard and doorstep is part of many families fall traditions. While it’s easy to toss old pumpkins and gourds into the trash, doing so creates unnecessary food waste and wastes natural resources like energy, land and water.
Did you know that every year 41 billion gallons of water are used to grow and make food that is never eaten in our community? It’s estimated that more than 1 billion tons of pumpkins are thrown out each year, contributing to the food waste problem in the United States.
Luckily, there’s a better way to use those pumpkins. Below, SWACO is sharing simple ways you can safely dispose of your old pumpkins and gourds while doing your part to care for the environment.
Eat Your Pumpkins: When it comes to preventing food waste, SWACO’s Save More Than Food campaign wants you to know that eating food is best. You probably can attest to how tasty roasted pumpkin seeds can be, but did you know that uncarved, fresh pumpkins can be used to make delicious pies, breads, soups and more. The Zero Waste Chef offers several ways to serve them up.
Feed Local Wildlife in the Winter: Birds love to nosh on little pumpkin snacks. Once you scrape out the flesh and seeds and remove any paint or remnant wax (in the case of a jack-o-lantern candle), cut the pumpkin into small pieces that could fit into a bird feeder or dish. Toss out any pieces that are starting to grow mold, as those are unsafe to consume. Be aware that other critters may want a pumpkin snack, so if you live in a more urban community and want to avoid inviting more squirrels, raccoons, deer or other pests in your yard, this option may not be ideal for you. We loved this article with more ways to use pumpkins to feed wildlife, including how to turn old pumpkins into mini bird feeders!
Donate to Local Farms: Feeding farm animals can be expensive, so donating pumpkins and gourds to local farms is a simple way to support local farmers. Plus, common farm animals like cows and chickens love to snack on them! Call your local community farms to see who may be accepting pumpkins or consider posting in local Facebook or NextDoor groups to connect with others who are collecting these items for local farms.
Compost at Home: Before you toss your pumpkins in your backyard to decompose, be sure to clean them thoroughly, removing any seeds or any other non-compostable materials (e.g., decorations, accessories, stickers, etc.). Also, scrape the skin off any pumpkin that has paint or marker. Cut the pumpkins into pieces so it’s easier for them to break down in your compost pile. Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen overnight – it takes about 8-12 weeks for pumpkin pieces to break down completely. Check out this handy resource for more tips on composting pumpkins at home.